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

Saturday, December 20, 2014

102A - Marketing Rotary for Non-Professionals - 'THEM' - The Supporters

In this series, Rotary refers to the enterprise of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.

Rotary must have 'THEM'.  Call 'THEM' members, customers, patrons, Rotarians, supporters, stakeholders, donors, clients, or whatever is acceptable within your mindset and social fabric, but without 'THEM' Rotary's gear stops turning.    'THEM' pay the salaries and benefits Rotary employees enjoy.  'THEM' pay the expenses of Rotary's officers, directors, trustees, coordinators, district governors, district committees, etc.  'THEM' are the people who populate almost 35,000 Rotary clubs scattered over the world striving to advance the Object of Rotary.

Marketing Rotary must begin by addressing this question:

Why would a group of 'THEM', all with enterprising minds, want to be called a Rotary club?

    Many local groups are identified by some unique descriptive noun or nouns i.e. Women's, Men's, Zonta, Toastmasters, Kiwanis, Junior League, Lions, Sertoma, Garden, Shriners, Entrepreneurs, Greenpeace, Impact 100, Football, Night, Comedy, Liars, Friars, Beantown, Dulcimer, Alumni or hundreds more.  What is so unique or descriptive about the word rotary?  Google rotary and up pops  Its opening page says, "We are neighbors, community leaders, and world citizens uniting for the common good."  Unique?  Every human is a world citizen.  Almost every human is some human's neighbor.  Most humans are united in some group for their common good - survival.  What is unique about being in a group that uses Rotary as its descriptive noun?  Why should groups of 'THEM' pay homage to use the word Rotary?  Groups now have unlimited access to information and knowledge. Of the estimated 7.2 billion world citizens, industry estimates that almost 6.1 billion have cell phones, tablets, or computers and can connect to the Internet.  This means that groups, especially those with enterprising minds, that want to make impacts in their spheres of influence can find many ways to do so without following hierarchical, top-down, self-sustaining rules.
     Marketing Rotary is a challenge, and it must begin internally.  Embedded bureaucracies with established departmental silos have extreme difficulty recognizing and/or accepting the concept that organizations are 'THEM' driven; that products and services are attributes that help retain and attract 'THEM'.  In the Rotary world, 'THEM' have psychographic and behavioral characteristics all humans do not have.  Rotary already has a wonderful, worldwide horizontal delivery organization capable of growing Rotary by building stronger relationships.  Internal Marketing must center on helping all Rotary associates understand what is unique about Rotary, who 'THEM' are, and creating and delivering attributes that help 'THEM' become more influential in their local social fabrics.  They also must understand that 'THEM', not Rotary, determines whether or not the attribute is beneficial.  If being called a Rotary club does not deliver attributes 'THEM' consider beneficial, then Marketing Rotary externally is wasted effort.

Building relationships advancing the Object of Rotary catapulted Rotary into the respected worldwide organization it is.  To have any hope of returning to a steady 'THEM' growth rate, Rotary must accept that "The development and continuation of activities and programs addressing 'Them' must remain the association's highest priority", and Market Rotary with that priority and intensity.

Next is Marketing Rotary for Non-Professionals 102B 'Them' - Present and Future

Friday, December 5, 2014

101 - Marketing Rotary for Non-Professionals - Series Introduction

If Rotary wishes to establish and maintain a steady membership growth rate, Rotary Leaders, which change frequently, should continually review business fundamentals, of which one is Marketing.

Please download and read Rotary's Messaging Guidelines, available by clicking on this link.
  On page 9 the Guidelines suggest for simplification that public information refer to the enterprise of Rotary International (RI) and The Rotary Foundation (TRF) as Rotary.  This series will follow this convention.  
*   *   *   *   *
Successful organizations continually 'go to market' by producing and making available attributes that those who furnish their financial support value.  Organizations must define themselves, not by the attributes they create, but by the benefits the attributes provide to those who support the organizations.  Supporters, not organizations, determine the value of the benefits.  In return for creating and delivering benefits supporters value, the organizations capture value, which allows the organizations to continue pursuing their objectives.
*  *  *  *  *
Rotary is a respected, worldwide network.  Its effort to sustain membership must always begin with Rotarians, their demographic,  psychographic, and behavioral realities, their needs, their values.  Rotary must continually ask itself why would any group of people with enterprising minds want to become a Rotary club? Why would anyone want to become a Rotarian? Why would anyone want to support The Rotary Foundation?  Rotary's objective has been and still is to advance the Object of Rotary locally but scaled globally.  It cannot do that without clubs and Rotarians, so the central role of Marketing Rotary is to produce and make available attributes that clubs and Rotarians consider beneficial.
Recommended References:

     RI, an association of Rotary clubs, has a worldwide reputation that many have come to respect.  Local groups of responsible leaders with enterprising minds sometimes choose to apply to RI for membership because they perceive that the name Rotary carries with it benefits the groups cannot get elsewhere.  RI, in return, is entitled to capture value for the benefit the name Rotary delivers, which happens when groups apply for membership.  The exchanges are culminated when RI approves the applications and clubs receive their charters.  The clubs, to retain their charter, are obligated to continually advance the Object of Rotary and pay RI dues based on the number of members they have.  RI, in return, is obligated to sustain over time producing and making available attributes that clubs perceive to be beneficial.
     Rotary clubs, to attract people with enterprising minds from within their local social fabrics, should produce benefits members cannot get elsewhere.  Clubs that do so are entitled to capture something of value in return, which happens when people agree to become members.  When the exchanges are culminated, the clubs must over time sustain the process of producing and making available attributes members perceive to be beneficial.
       Rotary must continually produce and make available benefits clubs and Rotarians value.  To do so, Rotary must understand the competitive forces clubs and Rotarians face, and how demographics, needs, realities, and values change over time and in different locations.  Meaningful statistics can help determine whether or not all parties are satisfied and can help determine the expense Rotary should invest in producing and delivering attributes that clubs, Rotarians, and donors consider useful.
   On December 20 Retention Central will continue the series by discussing each element mentioned in more detail, beginning with Marketing Rotary for Non-Professionals 102A - 'THEM' - The Supporters. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Part II - Supporting The Rotary Foundation Should Help Clubs Retain Members. Does It?

When funding Global Grants, The Rotary Foundation's (TRF) policy is to match District Designated Funds (DDF) contributions $1 for $1 and cash contributions $.50 for $1.  That's fair.  But let's say a club would like to partner with an International district to fund a $40,000 Global Grant.  The club is in a district whose TRF committee has the following requirements for clubs to use DDF so they could obtain a $1 for $1 match from TRF: 
  1. Clubs must contribute $100 per capita to The Rotary Foundation's Annual Fund (AF) just to be eligible to apply to use DDF, and
  2. Clubs must contribute to the AF an additional $1 for each $1 DDF it wishes to use for Global or Local Grants.
For simplification in this example, in each scenario the International District partner will use its DDF for its portion of the proposed $40,000 grant.  Here are two scenarios the club should consider:
In the second scenario, the local club would save $7,250 by-passing contributing to the AF or attempting to use DDF during the Grant's funding year!  Upon further analysis, in districts where TRF committees operate with comparable requirements, clubs with 48 or fewer members may find applying to use DDF beneficial, but larger clubs would clearly be better off not doing so.   
Shouldn't all TRF and district policies be examined from clubs' points of view as well as TRF's and the district's?  For example, the local district in the sample scenarios requires that only clubs contributing $100 or more per capita to the AF are even eligible to apply to use DDF.  The district probably intended this to be an incentive to encourage clubs to meet the goal of $100 Every Rotarian Every Year (EREY).  Is it possible that clubs, particularly those who have annually contributed to the AF but do not meet this requirement, would view it as an attempt to force an increase in contributions to the AF? As not being fair to them?  As being a penalty for not meeting a per capita goal set by the district, an RI creation; an RI associate that exists to serve RI's member clubs?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Part I - Supporting The Rotary Foundation Should Help Clubs Retain Members. Does It?

