General Information

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Why Join?

Can you respond to this question in a brief statement that delivers at least one unique characteristic of your club that would relate to, and catch the attention of, potential Rotarians in your social fabric regardless of ethnicity, generation, or gender? 
    Would Rotary membership be stagnant if all R.I. Presidents, Directors, District Governors, Coordinators, and club Presidents could answer this question in the manner described?  If the answer was part of all Rotary club information and orientation sessions and public information efforts?  Membership in Rotary should deliver some unique benefit and/or opportunity that relates to present and potential members.  If it doesn't, why should anyone join?
      Responding to the question 'Why join Rotary' should be a:
 (Note:  According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) there are over 1.5 million charitable organizations in the United States, so, in the U.S. would being a 'service' organization, or offering the opportunity to 'give back to your community' be a unique characteristic of your, or any, Rotary club?)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Let's Simplify Membership

    Rotary International's Club President's Manual (222-EN (312)) defines an effective club as one that is able to:

  1. Sustain or increase its membership base
  2. Implement successful projects that address the needs of its community and communities in other countries
  3. Support the Rotary Foundation through both program participation and financial contributions,
  4. Develop leaders capable of serving in Rotary beyond the club level
 These elements of an effective club can increase clubs' ability to meet their goals in each Avenue of Service and achieve the Object of Rotary (see appendix 1).

     The only purpose of Rotary International (R.I.) and its member clubs is to create Rotarians.  The objective of both is to advance the Object of Rotary locally and internationally.  That objective doesn't have a chance of being achieved without first creating Rotarians just like competitions cannot be won without first creating teams with athletes and businesses cannot turn a profit without first creating customers who purchase products and/or services.
      Items 2, 3, and 4 are attributes.  Listing any attribute as being equally important to sustaining or increasing membership diminishes the fundamental principle that attributes are only as good as the number of Rotarians they help retain and attract i.e. deliver something present and potential Rotarians consider relevant and of value.  Any organization that allows attributes to become equal to or greater than creating supporters in importance is an organization in trouble.

   It matters not how many service projects a club implements, how much it participates in or supports The Rotary Foundation, how many leaders it develops to serve beyond the club, or if its members are female, male, young, old, white, black, red, yellow, brown, middle-aged, blind, deaf, or purple with green polka dots as long as clubs attract and retain people qualified to be Rotarians from within their local social fabrics.  Then, and only then, can clubs utilize some of the many attributes Rotary has to advance the Object of Rotary.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Six Million US Dollars - Would You Let it Fly in Any Direction without a Measurable Expectation?

   Would you allow a US $6,000,000 pigeon fly the coup without a tether or direction?  In 2010-11, the Rotary International (R.I.) Board of Directors (Board) allocated $2,000,000 a year for three years to be used for Public Image (PI) grants.  At its October 2013 meeting, the Board wisely decided to fulfill existing commitments but to suspend funding new PI grants because the effort has not produced any results.  What results were the PI grants expected to deliver?  The answer is in the last paragraph.
    Any PI effort is a risk, but all must be tethered to measurable expectations and have homing pigeon-like directional consistency.  R.I. and its member clubs have only one purpose- to create Rotarians.  PI tethers should include membership related metrics.  In this day of heavy emphases on New Generations and social media, metrics abound.  However, for R.I. and its member clubs it matters little how many Twitter followers they have, friends or "likes" their Facebook pages garner, LinkedIn connections are made, page views web sites accumulate, or the number of projects and programs clubs, R.I., or The Rotary Foundation (TRF) implement.  R.I. and TRF's most critical metrics (ignored for almost a century) are membership and donor Retention and Growth rates.  These, when combined, reveal clubs' and R.I.'s Retention and Growth (RG) Index.  (Retention Rates are available on Rotary Club Central, but tracking Retention Rates alone without tracking the actual numbers of new and resigned members is dangerously misleading.)  These readily available and easily measurable metrics quickly reflect local and international membership conditions and are significant R.I. and TRF strategic planning barometers.
    PI efforts should have directional consistency, homing in on delivering Rotary's brand promise to its target audience like a homing pigeon targets its home coup.  If PI efforts do not deliver a recognizable brand promise to target audiences, they will be equivalent to casting nets to catch the wind.  Hopefully the 'no results' will convey the lesson that any major expenditure, PI or otherwise, should center on delivering consistent messaging and and be tied to measurable results. 

PI efforts are important and should not be abandoned, but they should be designed to deliver measurable expectations.  The Board did not tie the $6,000,000 PI effort to any measurable critical result, but staff did require districts to submit measurable results with their application and final report.  All PI efforts involve risks, but the risks can be minimized if the efforts are tethered to critical, measurable metrics, and tailored to appeal to international, regional, and local target audiences.  Otherwise, PI expenditures will fly away without delivering any results.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Its actually a good thing if some prospective members choose not to join your club.

Paraphrased in Rotary terms, "Your attributes may change, but the core needs of Rotarians will never change.  Everyone joins wanting a problem solved and everyone wants the experience to be positive, ultimately resulting in relationship-building opportunities."
The critical fundamental is that everyone joins an organization like a Rotary club to satisfy personal wants or needs, not to solve the organization's wants or needs.  That's the subtle but vital difference between attract and recruit thought processes.  Ms. Sladek's final comment brings out the joiner's ultimate goal: relationship-building opportunities.  With this in mind, two critical questions jump out:

1.   Are the members of your organization the type with whom your prospective member would want to build a relationship?
2. Is the prospective member someone with whom your organization's members would want to build a relationship?

     Answers to these questions should be filtered out prior to a person being invited to join your Rotary club, or any similar organization.  In Rotary, by far the best way to do this is to make sure prospective members are fully aware of the problem solving and opportunistic benefits your club offers.  And beware of the potentially fatal announcement, "My guest is a potential member."  Members often believe this to be a compliment to their guest.  Actually it frequently puts the guest in an awkward position and gives to them a negative impression.  Ms. Sladek was guest at an organization's luncheon and experienced a similar event.  Consider reading, on page 51, her thoughts and emotions.

A major step in solving attraction and retention problems is for all Rotary clubs to have in place a formal process for proposing members, including a pre-application Rotary Information meeting (orientations come after a person joins.)  Some of those proposed may, for a variety of reasons, not accept the invitation to join.  And that's actually a good thing.