General Information

Red Text bears a link to reference Rotatorials.

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

Thursday, December 31, 2015


    Membership Development must be the determining value of each segment of Rotary International's (RI) strategic plan!  Every segment must be centered on helping RI achieve its sole purpose:  strengthening existing and creating new clubs.    If membership isn’t the determining value of each segment, then each segment will become a divisive, stand-alone silo that will seek to achieve its own purpose, hindering RI’s pursuit of its purpose.

     Take the oft overlooked article in RI’s Code of Policies (CoP) that encourages “. . . districts to have 75 clubs and 2,700 members.”  First and foremost, district leaders, who receive their Rotary perceptions, direction, and education from senior Rotary and staff leaders, often give the perception that clubs exist to support the district, RI, The Rotary Foundation, and their projects and programs.  They frequently appear to be unaware that RI created districts to help it strengthen existing and create new clubs.   Second, if the 75/2,700 result is not to be part of RI’s strategic plan it should be revised or dropped from the CoP.  If it is to be part of RI’s strategic plan, then every segment should revolve around assisting RI in achieving the 75/2,700 result and should justify its existence on how it will help RI achieve this result.  The Rotary Foundation, even though it is a separate charitable organization, must be a segment of RI’s strategic plan, not the stand-alone silo it has the perception of being.

     RI’s purpose is to strengthen existing and create new Rotary clubs.  Every club’s purpose is to retain existing and create new Rotarians.  The objective of the Rotary network is to advance the Object of Rotary.  Using RI attributes in pursuit of this objective 

Rotarians make the world better,
One community at the time. 

Today the Hopeful Rotarian and his wife, Jean, are celebrating 59 years of marriage.  It goes without saying that she has been very patient, tolerent, understanding, and supportive.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Five Most Important Questions Rotary International & Rotary Clubs could ask Themselves.

In 2013, Retention Central posted the Sisyphus Complex Series that discussed the five most important questions Rotary International and its member clubs could ask themselves.  The questions and essays are based on Peter Drucker's Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization.  Here are links to each of the essays in the order that they should be reviewed:
  1. What business is Rotary in?
  2. Who is Rotary's customer?
  3. What does Rotary's customer value?
  4. What results does Rotary want?
  5. How does Rotary plan to achieve these results?

Rotary International's leaders are now addressing these issues and have made significant strides.  However, anyone involved in any organization, be it a for-profit or a not-for-profit, or a charitable foundation, would do well to review these basic successful organization fundamentals.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


    The network's purpose and objective are so elementary that they are seldom discussed in seminars, assemblies, or institutes.  Before telling you what they are, let's diverge for just a moment and allow the Hopeful Rotarian to reminisce about what he considers the greatest benefit of being a Rotarian - developing friendships with other Rotarians.  Staying in touch, regardless of the means, maintains these friendships.  Every once in a while, because of who Rotarians are, someone comes up with an issue they believe should be addressed.  Through similar relationships worldwide, many other Rotarians, often working with Rotary associates and utilizing Rotary International (RI) attributes, have created parks, playgrounds, schools, school supplies, water systems, medical supplies, generators, safe stoves, wheel chairs, artificial limbs, the worldwide polio eradication initiative, and a legion of other local and international projects and programs.
    But let's get back to the Rotary network's basic purpose and objective.  RI did not intend to be instrumental or influential in producing local and/or international projects.  Rotary clubs were not organized to perform community service projects.  Yet the world is a better place because each entity, pursuing their purpose, created and sustain the Rotary network.  The network's history is saturated with examples of the world becoming a better place because Rotary clubs' members pursued its common objective.  To keep these interconnecting relationships occurring RI must prioritize and continually pursue its only purpose: Chartering New and Strengthening existing Rotary clubs.  Rotary clubs must prioritize and continually pursue their only purpose: Retaining and Attracting Members.  Of course, the common objective of both is the Object of Rotary.
   These are simple Rotary basics, yet seldom are they even mentioned, much less is their importance discussed, at institutes, seminars, or assemblies.  Rotary leaders at all levels change frequently.  Without an effective, continual Internal Marketing initiative centered on WHY these basics are important, many clubs will continue to drift like ships without rudders.  It should be considered unforgivable for Rotary leaders, at any level, not to be able to intelligently discuss the purpose and objective of each segment of the Rotary network.