According to the Rotary International (RI) Code of Policies, RI, the association, ". . . represents, protects, encompasses, and promotes the interests of its membership, and it exists to serve the membership."  Rotary clubs are community based organizations.  From their local social fabrics they attract and retain dues paying members - local people with enterprising minds.  The Rotary Foundation (TRF) is an important and influential Rotary attribute.  So here is a critical question that should be thoroughly examined:  Does TRF help RI serve its membership?  It should.  It could.  But when critically analyzed, does it?  
    Members of local Rotary clubs the world over want to improve life for themselves, their families, their community, and the world - in that order.  So let's analyze a particular scenario of the Share System from a local North American club's viewpoint.  The club wants to fund a local $5,000 project that qualifies in one of Rotary's six areas of focus.  Like many clubs, it has been told that if the club fronts $2,500, the project may qualify for a $2,500 match from District Designated Funds (DDF).  That's plenty fair - a dollar-for-dollar match.  But is it really a dollar-for-dollar match?  This sample club, for instance, annually contributes $10,000 or more to the Annual Fund.  The $10,000 is divided into $5,000 for DDF, $4,500 for the World Fund, and $500 for administrative costs.  Again, that's fair. 
    According to TRF rules, 50% of DDF can be used for local projects.  Local club members, people with enterprising minds and without TRF branded on their brain, quickly calculate that the actual cost just to qualify, without any guarantees, to use DDF for its $5,000 project would be $12,500 ($10,000 three years ago + $2,500 to have on hand for a match.)
    Okay.  All Rotarians want to advance the fourth Object of Rotary and can do so by contributing to the World Fund.  No problem.  But under the above scenario isn't it only logical that local North American clubs in districts where TRF committees operate in similar fashion would think, "Let's just contribute $5,000 directly to the World Fund and use the other $5,000 for our local project now.  The World Fund gets $4,750 instead of $4,500, and we save $2,500 that can be used for other projects.  In addition, the club doesn't have to go through TRF and the district, wait three years, and then maybe get to use 25% of the $10,000 we contributed to TRF three years ago." Cap this thought process with the concept that some North American districts say that to be eligible to apply for DDF clubs must contribute $100 or more per capita to TRF's annual fund. So, getting logical once again wouldn't enterprising minds think along these lines: "Our first priority is to attract and retain members from our local social fabric.  How does this help us?"
Rotarians do like to support worthwhile projects throughout the world, but most, particularly new ones, want to make a difference in their local communities and, in our fast-paced world, do it with more speed and delivery. Records indicate that ten-year Rotarians donate 350% more per capita to TRF than two-year Rotarians.*  So shouldn't TRF be interested in helping clubs retain members?  Is that philosophical and marketing approach missing in TRF seminars throughout the world?

*For confirmation, ask the RI director representing your Zone.  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Rotary clubs' images of Rotary International.

  Businesses yesterday, today, and tomorrow knew and know that success is all about connecting and communicating with, and serving the needs of, those who fund operations.  Rotary International (RI) operations and a high percentage of the contributions to its charitable attribute, The Rotary Foundation (TRF), are funded by dues-paying members of RI's over 34,000 affiliated Rotary clubs.  To maximize its influence on clubs, RI should understand how clubs view it, which could be totally different than how RI thinks clubs (and their members) view it, or how RI views itself.  Clubs view RI images through touchpoint telescopes, and the touchpoints (interconnections, communications, etc.) either add value (reinforces the value of affiliation) or take up space (questions the value of affiliation).
   But, you say, RI is a bottom up organization; it doesn't touch clubs very often.  Believe it or not, clubs receive images of RI rather frequently.  For example, an image of RI is created every time directors, zone coordinators, district governors, district committee chairs and/or assistant governors communicate with or visit clubs, and when club officers and/or members:

  • attend district events, such assemblies, seminars, and conferences.
  • receive reports, requests, or any form of RI, Zone, or district communication.
  • visit or communicate electronically with anything RI, Zone, or district.
  • view any RI graphic, Tweet, Facebook post, or web site.
  • read any article about or by Rotary in magazines, periodicals, and news media.
  • request assistance from districts and/or RI.
    These are all RI touchpoints and heavily influence the image clubs (and their members) have of RI. Remember districts are RI creations; clubs view district representatives as RI associates educated and trained directly or indirectly by RI to serve the clubs.  For touchpoints to add value, those reflecting RI must understand what clubs consider important - being effective in their local social fabrics.  So let's talk about just one frequent RI touchpoint - a district governor's or district committee chair's club visit.    Do these visits add value to clubs?  They could.  They should.  All too frequently, they don't.  Why?  Generally because RI associates are not schooled on what local clubs and Rotarians consider important; advancing the Object of Rotary in their local social fabrics.  Too often these visits concentrate on promoting district, RI, and TRF attributes without considering whether or not these attributes add value to the club. Frequently local club members view these touchpoints as 'sales' pitches that take time and space - contribute little or no value to local clubs.
    The touchpoint telescope magnifies RI's image to its public - its member clubs.  To reinforce the value of having local groups of people with enterprising minds associate with RI, its touchpoints - all of them - must continually reflect its desire to serve the interest of its only customer, its member clubs, and how the association adds value to each and every club. This requires effective, continuous Internal Marketing so all RI associates understand who Rotarians are and how RI and its attributes can add value to clubs; can be used to help clubs in their endeavors to advance the Object of Rotary.  That would enhance RI's image and improve its ability to influence clubs.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


