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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