On many occasions, immediately after club officers have attended seminars and assemblies, they are not able to verbalize, much less communicate, their club's purpose or objective.  To bluntly put this into perspective, as one Rotarian said, "No members, no clubs.  No clubs, no Rotary.  'Nuff said."  Using past RI President Ray Klinginsmith's Cowboy Logic, the Rotary network's only purpose is to create Rotarians; its only objective is to advance the Object of Rotary.  Practicing these basics, Rotarians make the world better. . .one community at the time.

The Hopeful Rotarian wishes all of you a Happy Holiday Season.  If all goes well, we will be in touch next year.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Why Doesn't Rotary spend more Money on PR?

"We don't have the money to do a massive media campaign," RI President Ravi responded, according to DG 7620 Ken Solo's recent Blog post.  I suspect President Ravi also knew, but didn't want to cast shadows, that a massive public relations media campaign would be a massive waste.  Contrary to what many Rotarians believe, very few people in the world, or in any community, have any interest whatsoever in joining a local Rotary club, much less the discretionary time and money.
    The Rotary network serves a niche market, and the most effective niche market PR is word-of-mouth, be it face-to-face or through social media.  The most effective way to build word-of-mouth PR is for the Rotary network to continuously deliver value to existing clubs and Rotarians that is worth the time, treasure, and talent that they are willing to exchange.  Perhaps this common-sense fundamental is best illustrated by this story from a 2011  Rotatorial and forums/ 

  A few years ago, British Rail had a real fall-off in business.  Looking for a marketing answer, they went searching for a new ad agency - one that could deliver an ad campaign that would bring their customers back.
   When the British Rail executives went to the offices of a prominent London ad agency to discuss their needs, they were met by a very rude receptionist, who insisted that they wait.  Finally, an unkempt person led them to a conference room - a dirty, scruffy room cluttered with plates of stale food.  The executives were again left to wait.  A few agency people drifted in and out of the room, basically ignoring the executives who grew impatient by the minute.  When the execs tried to ask what was going on, the agency people brushed them off and went about their work.
   Eventually, the execs had enough.  As they angrily started to get up, completely disgusted with the way they had been treated, one of the agency people finally showed up.
  "Gentlemen," he said, "your treatment here at our Agency is not typical of how we treat our clients.  In fact, we've gone out of our way to stage this meeting for you.  We behaved this way to point out to you what it's like to be a customer of British Rail.  Your real problem at British Rail isn't your advertising, it's your people.  We suggest you let us address your employee attitude problem before we attempt to change your advertising."
   The British Rail executives were shocked — but the agency got the account!  The agency knew that British Rail had an image (brand) problem, and its passengers did not consider its service worthy of their time and money.  The agency also knew that PR campaigns could not correct British Rail’s image problem – only those who delivered value to its customers could.

Like the agency in this story, Siegel+Gale Research showed that the Rotary network has a self-image problem.  This is the major reason it has difficulty retaining members and potential donors.  President Ravi, President-Elect John, and President-Nominee Ian now understand that the Rotary network must deliver services that its niche market - clubs, members, and donors - consider worthy of expending resources.  This requires internally marketing to the Rotary network so it can understand and deliver Rotary's differentiating image and value proposition.  Otherwise, all the external PR the Rotary network generates will not retain and attract Rotarians or donors.
 Rotary's actions speak louder than words and are beginning to show results.  Under transitional leadership, internal marketing (communicating) should continue to improve, as will word-of-mouth PR and membership retention and attraction.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


As a brief review, RI's problem for almost two decades was not membership's stagnation and decline in major markets per se; it was how RI's senior leaders viewed its purpose and objectives.  Retention Central, in 2009, 2012, and 2014, published seven (7) guidelines that RI and its member clubs could use to revitalize membership.  This Report Card grades RI's progress on five of the seven guidelines.  It shows that, in Retention Central's opinion, Rotary has shown substantial improvement since 2010, when its grade in each guideline would have been 0%. 