   If you do not answer this question within thirty seconds with a response that piques the interest of the person asking, you probably have lost their attention. Don't believe it? Cast aside your adopted Rotary biases and consider these questions: 

  • How long are the TV commercials, sound bites, and headlines that trigger your enterprising mind into wanting to learn more about the topic?
  • Why do you think Twitter has become so popular?
   The answer to 'What is Rotary?' whether it is a question, a sign, a TV spot, a headline, a sound bite, or a newsletter has only one goal: to entice people to want to learn more.
    Every person in a Rotary leadership position should be encouraged to develop an effective ten to thirty second response to What is Rotary? because creating and embedding one would require them to get up close and personal with what Rotary really is. If Rotary leaders cannot, from their heart, deliver an effective differentiating response, be it referencing their local club or Rotary International, why are they a leader? (Click here for a PETS, GETS, or Assembly exercise that could accomplish this objective.)
    One response, incorporating a tag line suggested by Siegel+Gale, is:  "Our Rotary club is an organization of local people with enterprising minds connecting for good."   Another, paraphrasing conventional Rotary wisdom, could be: "Our Rotary club is an organization of local active or retired business, professional, and community leaders".  For Rotary International staff and leaders, each could lead off with "Rotary International is a worldwide association of over 34,000 local clubs whose members are  . . . " 
    Even in a slow drawl, each response takes less than fifteen seconds, answers the question, differentiates Rotary from the ordinary, and communicates Who Rotarians Are.  Both work for me - and on my mental attitude.  And I question whether or not we can begin doing what RIPN Germ desires, ". . . enthusiastically and effectively market who we are" if we don't know and understand who we are.        

What would be your response?

Sunday, October 12, 2014


     It is time for this 47-year Rotarian to become a Rotary Slacker.  Rotary International (RI) leaders are beginning to realize that Rotary's brand - its differentiation - is Who Rotarians Are and that without Rotarians, RI nor any of its programs can exist.  Positive changes related to membership's importance are coming.  So let me do what old people like to do - reminisce. 
     In 2007-8, Bevin Wall and Jim Henry accepted the opportunity to serve as Membership Coordinators for Zones 33 and 34.  Membership was declining.  After critically examining data, our independent analyses revealed that, contrary to Rotary leaders' conventional wisdom, declining membership was not because Rotary clubs could not 'recruit' members, it was because they could not retain them.  The sheer quantity of members leaving Rotary shocked us and virtually all Rotary leaders.  Bevin and I realized we must undertake the quest to identify and address root problems, otherwise halting, much less reversing, our Zones' membership declines would be almost impossible.  The quest took us into the inter sanctums of RI and The Rotary Foundation (TRF).  We found evidence indicating that the primary reason North American membership was declining was that, during the 1980s, RI lost its differentiation - its brand.  It began putting more importance on its attributes than on the value its attributes delivered to those who made RI and its attributes possible.
    This initiated a gradual cultural change that evolved RI into a top-down, attribute-centered organization.  It began encouraging its member clubs to become 'local service organizations of choice'.  Intellectual inbreeding nurtured this cultural change to its maturity.  In desperation, RI leaders began encouraging clubs to recruit members as an objective in itself instead of attracting them by delivering value - its lost brand promise.  These changes, mixed with neglecting to maintain and report meaningful, accurate membership information, initiated and perpetuated RI's membership condition.
    Bevin created two Zone 33 BLOGs, and I created Retention Central.  The BLOGs centered on documenting our findings and encouraging Rotary leaders at all levels to prioritize and approach membership with the priority and professionalism it deserved.  A growing number of senior leaders now appear to realize membership's true priority; that Rotary's brand is Who Rotarians Are - leaders who get things done - and that:

Revitalizing membership will be a slow, costly initiative, but not near as costly as delaying action and continuing to do what has always been done.  If local clubs and the Association of Rotary Clubs perpetually engage business brains and compassionate hearts to advance the Object of Rotary, Rotary will have a bright future.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Rotarians. Who are You?

