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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

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