1. ESTABLISH PRIORITIES - Grade:  100%.  In 2010, a few senior leaders began paying attention to membership development, and RI has gained over 21,000 members.  RI's Board of Directors has declared membership RI's highest operational priority and approved action to create a membership segment in its strategic plan.  
2. CREATE A POWERFUL GUIDING COALITION.  Grade: 70%.  Some visionary senior leaders advocate creating an influential, standing membership development committee.  Until such a guiding coalition is in place, RI history demonstrates that future leaders could divert resources from its established priority.
3.  ESTABLISH AN ATTAINABLE VISION.  Grade: 50%. Thanks to a few senior leaders and President Ravi, the importance of retaining members has been brought to the forefront.  That indicates that a retention element will be part of the attainable vision.  The vision should also include a growth element, so the measurement of success should be based on easy to understand, readily available Retention and Growth Indexes.  In membership-based organizations, such indexes are the only measures that accurately appraise success that are fair to all concerned
4. CREATE A SYSTEMATIC STRATEGIC PLAN WITH SHORT-TERM, ATTAINABLE MILESTONES.  Grade: 30%.  Some steps have been taken, but a workable strategic plan can only be completed when the guiding coalition is in place, the attainable vision is defined, and the means of measuring the plan's success is understood and in operation.
5.  COMMUNICATE.  Grade:  12%.  The perceptions delivered by RI's communications will determine whether or not its membership development initiative succeeds.  President Ravi established and communicated the importance of retaining members; President-Elect John Germ is eliminating interim cutoff dates.  These actions, along with the recent Board action, have jarred this guideline's grade off zero.  Unfortunately, the perception that membership is not a priority continues to linger.  For over two decades, RI's verbal and non-verbal communication, resource allocation, recruiting mentality, educational materials, awards, public information, etc. delivered the perception that RI's attributes were far more important than developing membership.  It actively promoted the concepts that Rotary clubs should be local service organizations of choice that supported RI and The Rotary Foundation (TRF), and that Rotarians were ordinary volunteers who do good things.  These perceptions have been embedded in mentalities of existing and former Rotarians, and continue to surface on the internet. They will not be easy to eliminate and/or overcome.  RI must not trivialize the importance of the perceptions delivered by the non-verbal, verbal, and written communications of Rotary, TRF, and all officers and staff.

The Rotary network now has the underpinning in place that enable it to create more Rotarians.  Transitional leadership at all levels is required to build on this base.  With this type leadership, the Rotary network will be better able to create Rotarians who can utilize existing attributes like TRF and spawn new attributes to help them advance the Object of Rotary throughout the 21st century.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Historic Membership Development by the RI Board of Directors

 A huge Retention Central Thank You goes to the group of senior leaders that have spearheaded this initiative.

Exhibit D-2-b



Rotary is at a critical point with respect to membership.  For nearly 20 years, membership has, at best, remained stagnant.  Significant changes need to be made in Rotary’s approach to membership if it is to continue to thrive in this century.  This membership development strategic plan endeavors to align operations and resources to Rotary’s strategic priorities and enable the Membership Development staff team with the guidance of the Membership Committee and support from the RI Board, to revitalize the traditional club model and also develop an alternative membership model that may prove more relevant and attractive to younger and future generations. In order to institutionalize a commitment to long-term membership sustainability and growth, this plan aligns with the RI Strategic Plan and supports and strengthens clubs so they may remain relevant and attractive to new members while also engaging to existing members. 