Rather than seeking to recruit and retain members as an objective in itself, the key is un­derstanding who we are.  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 (RI) Director John Smarge
2011 International Assembly Speech

We will enhance Rotary's public image by successfully and enthusiastically marketing who we are, what amazing things we are doing, and incredibly, have done locally and globally.
                                                                                                John F. Germ, 2014
Presidential Nominating Committee Selection to be 2016-17 RI President.

   Marketing who Rotarians are and the amazing things Rotarian's have done and are doing is a major, and badly needed, philosophical change in mindsets and will not be easy to achieve.  Rotary, particularly in North America, has been grappling with 'who we are' for decades; long before Past RI Director Smarge brought it into the open in his publicly revealing 2011 speech.
   Rotary had been trying to combat its membership stagnation and major market decline by recruiting members as an objective unto itself, hoping that this would spur membership.  Hope is not a marketing strategy.  Marketing requires that everyone thoroughly understand that Rotary's primary purpose is to create Rotarians.  Most neighbors and world citizens are doing things like picking up trash and serving in food lines.  As future RI president Germ says, it is 'who we are' that gets things done.
   Change is difficult even in the best of times.  It does appear that the first major obstacle to change and successfully marketing Rotary has been philosophically breached.  Most leaders appear to know that members are to Rotary like customers are to businesses.  What is yet to be understood is that Rotary's primary purpose is to create Rotarians simply because Rotary is its members.  'Who we are' is not a Rotary program'Who we are' creates and supports Rotary's programs and projects.
   So Rotary must market 'who we are'.  Who are we?  This question must be answered because many are conflicted about 'who we are', and 'who we should be'.  This topic must be openly and frankly discussed, pretty much agreed upon, and internally marketed.  If it isn't, it will be an obstacle that will most likely render the visions of future RI presidents Ravi and Germ, including their boards and other leaders, difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.  All of Rotary must understand 'who we are' before Rotary can be effectively marketed and delivered externally.
   Along with determining 'who we are' Rotary must offer and deliver to 'who we are' something of value that 'who we are' cannot get elsewhere.  Performing community and international service projects and contributing to The Rotary Foundation (TRF) are not unique offerings.  Without unique offerings, there are no perceivable reasons for 'who we are'  to be a Rotarian.
   North America, Rotary's largest mature 'who we are'  market and home to TRF's primary donors, is telegraphing Rotary's future.  In 1995, its membership peaked at approximately 460,000.  Today, it is about 360,000.  Rotary leaders at all levels must be strong enough to step out of their comfort zones, cast aside personal biases, and recognize that the only true measure of an effective Rotary club is its desire and ability to create Rotarians.  All assemblies, seminars, conferences, and conventions must communicate this basic fundamental, and reports should reflect vital membership statistics, measures, and trends - not merely net gains or losses.

Professionally marketing and delivering differentiating values to 'who we are'  is Rotary's chance, perhaps only chance, to steadily create Rotarians.  Is this great organization of business, professional, and community leaders up to the challenge? Does it recognize that

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why Haven't Rotary International's Membership Initiatives Succeeded?

