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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Who Defines Rotary?

     Rotary International (R.I.) is defined, not by what senior leaders say it is or by what it does, but by who existing and potential Rotarians are and the wants and needs they satisfy by connecting with Rotary! 

    The prime reason R.I. and its member clubs exist is to create Rotarians.  Therefore, the question of what defines R.I. and the business it is in can only be answered by looking at R.I. from the outside; from the points of view of its member clubs, its existing and potential Rotarians, and regional conditions.  Every human being in the world lives within their own personal reality.  For this reason, and this reason alone, any serious attempt to identify the business R.I. is in must start with Rotarians' realities and values. 
     Rotary leaders should have asked and come to unanimous agreement on the question, "What business are we in?" when membership was growing; when it kicked off its polio eradication campaign.  This is when R.I. was at its pinnacle; when it was most successful.  But success almost always makes obsolete the very behavior that achieved it, so to change R.I.'s membership fortunes, it must seriously examine not only the business it is in but the business it wants to be in.  To do so, it must look outside of itself and examine changes in the structure and demographics of the populations from which it wishes to create Rotarians.  In today's marketplace, this begins with being innovative in leading the way to help its member clubs retain and attract members.  This includes creating and sustaining a holistic marketing program that includes re-educating staff and leaders, assisting member clubs, and developing new clubs.  These actions alone will reveal many yet-to-be-discovered opportunities for R.I. to deliver value to its member clubs and Rotarians. 
Is R.I. capable of preventing itself from being buried by commonplace in 20??.  It is, but only if it takes a critical look at itself from outside of itself and commits to making what will be some very difficult decisions and changes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Makes Rotary Go 'Round?

“Let’s remember that while charity has a mixed record of helping others, it has an almost perfect record of helping ourselves.  Helping others may be as primal as food or sex.”  Columnist Nicholas Kristof.
    Any organization confused about who their customers are and what it takes to satisfy their needs is an organization in trouble, and many Rotary clubs are in trouble.  Make no mistake about it – a Rotary's customers are present and potential members, and foundation’s customers are its present and potential donors.  Members and donors are generally motivated by enlightened self-interest.
    In membership development and planning sessions, participants often confuse beneficiaries with members.  Beneficiaries (recipients, receivers, donees) are those who receive humanitarian and/or educational benefit from projects and programs.   It is important that attendees resolve this confusion because long-term growth must revolve around satisfying existing member’s needs and attracting new members – not beneficiaries – members.    
    Fishy Fantasies can cause havoc in organizations.  One Fishy Fantasy that often invades the minds of leaders of successful organizations is, "An increasingly affluent society will ensure the organization’s growth.”  This is a fantasy because in this type society, organizations’ leaders often assume that they do not have to be innovative and concentrate on improving what they are already doing.  What actually happens is that they get better at what they are doing rather than improving the value of what they are doing to their customer.
    In Rotary, it is important to get better at delivering deeds to beneficiaries, but regardless of whether the deed is administering a vaccine, building a local playground, or awarding a Peace or Ambassadorial scholarship, its lasting fundamental value, altruism, lies in how it improves members’ enlightened self-interest.  So how does the deed deliver this altruistic value? It engages their emotional connection to the organization; it makes them feel like they are somebody; not just another 'volunteer'; not just anybody. It gives members the warm fuzzy that they are contributing to someone else’s well-being; it recognizes them as being a contributing member to their local and international communities; it gives them self-respect.  It engages their self-esteem.  
   Please refer to the Building Community graphicEngaged members participating in the Productive Zone make it possible for Rotarians and clubs to Build Communities and Bridge Continents.  Members will stay engaged if clubs continually present opportunities for them to exercise their altruism and frequently enlighten their self-interest by acknowledging their generosity.  That is improving a deed’s value to the member.          
   The differentiation between members and beneficiaries and recognizing the altruistic value of a deed is vitally important across the complete spectrum of Rotary operations. Consider public relations. R.I. and its member clubs should direct public information efforts toward is most important audience – its customer.  A minimal Rotary public relations campaign must enlighten Rotarians’ self-interest.  An effective public relations campaign should also enlighten potential members’ self-interest.  A superb public relations campaign accomplishes both and informs the public about who Rotarians are and what they do.
            Rotary essentials:
            Its customers              Existing and Potential Rotarians
            Its objective                Advance The Object of Rotary
            Its motto                     Service above Self
            Its creed                      The Four Way Test
Critically examine the basic human behavioral principles of the objective, motto, and creed.  It becomes easy to recognize that it is Rotarians’ 
Enlightened Self-Interest that makes Rotary go ‘Round. 
To improve membership development, R.I. and its clubs should recognize this behavioral reality, continue to search for innovative ways to engage members’ desire to exercise Service above Self, then frequently recognize them for who they are individually and as a group, and thank them for their altruism and achievements.
That’s “improving the deed’s value to the customer.”

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Is Rotary International's Future in Jeopardy?