1.      Coordinated Institutional Focus
Continued and coordinated vision, focus and engagement of RI and TRF Senior Leadership and staff.
Enhance membership initiatives evaluation and membership reporting/measurement, including regional membership strategies.
Advise on proposed legislation related to innovation, flexibility and strengthening Rotary’s financial sustainability.
Ensure a consistent message that membership is the highest organizational priority of Rotary International while polio eradication remains Rotary’s highest program priority.
Secure institutional consensus on a definition of our mission, the purpose of our organization, who are our target audience(s) and who are our customers.
2.      Club Capacity Building
Identify ways to enhance the Rotary experience.
Increase understanding of Rotary and promote use of Rotary resources.
Strengthen district and club membership teams.
3.      Member Attraction
Develop alternative models and additional products that appeal to our target market.
Implement cross-channel, segmented marketing strategies that appeal to target markets in multiple generations.
Improve Rotary’s overall age, gender, ethnic and vocational diversity based on the existing qualifications for membership.
4.      Member Engagement
Continue to support surveys of existing and terminated club members to be able to increase member retention. 
Improve membership recognition opportunities for effective clubs and members.
Improve awareness of Rotary clubs in communities.
Leverage the annual RI Convention and Rotary conferences as an opportunity to better connect with members.
Enhance and actively market new member orientation and mentoring.

For Rotary International, this is Visionary, to say the least.  Such verbiage as 'Coordinated Institutional Focus', 'target market', 'qualifications for membership',  'strengthen district and club membership teams' 'Member Attraction', 'Improve membership recognition opportunities', 'leverage annual Conventions and conferences as a better opportunity to connect with members' coming from Rotary International is refreshing.  Now the plan has to be put into action, otherwise it is just a dream. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Rotary in North America - the Series

In 2011, Retention Central published the four-part Rotary in North America series.  All parts were on Retention Central's Most Widely Read list for a some time, Part IV the longest.  As time passed, requests for reprints have declined.  Now that clubs are being asked to be more active in Public Information, these may be worth reviewing.

Here are links to each part in the series:

Together we can get out of the ruts of membership decline in North America.  It can only happen when every Rotarian recognizes that clubs must know what their present and future members value and deliver that value.  Rotary International and member clubs must recognize that the only true measure of whether or not clubs are effective at delivering value are their
Retention and Growth rates.

Friday, October 16, 2015


In 2009 and 12, Retention Central posted a set of guidelines Rotary clubs could use to help return to a steady membership growth position.  The guidelines are also applicable to Rotary International (RI), as posted in the 2014 Rotatorial available at this link.  For the convenience of anyone who may be interested in reading the material, here are the links to the guidelines, which should be read in the listed order:

The fundamentals discussed in this series are applicable to any organization regardless of its type or size.  The examples could be updated, but the fundamental principles are timeless.  RI and some member clubs have made major progress in prioritizing membership since the publishing of these guidelines.  In November, based on these guidelines, Retention Central will rate RI's progress.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rotarians should be telling Rotary how to advance the Object of Rotary

            It doesn't make sense for Rotary to attract smart members with enterprising minds then tell them how to pursue its objective.  They should be telling Rotary how.

Many will say that Rotary has never tried to tell members how to pursue its objective.  Maybe not in so many words, but a decade long study of past verbal and non-verbal communications indicates otherwise.

Perhaps it started when "the little California club that could" told Rotary that to advance the Object of Rotary in their community, it needed local leaders who happened to be female.  Rotary told them that was not the way to pursue its objective.  The little club pressed, and we all know what happened.  During the same time period, Rotary began the pursuit of eradicating polio from the world.  As time passed, eradicating polio became not only Rotary's objective, but its obsession.  Few can effectively argue that Rotary communicated, particularly in North America, that contributing, through The Rotary Foundation, was the way members could pursue its objective; that Every Rotarian Every Year (EREY) was the way all Rotarians could pursue Rotary's objective.  Accolades and choice positions were given to Rotarians who excelled in helping Rotary pursue these objectives.  And Rotary created the above graphic that communicated to Rotary clubs, especially at Presidents-Elect Training Seminars (PETS), the way to effectively pursue Rotary's objective.
            Something happened to Rotary on the way to helping rid the world of polio:  Rotary leaders forgot that Rotary's objective was to advance the Object of Rotary, which transcends social action.  They became centered on this obsession and lost the concept that pursuing the elimination of polio was a result of Rotarians advancing the Object of Rotary and that TRF was, and still is, a Rotary attribute that helps them do so.
            I recently communicated with a friend who had just facilitated at a Rotary Leadership Institute (RLI).  My friend said, "Last weekend I facilitated Part One Class One at RLI - The Object of Rotary. What an eye opener it is for most Rotarians new or old."
            "Why is it an eye opener?" I asked.
            "Both long term and new Rotarians had virtually the same amount of knowledge of the Object of Rotary. That is none."