     At the turn of the century, Rotary International (RI) membership had been hovering around 1.2 million for five years.  Several major market areas were experiencing a decline.  Some RI leaders dreamed of increasing membership to the 1.5 million mark.  Since then, year after year, different recruiting and net gain initiatives have proliferated.  In 2010, leaders targeted 1.3 million Rotarians by July 1, 2015.  Many dedicated Rotarians compiled and implemented regional membership plans, all approved by the RI board of directors (board) and implemented in 2012 and 2013. Today, membership is still hovering around 1.2 million.
    RI's membership initiatives have not succeeded simply because they did not, in action or resource allocation, have PRIORITY. Without PRIORITY, there is not, nor will there ever be, any sense of urgency, particularly with those that are continually asked to develop membership - clubs and existing Rotarians.  If there ever was an applicable cliché it had to be, and still is, "Bad planning on your part doesn't constitute urgency on my part."  The board has, for two decades, prioritized RI programs over membership even though RI's own Code of Policies says, ". . . activities and programs addressing membership must remain the association's highest priority."  Intellectual inbreeding and complacency caused RI to forget its true purpose, the business it is in, and its internal and external target audiences.  If RI wants to survive the 21st century, it must change priorities, and this change must start with its leaders - all of them!
    Change takes consistent, long-term leadership. For this change to succeed, RI must assemble an international GUIDING COALITION capable of and committed to leading the change.  Establishing such an influential group will be virtually impossible if membership development doesn't have the association's highest priority; a priority that is communicated by words and demonstrated by deeds and resource allocation.  The coalition's initial duties would be to delineate RI's purpose, the business it is in, identify its target audiences and create an attainable vision.  Without these elements, planning will be for naught, as previous membership initiatives have effectively demonstrated.
    A VISION is necessary, but the vision must be considered attainable by everyone involved - including member clubs.  Had all regional membership development plans been approved in 2012, it would have taken an annual membership growth rate of about 3.6% to reach the 1.3 million vision.  This rate does not sound unreasonable until analysts (or even rank amateurs) examine historical rates. RI's prior fifteen-year annual growth rate had been teetering at 0%.  North America, RI's major market, was experiencing a decade long decline averaging roughly 1.3% per year.  During the last half of the previous century, RI's annual growth rate had been between 1.5 and 2%.  What actions and resources did the 1.3 million dreamers believe RI and its member clubs could or would commit in order to improve RI's overall annual growth rate from 0% to 3.6%?  To convert a major market's negative 1.3% rate to a positive 3.6% rate?  In one year!  Get real!
    Until membership is considered urgent enough to receive top priority in words, deeds, and resources, any efforts dedicated to returning to a steady, long term growth rate will be wasted. Only when RI establishes membership as its top priority, a guiding coalition is in place, and critical business decisions are made can reasonable visions be established and regional plans revised.  In the meantime, all communications in words and actions must be based on the fundamental that developing its source of funding - its customers - will forever remain RI's top priority.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rotary Inbreeding

     It is perfectly natural for leaders to gravitate to people who they like and like them; to show favor to those who agree with and work hard to support their efforts.  It's easy and satisfying for leaders to give choice, prestigious assignments to loyal followers. This encourages supporters to strive a bit harder - toward the leaders' ways of thinking.  In start-up organizations these practices often spell the difference between success and failure.
     In mature organizations like Rotary International (RI) this type intellectual inbreeding is flawed ideology because it breeds institutional complacency and encourages people to continue old practices even when confronted with new challenges and information.  Intellectual inbreeding has taken its toll on RI and is still being practiced because RI leader wantabees cozy up to those who can influence prestigious assignments; rungs on the ladder to more recognition and influential positions.
     The most effective way to break intellectual inbreeding is to infuse seeds of thought from outside the Rotary family, which RI did when it contracted with Siegel+Gale (SG).  Thankfully SG's findings challenged inbred mindsets and practices. There is of course the inherit resistance to change, one of many obstacles that has to be overcome.  Change must be led by a guiding coalition that wants and is prepared to lead it.  Preparation - education and training - is critical and has to begin with some wonderful, dedicated people - RI's officers and directors.  They are today's leaders and are influencing tomorrow's leaders as they were influenced by yesterday's leaders - intellectual inbreeding in its most seductive costume. This insidious form of idea depression contributed to the fall of General Motors, the Kodak bankruptcy, the meltdown of several major financial institutions, and has infected RI.   It is simply unfair to the Rotary world to expect officers and directors to govern and lead RI into the future if they are ill-prepared and do not receive the information they need to help them make informed decisions and recommendations.  Throughout Rotary, RI officers and directors influence conventions, assemblies, institutes, seminars, and conferences - training grounds for future leaders. They must be firmly grounded in fundamental objectives, responsibilities, and duties; basics they simply cannot get solely from internal sources.  
In 2015, for the first time, RI directors are going to be exposed to outside training on board responsibilities. Had this been happening during the last twenty years, it is possible that RI membership would not be in the condition it is today.  Future leadership should expand on this practice by encouraging and initiating innovative ideas on creating and serving its revenue source - Rotarians.  Unfortunately, Rotary leadership has a long history of returning to the comfortable practices of yesteryear, believing that their personas alone will bring about different results - a history that must change.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rotary's Target Audiences

