General Information

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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Leading Rotarians

Leading Rotarians is different than leading volunteers for two major reasons -1- they are customers, not volunteers, and -2- they usually are active or retired business, professional, and community leaders, heavily involved in their business and personal lives and not interested in wasting time pursuing projects that are not worth their time, talent, or treasure or of little value to them or others. 
The most effective skill to utilize in leading Rotarians is INFLUENCE, which takes time and effort to develop and gain, particularly with Rotarians simply because of Who They Are.  The most effective way to gain influence is to effectively network.  And if you think that just joining a Rotary club will gain influence with Rotarians, forget it.  One has to take advantage of the opportunity to be of service, and to contribute value to the person or group they want to gain influence.  Perhaps the best way to explain this is by shortening the 2011 Jean and Lex story.  The names and professions have been changed to protect the guilty.
In 1990, Jean, fresh from dental school, was proposed to become a member of a Rotary club.  She had two pre-schoolers, a residential contractor husband, and heavy debt.  After the ‘fireside chat’ information meeting she was invited to fill out an application.  Thinking that joining the Rotary club would be a wonderful networking opportunity because of who the Rotarians were, she became the second woman in a sixty member club.    The president assigned her to a committee in which she actively participated.  She came to Rotary almost every week and made particular effort to sit at different tables.  The next president asked Jean to be the bulletin committee chairman.  She accepted; the first of several committee chairmanships on her way to, eight years later, becoming the club's first female president. 
A few months after Jean joined the club inducted Lex, local branch manager of a nationwide home services company.  He, too, joined because he thought it would be a wonderful networking opportunity.  The president assigned him to the same committee as Jean, but he had limited participation.  Throughout the year, his club attendance was sporadic.  During his month as the club’s greeter, he missed two meetings and failed to arrange replacements.  The next Rotary year, he was asked to take a month on the program committee but turned it down because he was too busy.  The following year he attended over 90% of the meetings but was not asked and did not step up to serve the club in any of its activities.

Which one gained the most influence with club members?  Which would you most likely follow; do business with; prefer to see as the president representing the club and you?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

To Lead, Gain Influence!

     "That's a club responsibility," is a common comment from Rotary International (R.I.) leaders, usually followed by "Rotary International cannot tell clubs what to do."   The first statement often depends on the subject being discussed, but the latter statement is true.  Clubs are autonomous.  R.I. cannot and should not try to tell clubs what to do, BUT R.I. certainly can INFLUENCE what its member clubs do.  So how does R.I. go about INFLUENCING its member clubs?

     The first, and most important, fundamental for R.I. or any other organization that wants to gain INFLUENCE is to know what business it is in.  Since the majority of R.I.'s income depends on present and future Rotarians joining R.I. chartered local Rotary clubs, both are R.I.'s customers, therefore, R.I. is in the membership business.  This is essential because, if R.I. wants to increase its worldwide INFLUENCE with those who count, it must do so by gaining INFLUENCE with and respecting those who count, its customers - member clubs and present and future Rotarians.

     Next after knowing your business, is to serve or deliver something of value to your customers.  Serve before asking, or expecting, to be served, and respect those you are serving.  The better one serves, i.e. delivers value, the more INFLUENCE one will gain.  This same principle is at work when it comes to networking, which is forgettable unless one serves or contributes something of value to those with whom one wishes to network.

     It is essential for R.I. to maintain a high standard in its chosen business.  This means that all of R.I.'s communications and actions must exceed the expectations of those whom R.I. wishes to INFLUENCE because example is not a necessary tool for INFLUENCE, it is the ONLY tool!  Clubs and Rotarians will, as time passes, see that R.I.'s actions and communications match, which will gain INFLUENCE.  Clubs will follow only if led by example.

     Respect and trust are basic to gaining INFLUENCE.  Both require R.I. knowing the business it is in, serving its member clubs in a greater manner than it wishes to be served, and leading by example.  Only then will it be in a position to inspire and motivate clubs and their members to attract and retain Rotarians.