Rotary may be going through the painful process of redirecting organizational silos toward its purpose - creating Rotarians who can tell it how to advance the Object of Rotary.  But the non-verbal part of the above conversation communicates that we have a long way to go. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why Rotary Clubs Should be Exclusive!

Many organizations are, for good reason, exclusive: they want to attract only those who can support their objectives.  Exclusivity and scarcity are key drivers behind their value proposition and often trigger people's desire to learn more about the organizations.  Rotary clubs are, or should be, such organizations, and Rotary International (RI) should prioritize and support their initiatives.  Therefore, the phraseology of written and spoken public statements (The New Focus) about RI and its member clubs is crucial The phraseology should stimulate key emotions and/or curiosity that:
·        Reflects appreciation and positive recognition for existing Rotary club members.
·        Triggers a desire in readers and listeners to want to know more about Rotary.

Graphic courtesy of
Ron and Glo Nethercutt
   Critically analyze these sentences from the reader's point of view.  "Welcome to Rotary." Ordinary, but the reader is at, or on, RI's website, not at, or in, Rotary.
   Next: "We are neighbors, community leaders, and world citizens united for the common good." First, according to its own messaging guidelines, Rotary refers to Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.  Most readers, including Rotarians, would not know this.  Second, the sentence appears to want to communicate that Rotary is one big family that includes virtually every person in the world.  Reading this, the doubt "I am a world citizen and neighbor.  Why should I become or remain a Rotary club member?" may creep in and haunt the reader's subconscious.
   Then the closing: "With you, we can do more."  These are recruiting, not attracting, words! These six words clearly say that Rotary wants them so it can do more.
    Is there any phraseology in these three sentences to suggest that the reader would derive any value if they associated with one of its member clubs; that arouses enough desire in them to explore Rotary more thoroughly?
  Maybe, but suppose the website's opening statement went something like this: "Rotary International is a worldwide association of almost 35,000 autonomous Rotary clubs.   Club membership is by invitation only and consists of local active and retired business, professional, or community leaders who, through fellowship and service, make the world better, one community at the time."
  These two sentences contain more words, but analyze the information they communicate to all readers.  First, they tell readers what RI actually is, something many Rotarians do not know.  Then they softly compliment Rotarians as they tell non-Rotarians:

  • Who Rotarians are,
  • With whom they could be networking,
  • That membership is by invitation only, and
  • What Rotarians do.

RI's objective is to advance The Object of Rotary.  To do so, it must charter new clubs and support all clubs in their efforts to attract and retain members.  Public messaging phraseology should create moods and trigger emotions in existing and potential Rotarians.  When developing taglines, phrases or elevator responses addressing What Rotary is or Who Rotarians are, writers must keep in mind that the goal is to stimulate the emotions and curiosities of the few who may have a desire to become a member, and remind existing members of why they are Rotarians.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Marketing Rotary - The Series

District 6960's 2015 Membership Seminar was perhaps the best membership seminar this ancient Rotarian has ever attended.  District Membership Chair, PDG Tim Milligan, and George Chaffey, a former Rotary Coordinator from California, conducted The New Focus.  It centered on retaining and attracting members by examining Rotary clubs (and indirectly Rotary International) from the points of views of existing and potential Rotarians, which is critically necessary when Marketing Rotary and promoting Rotary's Public Image.
     In 2014-15, Retention Central published a series on Marketing Rotary.  Marketing's goal is to have membership selling itself, whether it is groups of people wanting to join Rotary International, or individuals wanting to join a local Rotary club.  The series' intent was to present Marketing Rotary in a manner that interested Rotarians could think about, understand, and apply basic marketing fundamentals.  The series was not intended to make anyone a marketing professional, but there is no question that to create Rotarians clubs must deliver value to them.  Rotary International must do the same for clubs while assisting them in delivering value to Rotarians.  For the convenience of those who would like to review the series, or any Rotatorial within the series, here are the titles with links to the Rotatorials in the order in which they should be read.

