General Information

Red Text bears a link to reference Rotatorials.

Retention Central is monitored occasionally by its creator, Jim Henry, who may be contacted by email at

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank You - Rotary

for the many good things that have happened to me and my family because of Who Rotarians Are and the meaningful opportunities made available through your attributes.  Since 1966 my family and I have had so many wonderful experiences we could write an anthology.
     A special thanks goes to those who have followed this BLOG and given serious thought to the opinions and publications presented. Retention Central has centered on membership retention because clubs have very little difficulty attracting members, and Rotary's membership situation, particularly in North America, is serious.  Rotary's strength lies in its worldwide network of local clubs; each an autonomous alliance populated by local business, professional, and community leaders; people who do not have to be told what to do.  Excite them about the available opportunities that can help them make their lives, community, and the world better.  They will do the rest.  And there is absolutely no question that the only universally accurate measure of a club's effectiveness is its ability to retain and attract members.
     While my tag line recently has been the Angry Rotarian, I am not, and cannot be, angry at Rotary or Rotarians in general.  My anger is attributed to those leaders who have given, and continue to give, higher priority to Rotary's attributes, including the Rotary Foundation, than to the business Rotary is in and recognizing who it is that keeps Rotary in business - its customers - the average dues paying Rotarians; local leaders with enterprising minds who are making their community and the world a better place.
I will be forever grateful to the Rotarians who, through Rotary, have influenced my life and helped make it better. For me, life is approaching the horizon. The body has slowed, but the mind, mouth, fingers, and keyboard are still quite active.

Red text contains links to previous posts

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marketing Rotary! What Differentiating Value? What Business? What Audience?

Which exhibit accurately communicates Rotary's differentiating value to its customers - present and future Rotarians and TRF donors?

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Lee-En Chung, president of Ivy Ventures, Inc., speaks several languages, is a certified general contractor and professional engineer.  In 1994, Lee-En joined the Rotary Club of Sarasota, Florida, USA.  Lee-En has received many honors for her support of Sarasota non-profits.  One is Girls, Inc. ( where she leads by example while encouraging girls to excel. She is active in the local Columbia Alumni Club and has mentored several Columbia University students.   As she travels the world in pursuit of professional excellence, she makes contacts visiting Rotary clubs and has seventeen years perfect Rotary attendance.

Abbreviated from RI's web site (
Mario Costanini and his wife own a business and support a variety of nonprofit organizations near their home in MilwaukeeWisconsin, USA.  One is Mad Hot Ballroom and Tap, an educational dance program for children that, because of Mario and a fellow Rotarian, is now offered in 50 public and private schools throughout the Milwaukee area.


If you cannot instantaneously and confidently pick which exhibit accurately communicates Rotary's differentiating value to its target audiences, you are not alone.  Pages 23 - 29 of Siegel+Gale's Research Findings clearly points out that Rotary's internal audience, Rotary International and club associates, are also confused and cannot define Rotary.  If this group is perplexed and baffled, how can they communicate or deliver Rotary's differentiating value to external target audiences? 

Rotary International does not have an issue to resolve more important than this one.  Will present leaders grapple with and come to agreement on this conundrum or continue to kick it down the road?  Until this issue is clarified and internally marketed, it will be extremely difficult to achieve steady growth.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Internal Marketing Should be a Rotary Priority!

In this Rotatorial, Rotary means Rotary International (R.I.) and The Rotary Foundation (TRF).

Marketing is not advertising for members or bragging about what Rotary has done.  Simply put, Marketing Multiplies Membership by communicating and delivering an organization's differentiating value (its brand promise) to external and internal audiences.  But which target audience takes priority? 
   Internal Marketing (IM) should take priority because its major asset is that it preserves and helps evolve an organization's brand and culture, particularly in cases like Rotary where leadership frequently changes and culture is a source of differentiation. Effective IM encourages transparency about the challenges organizations face and their strategic direction.  Perhaps the Gates Foundation would not be recognized for eradicating polio and Rotary would not be in the membership position it is today if, fifteen or twenty years ago, IM had been communicating Rotary's Why Factor (brand) as countries eliminated the disease and how many of Rotary's customers were actually walking out (transparency.)
   Changes needed to put Rotary on course for steady customer (member and donor) growth must come through Rotary's senior leaders, not by dictate or Top Down Attitudes but through transformational leadership and actions that communicate priority, consistency, support, understanding, confidence, and trust.  Only then will associates believe that a permanent change is taking place and enthusiastically support it.  IM must be an on-going process whereby all interconnections consistently align, motivate, support, exemplify, and deliver Rotary's differentiating brand promise for the purpose of attaining Rotary's desired result.  Otherwise, associates will be lackadaisical while waiting until next year when new leaders with different emphases take office.