In summary, if R.I. wants to INFLUENCE member clubs and districts to develop membership, before it can inspire and motivate them to do so it must recognize that is in the membership, not service, business; serve and respect clubs and Rotarians more than it expects them to serve and respect R.I. and, to top off gaining INFLUENCE, lead by example.  Is R.I. leading membership development by example?  Is R.I. delivering more membership development value than it expects to receive?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Will The Angry Rotarian ever become the Hopeful Rotarian?

    One of those with whom I communicate asked, "What would it take to change you into being The Hopeful Rotarian?"  The answer is very simple.  It would take Rotary International (R.I.) leaders to thoroughly comprehend that operating system outputs depend on users who create ideas, believe the system can be useful, and input resources that helps their ideas come alive!  Operating systems without users accomplish nothing.
    To put this into perspective consider this: SHARE, TOS, DOS, TSS, BOS, ACP, MTS, ORVYL, MUSIC, OS, MSDOS, SCOPE, KRONOS, NOS, WINDOWS, APPLE II, APPLE MACINTOSH, LINUX, ANDROID, ECT are samplings of operating systems developed in the latter half of the 20th century.  The ones you recognize are the ones whose creators understood that their systems would be a note in history if users did not find them to be of value.  Users are humans.
     Humans, not systems, create ideas.  Humans use systems to help make their ideas productive and rewarding.  Using the surviving systems and the Internet, humans have exchanged ideas and created web sites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, hackers, on-line banking, marketing techniques, Wikipedia, communications monitoring systems, robotics, tablet computers, smart phones, guidance systems, global positioning systems, and thousands of apps now available to over seven billion people.  Until these operating systems and related hardware came along, bureaucracies, assembly lines, standard operating procedures, codes of policies, copper telephone lines, booster stations, extensive training, snail mail, and vast numbers of trials and errors achieved results that can now be completed in fractions of previous times at minuscule the cost and effort.  But even those systems depended on humans finding them useful.
    So what has this got to do with The Angry Rotarian becoming The Hopeful Rotarian?  That will come when senior leaders recognize a single fundamental:  R.I.'s 20th century operating system ROS 20 (Code of Policies, Manual of Procedure, bureaucratic mind-sets, customs, practices, training sessions, etc) has not almost eradicated polio or completed countless other service projects. R.I.'s customers, past and present Rotarians, using ROS 20, have.  So The Angry Rotarian will become the Hopeful Rotarian when:

  • R.I. leaders recognize that R.I.'s top priority is not bringing to completion the elimination of polio or any other service project (Rotarians, because of who they are, will see to that), 
  • Senior leaders recognize and communicate that R.I.'s only purpose is to create Rotarians like those past and present business, professional, and community leaders who created project ideas, like eliminating polio, and used ROS 20 to accomplish their goals, and
  • ROS 20 is updated to ROS 21, a more user friendly system that its customers, present and future Rotarians, find of higher value; a system that, to them, is worth the time, treasure, and talent they invest; a system that minimizes the chances of future R.I. leaders redirecting this wonderful organization from its sole purpose - creating Rotarians.
 If R.I. stays centered on what comes out of ROS 20 instead of what goes in and does not make version ROS 21 into a system that better serves modern users wants and needs, other operating systems will.  And The Angry Rotarian will remain angry simply because he cares about Rotary's future.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Future Visions of Rotary International Membership

   In conducting research for Rotatorials, I communicate with many Rotarians as well as past, present, and future Rotary International (R.I.)  leaders, primarily on membership issues.  One leader's vision of R.I.'s future was, quote, "I see a future where we have 25,000 clubs with 1.2 million members."   Another's vision was, quote, "I see a future where we have 25,000 clubs with 700,000 members, all of whom are of the highest quality...where dues are twice what they are now and members see it as a deal."  I must point out that neither vision is the official R.I. position, but they do point out a critical issue.
   Both visions identify attainable results.  It was interesting that both mentioned 25,000 member clubs, substantially less than the 34,000+ R.I. now has.  From R.I.'s viewpoint, fewer clubs would mean less administrative costs.  The latter, with 700,000 Rotarians paying twice the dues, would mean that R.I.'s annual income would be about 17% higher than 1.2 million members under the present dues structure.  But, in each vision, the Rotarians being created have different psychographics, wants, and needs.  The critical issue is that each visualized result requires different strategic and marketing plans
   R.I.'s only purpose is to create Rotarians.  It must identify and make public realistic short and long range membership results it would like to achieve so everyone can be working toward and be recognized for achieving the result.  If it doesn't, by default its desired result is to follow its present membership path.  