Rotary International (R.I.), the association, has two customers: the ultimate customer - Rotarians - and its member clubs.  It does not do any good for a local business, professional, or community leader to see value in becoming a Rotarian if there is not a functioning club to join, and it is useless to form a club if local business, professional, or community leaders do not perceive any value in becoming Rotarians.

    This is quite similar to many businesses.  Lexus and BMW, for example, manufacture machines people use for transportation.  Their ultimate customer, however, does not buy machines for transportation; they buy "status", so everything Lexus and BMW do delivers "status."  Local dealers sell the machines, but Lexus and BMW train the dealers to deliver commensurate "status."  All public Lexus and BMW  communications deliver what the ultimate customer values: "status."
    North American membership records are telegraphing that Rotarians, R.I.'s ultimate customer, are not receiving the value they desire. R.I. has been selling what it does: service to the public.  In North America serving the public is to local business, professional, and community leaders like machines for transportation are to the general population.  The business fundamental R.I. leaders have overlooked, did not know, or do not accept is that R.I. does not define the business it is in, the ultimate customer, the Rotarian, does.  So R.I. must ask itself these fundamental questions:

  • What differentiating "value" does becoming a Rotarian deliver to a person described in Article 5 of the Constitution of Rotary International?
  • What services can R.I. perform for its member clubs that would help them deliver that differentiating "value"?
There are no easy answers to these questions, but until R.I.realizes the business it is actually in and addresses these questions effectively, R.I.'s long-term future is in jeopardy.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rotary International - Create or Die!

Several responses to the previous Rotatorial challenged the concept that the sole purpose of any organization was to create supporters, be they customers, members, donors, etc.  Here is why that is a basic fundamental:  Organizations (businesses, charities, etc) are entities of the society in which they exist and are created through that society's accepted customs, institutions, and processes.  If an organization has no supporters (customers, members, donors, clients, etc), it has no one to serve, no one from which to derive its operating capital.  It must create supporters, or have them existing when the organization is created, or the organization will die before it can attain its objective.  Therefore the sole purpose of all organizations is to create supporters. 
    To create supporters, organizations must have objectives that attract those who want what the organization provides.  To attain the objectives, organizations have two, and only two, basic functions:  Marketing and Innovation. Marketing communicates the organization's objective and its differentiating value to supporters.  Innovation enhances that which delivers value to supporters, not just ordinary value, but better value than supporters can get elsewhere, i.e., excellence in service and/or product.  Organizations must be successful in Marketing and Innovation otherwise they will lose supporters (customers, members, clients, donors, etc.) and not be profitable, i.e. the ability to sustain attaining their objective.  Organizations get into extreme difficulty when obtaining objectives overtakes creating and serving supporters in importance, which is another way of saying allowing attributes to overtake the organization's brand in importance.  
   For Rotary International (R.I.) and The Rotary Foundation (TRF) this translates into the sole purpose of each, respectively, is to create Rotarians and donors.  The objective is to advance the Object of Rotary.  I have been told that, in Fiscal Year 2012-13, R.I. had an operational budget of $103,000,000 US.  Of that, $9,000,000 US (8.7%) was expended to support TRF's annual fund (an attribute) and $3,000,000 US (2.9%) was expended to support membership i.e. create supporters.  This, along with existing membership data, indicates that R.I. and TRF have allowed attaining the objective to overtake creating Rotarians and donors in importance.  That raises some questions:

  • Why isn't creating members R.I.'s highest priority as the Code of Policies says it should be?
  • If creating members is not R.I.'s highest priority why should it be in its member clubs?
  • Should member clubs and Rotary districts follow R.I.'s lead and devote three times as many resources in support of TRF's annual fund than in retaining and attracting members and creating new clubs?
  • Are R.I. and TRF being fully transparent on how TRF's funds are managed?
  • Are member clubs expected to be collection agencies for TRF's annual fund?
  • Would not $12,000,000 US be a respectable starting budget for a Marketing group that centered on Marketing to Rotarians and donors?
Membership will continue on its present course unless the Rotary world centers all activities on creating Rotarians and donors.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Rotary International Exists For Only One Purpose. What is that Purpose?

Rotary International's (R.I.) objective is to advance the Object of Rotary.  R.I. depends on members to carry out this objective.  According to Wikipedia, Rotary membership    ". . is open to business and professional leaders aged 18 and upwards with no regard to economic status" who ". . can join a Rotary club only by invitation."   Assuming this is an accurate description, R.I. must deliver value that satisfies business and professional leaders' reasons for accepting an invitation to join a local Rotary club. This can only be accomplished if R.I., while expanding its global presence, strives to understand and deliver, through its member clubs, on these reasons.  To do so, R.I. must encourage and assist its member clubs to create enduring relationships and personal connections among local leaders, i.e. the development of acquaintances as an opportunity for service.  That makes these local business, professional, and community leaders the essence of Who Rotary Is - Rotarians - without whom R.I. would not exist.  Therefore, R.I.'s sole purpose is to create Rotarians!  It is they, utilizing R.I. attributes, who carry out R.I.'s objective.  


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