Marketing Rotary 101 - Introduction

102A - Them - Those who make Rotary possible

102B - Them - Present and Future

103 - Internal Marketing to District Governors

104 - Why Rotary?

105 - Rotary's Position/Mission Statement

106 - Producing and Capturing Rotary's Value

107 - Rotary's Prime Target Audience

108 - Existing Members

109 - Potential Members

110 - Starting New Clubs

Perhaps this will make it easier for interested Rotarians to refresh their memories of some basics when Marketing Rotary.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Rotary Foundation and Rotary Club Membership: Colleagues or Contenders?

The Rotary Foundation (TRF)    TRF needs donors to carry out its mission.  So it must ask itself:  Why do people donate?  On a basic level, the reasons people donate fall into three general categories:
  • Pure altruism:  They value the social good done by the charity.
  • Impure altruism:  The value they get (good feeling) by doing something good through their charitable giving.
  • Ego Altruism:  They want to show off to others how generous they are.
TRF donors are primarily members of local Rotary clubs and Rotary clubs that organize projects and raise funds for TRF.
    When it comes to the emotions behind why donors contribute to charitable organizations there is a thin line between receiving value (feeling good) about doing so and feeling guilty about not doing so.  Those who are made to feel good usually continue their support; those who feel guilty ultimately shut out any messaging.  Most people donate because their heart impels them to, not because their brain says they should.  They are moved by stories to which they can relate, not by goals and statistics.

Membership    Rotary International (RI) needs clubs to advance the Object of Rotary.  Clubs need members so they can keep their charter.  So everyone must ask:  Why do people join?    On the basic level, they want: 

  • A problem solved,
  • The membership experience to be positive, and
  • The experience to result in relationship-building opportunities.
When people pay dues to become members, they expect that the organization will help them satisfy the reasons they joined.  RI research shows that members join and stay in Rotary clubs to build friendships and make local impacts.  If clubs continually satisfy their members' reasons for joining by delivering positive experiences, Membership will most likely remain stable or increase. 

Colleagues or Contenders   
 Have Rotary clubs and Rotary Membership been colleagues or contenders in bringing TRF to be a premier charitable organization?  Colleagues, without question! TRF evolved as an attribute that Membership used to help advance the Object of Rotary, concentrating primarily on the fourth object.  Without Rotary clubs and their members, TRF could not have reached the pinnacle upon which it sits today.  It has an endowment that would allow it to remain in existence, but without its worldwide network of Rotary clubs and Rotary Membership, it would no longer have the infrastructure needed to efficiently carry out its mission, nor over 1.2 million potential advocates.
     Has TRF been a colleague or contender in building Rotary Membership?  RI's and TRF's communications in magazines and social networks speak and show the results of the many projects and programs funded by TRF and the relationship-building experiences Rotarians have had.  TRF also has a unique system that encourages local clubs to use SHARE funds (commonly called District Designated Funds or DDF) to assist in making local impacts.  So yes, TRF has been a colleague of Membership.
     But let's examine the colleague - contender relationship a bit closer.  RI and Membership flourished before TRF was created and could continue to flourish without TRF.  As a condition of membership, it is against the United States Internal Revenue Service Regulations for any organization to require members to support a 501c3 charitable organization.  RI's Code of Policies (5.050.7) prohibits clubs from requiring members to support TRF.  Therefore, neither Rotary clubs nor Membership can be required to support TRF.  Anyone, Rotary Member or not, can financially support TRF.
     TRF, on the other hand, would have a questionable future without Rotary Membership being a colleague.  Increasingly affluent organizations like TRF often assume that they do not have to be creative.  They instead tend to concentrate on improving what they are already doing; on how they can maximize their resources.  This causes them to get better and become more efficient at accomplishing what they are doing instead of improving the value of what they are doing to those who make it possible for them to do what they are doing - their supporters 
     TRF, like any charitable service organization, sets requirements on how its funds can be used. Setting fundraising goals is a common business practice.  But when goals (appealing to business brains) replace stories (appealing to donors' hearts) major problems arise.  There was a time when Rotary leaders went club-to-club telling stories about how a $100 donation to TRF furnished safe drinking water for a small school in Bangladesh; books for classrooms in Kenya; an artificial limb so a man in Haiti could work and support his family; where a $150,000 TRF grant furnished access to safe drinking water for a million Nigerians.  These personal club-to-club story telling visits have been replaced with zone institutes and district seminars that tell touching stories few local Rotarians ever hear; stories that inspire and encourage leaders to set and strive to attain fundraising goals; to be tops in their zones and districts in TRF contributions.  Some districts have set giving standards before its clubs can use TRF funds (DDF) to make local impacts. 
Perceptions and non-verbal communications transmit powerful messages What perception regarding The Rotary Foundation and Rotary Membership Colleagues or Contenders question is being delivered to members whose primary purpose for joining a local Rotary club is to make friends and impact their local community?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Politics in Rotary?