Or is this strictly a club issue?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Once a Rotarian, Always a Rotarian

 Red text indicates a link to the referenced document

    "I have met many former members but very few former Rotarians" says southern California Past District 5300 Governor Steve Garrett in his BLOG post, "Refocusing Membership Development."
    PDG Steve's post tells a touching story that begins his closing paragraph with, "Customer service begins with understanding our members are our internal customers. Without them we have no ability to be of service to our external customers."
    Southern Ohio Past District 6690 Governor and Assistant Zone 30 Coordinator Brent Rosenthal's article in a recent issue of Rotary Leader headlines, "Treat Your Members as Customers" to create a strong club.  PDG Brent goes on to site common membership mistakes and attitudes he calls the "Four Fatal Flaws."
    These concerned past district governors from different decades and regions of North America point to the need to retain members because it takes time for them to evolve into true Rotarians.  Consider recommending both articles to all within your centers of influence because all Rotary leaders should treat clubs and members as the customers they are and strive to achieve the only purpose of Rotary International (R.I.) and its member clubs - to create Rotarians.

PDG Steve Garrett's BLOG is  For those who would like to sign up to receive his email notifications, visit

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rotary International's Sphere of Influence

    What's happening to Rotary International's (R.I.) sphere of influence?  From some insider viewpoints, it's expanding; from most target audience viewpoints, and retention and attraction rates, it's retracting.  For R.I.'s sphere of influence to expand, its actions (and its future) depends on how effective R.I. is at serving the ever-changing needs of its target audiences, its customers - present and future clubs and Rotarians.  To do this, it must look at itself from their viewpoint, examine and understand their realities, needs, and values, then make decisions and take actions accordingly.
    A comment that sometimes resonates from R.I. associates, particularly when referencing membership, is "That's a club responsibility."  Nonsense.  Membership is the responsibility of EVERY R.I. ASSOCIATE AND ALL ROTARIANS, but it will be only when membership is top priority for all leaders and in all actions, including the successfully eradication of polio.  There is no question that clubs should do whatever they can locally to advance the Object of Rotary.  But R.I. should do everything it can to serve clubs because creating Rotarians is its number one priority.
    For example, many clubs concentrate on developing acquaintances as an opportunity for service.  That's wonderful because Retention and Growth (R&G) rates are the only truly objective measure of influential Rotary clubs.  From the clubs' viewpoint, all information necessary to maintain and publish R&G rates for clubs, districts, and zones is given to R.I. by club secretaries, so shouldn't R.I. consider serving clubs by maintaining and publishing R&G rates?
    What about R.I. offering professional assistance and furnishing, upon club or district request, detailed population information identifying underserved areas and demographics.  The twentieth century method was to perform classification studies utilizing telephone book Yellow Pages or the like.  Today, much more detailed information is available but to obtain it involves cost and training.  From the club's viewpoint, it is backward thinking to believe that districts and clubs, with their frequent leadership changes, should each annually pay for and learn to use these modern services.  R.I. should also consider offering specialized new club location and start-up services better than the services offered to Zone Rotary Foundation Coordinators and by Major Gift Advisers.
    R.I. should encourage and welcome creative ideas on how to better serve clubs and Rotarians. The ideas presented above would deliver value and yield important information that would affect current R.I. actions and decisions and impact R.I.'s future.  Imagine the potential impact today if previous leaders had known how many Rotarians were actually walking out; who their customers were; and the business it is, and wants to be, in.

    "How can we deliver more and better value to our Rotarians?" is a question effective clubs ask themselves.  R.I. leaders should continually ask themselves the same question because R.I.'s sphere of influence can only be measured by how many Rotarians the association's clubs retain and attract.

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