   If Rotary is really interested in helping its member clubs develop membership, IM must take priority and be aggressively implemented.  Rotary leaders must be able to communicate what Rotary is without hesitating, agree on what business Rotary is in,  who its customers are, what its customers value; and what result Rotary would like to achieve.  Otherwise it will be impossible to define and consistently deliver brand promises to customers or help Rotary achieve its desired result - sustain steady member and donor growth.

 Red text indicates links to other documents.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Marketing Membership

In this Rotatorial, Rotary means Rotary International (RI) and The Rotary Foundation (TRF); customer means those who finance the operations of both - Rotarians and Donors.

      Perhaps the best modern example of why RI should donate more resources to holistic marketing hits at Rotary's heart: its monumental service project - Polio Eradication, a special program of RI originally called PolioPlus.  Ask the average person, or even the news media, to identify the private organization most closely related to polio eradication.  More than likely they will say the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - the result of effective 21st century marketing.
     Many non-profit organizations, probably including Rotary and many member clubs, believe dedicating resources to marketing is wasted money and effort.  Frequently the reason is that non-profit leaders believe the causes they champion and services they offer are ends unto themselves; that members and/or donors will automatically follow; that they do not have to stoop to 'selling'.  That's compassionate hearts taking action without engaging business brains.  For long term success, both are necessary.
     Casting a wide net for dues paying members, i.e. recruiting, kills membership driven organizations because if anyone can join an organization, there is no reason for anyone to join an organization.  What has hurt RI membership, particularly in North America is that, for almost two decades, the qualifications for membership in many clubs has been:
  • Do you have a heartbeat?
  • Can you afford our dues for at least six months? 
The underlying question should be, "Are you interested in being a Rotarian?"           

     The major reason this line of inquiry is not pursued is that, among all levels of Rotary leaders, there is little common agreement on what Rotary is; therefore who Rotarians are.  The Seigel+Gale research clearly identified this dilemma (See pages 23 - 38 of this Research Paper.)  The fundamental reason this condition exists is the lack of having a holistic marketing program within RI.  If Rotary leaders do not agree on what RI is or who Rotarians are, then how can RI market externally?  But let's get one thing clarified quickly. Marketing is not 'selling' or 'advertising'.  Marketing is the process of communicating the value of what an organization offers customers for the purpose of engaging them, and influencing all interactions between customers and the organization, in this case Rotary, to assure the expected value is being delivered.
     Since 1988, because of Who Rotarians Are, Rotary has been leading the charge to eliminate polio.  Had RI been effectively marketing Rotary and Who Rotarians Are, the average person, when asked to identify the private organization most closely related to polio eradication, most likely would say Rotary.  Is there not a major message here?

Developing an holistic Marketing program would Multiply Membership.  The place to start is with Internal Marketing.  Rotary leaders at all levels must agree on what business Rotary is in, who its customers are, and what they value.  This is the only path RI can take to reverse its membership fortunes and achieve a sustained, steady growth.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Is Your Rotary Club a RINOC?

By perfecting the Rotary image, the Rotary brand, retaining and attracting target audiences will become much easier.
Rotary Zone 34 Membership Coordinator 2008-2010 Jim Henry

Once we recognize our unique club services and benefits, we can seek those men and women in our communities who share similar characteristics. 
Rotary International Director John Smarge
2011 International Assembly Speech

     In Rotary Zone 34, and throughout North America, indications are that Rotary still has credibility but many clubs have ceased perfecting the name Rotary and have become a Rotary in name only club (RINOC).  In the five years from 2005 through 2009, Zone 34, with over 34,000 Rotarians, inducted 22,467 new members and lost 23,053.  Between 2003 and 2010, Rotary clubs worldwide inducted and lost 1.1 million members.  This indicates that, after decades of building respect and credibility, the name Rotary still attracts members to local Rotary clubs but many, because they have become RINOCs, cannot retain members.
   Let’s examine why this is important. Successful Organization History 101 tells us that when organizations begin, they offer something different than others competing for their target audience’s time, talent, and treasure.  This difference is the organization's brand; its identity.  If any organization wants long-term success, it is critical that it adheres to, perfects, and jealously guards its identity.
     How about a little self-examination by all present and incoming Rotary leaders, including all senior Rotary and staff leaders?  Consider completing a list similar to the one pictured.  In the first column list the ways your Rotary club offers something different to local business, professional, or community leaders that other 'service' or 'civic' organizations offer.  In the second column list what other local 'service' or 'civic' organizations offer that is similar to what your club offers.

   If the differences outnumber the similarities, your club most likely does not have a membership problem, is not a RINOC, and you are or soon will be a Rotary leader.  If similarities outnumber the differences then your club probably has membership problems, is a RINOC, and you most likely should know more about Rotary.