Sources indicate that the average Rotarian's age has remained at 58 for the last one or two decades.  Some say this is not good for membership; that the average age should be lower.  Others disagree. This is a critical issue because it relates to the demographics and psychographics of Rotary's target audiences and where resources should be dedicated if Rotary wants to return to a steady growth state.  So let's examine Rotary history and North American demographics.
     In 1905, when Paul Harris founded Rotary, he was in his 37th year.  According to the US Bureau of Statistics at that time, the average 37-year-old could expect to live another 30 years - or to age 67 (Paul Harris left Rotary and the world at 79-42 years after founding Rotary; 12 years beyond life expectancy.) Today, a 37-year-old male is expected to live 42 more years - or to age 79.  Female life expectancy is four years longer.  So what would be the expected Rotarian Lifetime Value (RLV) of a 37-year-old should they be retained in Rotary until health required them to leave? Retained Rotarians, if properly appreciated, become loyal Rotary advocates.  Word of mouth is the best advertising any organization can get.

   What about non-Rotarian target audiences?  Sound business acumen must prevail when projecting Rotary's public messaging and images to any target audience.  In the United States, when identifying non-Rotarian target audiences, one must, among other issues, examine the work force. According to this graphic, eighty-seven percent of its employed citizens are over 26 years old.  Rotary's Messaging Guidelines suggests that Rotarians should be leaders who are defined, not by labels or titles, but by mindsets and approaches.  Developing these personal psychometrics generally takes time and experience, as does generating expendable time and resources.  So today, Rotary's prime U.S., non-Rotarian target audience most likely begins somewhere in the upper portion of the X generation, perhaps slightly older than Paul Harris when he founded Rotary.  What would be their RLV should they join and remain in Rotary until health issues determined otherwise?

Rotary's prime target audience has to be its existing members.  Resources must be dedicated to retaining and helping them become Rotary advocates.  This initiative, accompanied by consistent Rotary messaging communicating who Rotarians are, will help return Rotary membership to a steady growth state.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


This, or something similar, should be RI's Position Statement

"Membership Development is RI's highest priority.  Without members, neither RI nor any of its programs can exist.  Polio Eradication is a special program of RI and continues to have the highest priority over all other RI programs."

and here is why:

2012 Rotary Code of Policies Section 26.120.  Membership Statistics: The development and continuation of activities and programs addressing membership must remain the association's highest priority.  The association and its clubs must remain focused on all aspects of membership.  (May 2003 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 324)  Source: February 2003 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 261  

2012 Rotary Code of Policies Section 28.005.  A.  The Structure of Rotary International
Rotary International is a not-for-profit association of member clubs.  The association represents, protects, encompasses, and promotes the interest of its membership, and it exists to serve the membership.  The association belongs not to its leaders, but to its members, who determine through a democratic process who the leaders will be and who will represent them at the association level.
    The leaders in turn make policy and financial decisions that affect and best serve the interests of the membership. Source:  July 1999 Mtg., Bd. Dec 9; Amended by November 2004 Mtg., Bd. Dec.58; July 2011 Mtg., Bd. Dec 8

Rotary International (RI) is a not-for-profit association of member clubs and exists to serve the membership.  The affairs and operating capital of RI are under the control of the Board of Directors.  Without operating capital, RI cannot sustain itself.  RI's operating capital comes from dues-paying members.  Without members, neither RI nor its programs can exist.

2012 Rotary Code of Policies Section 40.010.  Program Terminology
The following terminology and definitions shall be used for RI Programs:
Special Program of RI - PolioPlus is a special program of Rotary International and has highest priority over all other programs until the certification of eradication is achieved.
Structured Programs organized activities recommended by the RI Board for clubs and districts that include a recommended framework and guidelines;
Global Networking Groups groups of individual Rotarians organized to focus on shared topics of interest on an international basis.
The following are recognized as Structured Programs:
Rotary Community Corps
Rotary Friendship Exchange
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards
Youth Exchange (September 2011 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 34)
Source:  August 1999 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 61; May 2000 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 406; June 2005 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 302; Amended by June 2001 Mtg., Bd. Dec.  394; November 2008 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 58; September 2011 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 34

          Polio Eradication is ". . . a special program of RI and has the highest priority over all other programs."
Membership is not an RI program. 
Membership IS RI.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Last Rotary Club in North America?

     Membership data indicates that annually in North America nearly 43,000 people join Rotary clubs and around 51,000 leave.  Today, there are approximately 340,000 Rotarians in North America.  At this rate, it doesn't take a genius to estimate when the last Rotary club in North America will be left standing.  Is this what we want? 
     Supply side membership economics says that all we have to do is ask more people to join and our problem will be solved! Supply side membership economics didn't solve Rotary's membership problems twelve years ago.  Annual recruiting drives and net gain targets since haven't either.  There is no reason to expect supply side membership economics to solve Rotary's membership problem now.
     Failing businesses continually fall into the supply side economics whirlpool:  We lose a little bit on every sale so let's make it up with more sales.  Apply that philosophy to Rotary membership:  We lose more members than join, so let's ask more people to join.  This is the equivalent of the Recruiting Death Dance and simply compounds membership development problems because it puts more people into communities that did not receive expected value from their Rotary experience.
    Other than for health reasons, members leaving faster than they are being inducted simply means that their needs are not being satisfied.  Therefore attention must be on retention - delivering value to members.  In today's society, people, depending on their time in life, join and remain in organizations like local Rotary clubs to:
  • Sustain friendships.
  • Utilize their leadership skills and/or treasure to leave a legacy.
  • Further careers by connecting with leaders and honing leadership skills.
  • Connect with leaders; learn to lead. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Is Rotary following its own Guidelines?

    Rotary International has been in a serious membership situation for almost two decades.  Many long time Rotarians were, and still are, aware of the major issues.  However, aging organizations tend to create personal centers of power - silos - that follow separate agendas and perpetuate inbred practices.  The Organization Cemetery is filled with those who succumbed to this nepotistic disease.  Organizations that want to cure this affliction are usually wise enough to seek outside, objective diagnosis and advice.
    Rotary discovered it had so much inbreeding that it had forgotten who its customers were and what business it was in.  Fortunately, it sought treatment.  In 2011, Rotary began a rebranding initiative with Seigel+GaleIn January 2012, Seigel+Gale presented its research results and recommendations to Rotary's Directors and Trustees.  Unfortunately, the initiative's importance was downplayed and demoted because one or more of Rotary's centers of power were following personal agendas.  This delayed critical examination and implementation of beneficial recommendations and allowed popular opinion to believe that Rotary had paid over a million US dollars for a new logo.  This unfortunate and unwise delay changed this Rotatorialist into The Angry Rotarian.
   RIPE Ravi's recent comments helped convert The Angry Rotarian into A Hopeful Rotarian.  Rotary's Messaging Guidelines, posted on Rotary's web site in January, 2014, reinforced the conversion.  Unfortunately, examinations of the web site upon which the Guidelines are posted along with recent spoken and written comments by some senior leaders indicate that many in Rotary are not familiar with the Guidelines.  Would this be because the Guidelines haven't been internally marketed?  Are the Guidelines being ignored?  Are contradictory or conflicting training materials and public information being corrected or taken out of circulation? 

If Rotary leaders do not lead the way by following Rotary's Messaging Guidelines, why should staff or associates?  What 'message' does this send to clubs and Rotarians?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Rotary's Messaging Guidelines

Rotarians, socially and ethically, are responsible leaders; connecting has and always will be their driving force; and they make the world better - one community at the time.
Simplified summary, page 3 Rotary's Messaging Guidelines, 
a result of Siegel+Gale's Research presented to Rotary 
leaders two and a half years ago.

·       "leaders" should be defined by mindset and approaches (psychographics) instead of labels (generations, genders, ethnicities, etc) or titles,
·       Rotary's strength lies in local Rotary clubs - who the local Rotarians are, and
·       Connecting (networking) with each other, they make their communities and the world better.

The Messaging Guidelines represent a major shift in Rotary's guiding mentality.  These guidelines define the Rotary organism as 'Rotary' and can only help Rotary in its efforts to create Rotarians.  Rotary must now eliminate internal silos and concentrate on creating Rotarians.  It is they, advancing the Object of Rotary and using Rotary's attributes, that will connect with each other and make their communities and the world better. 

Rotarians make the world better, 
One community at the time.