     Many Rotarians believe there should be no politics in Rotary.  Nonsense.  Because of politics in Rotary, the number of Rotarians, stagnant since the turn of the century, has grown this past Rotary year by about 21,000.  

     Politics is often referred to as "The Highest of Human Sciences."  Before reading any further, it must be noted that campaigning and electioneering, which are different than the practice of politics, does not and should not exist in Rotary.  

     To simply explain why politics resulted in the increase of the number of Rotarians, a quick review of the state of Rotary International (RI) in 2010 when the world economy was in the doldrums is in order.  RI membership had been stagnant for over a decade and was dropping in some major market regions; it was on the verge of having to dip into its financial reserves; its sole priority was polio eradication; it considered itself a service organization that wanted members; and The Rotary Foundation was finalizing its Future Vision.  Membership development was so far down RI's priority list many never even read the words.
     A few visionary senior leaders decided that membership development's priority needed to change.  They developed a plan to improve membership to 1.3 million by June 30, 2015.  The plan estimated that it would require $3,000,000 to support the initiative.  Developing the plan was quite an undertaking.  Getting the plan approved by the RI Board of Directors was another matter.  Finally, after extensive discussion and negotiation - politics - the Board approved the plan.
     In retrospect, was the plan successful?  Yes and NoYes - Membership development came to the forefront in many Rotarians' and senior leaders' minds and has climbed to be RI's highest "internal" priority.  No - the plan did not reach the 1.3 million goal.  Would the Board have approved the plan had its goal not been 1.3 million?  Maybe; Maybe not.  Was the $3,000,000 a good investment?  Yes - for at least four major reasons:
  1. An outside firm's research presented senior leaders with objective eye-opening observations.
  2. At $52 annual dues, the investment returned at least $1,089,504 this past year. 
  3. There are now 20,952 more Rotarians Making the World Better. . . One Community at the Time.
  4. With the new priority and emphasis on retention, the numbers in items 2 and 3 should continue to increase.
    Retention Central has often been, and may continue to be, critical about senior leaders' attitudes, approaches, priority, and non-verbal communications regarding membership development.  But its Rotatorials may have been influential in causing them and other Rotarians to exercise critical thinking about membership development's importance and priority.

     The history of faltering organizations that made changes and survived teaches two important lessons, which Retention Central understands with heart and brain: -1- It usually takes harsh, drastic action to initiate change, and -2- political skills - politics - are needed to lead change until and after it is embedded in the organization's culture.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Rotary's Public Image - Why isn't Rotary Marketing its Network?

Is it because Rotary doesn't know the value of its public image?  Or perhaps Rotary isn't interested in re-learning the principle upon which it was founded and how to market it. 
    Seriously, contemplate about Rotary's founding principle as you visualize Paul Harris setting up a law practice in Chicago, a boom town loaded with other men doing the same.  He knew the value of networking long before New York Times columnist David Brooks said, "We all think we choose what path we take in life, who we socialize and mix with, what views we hold.  But those decisions are actually shaped by networks of people."  From this basic concept, Rotary was born and grew to be the international organization it is today - a network of Rotarians, shaped by the Object of Rotary, who have made, and continue to make, their families, businesses, communities, and the world better; by-products of the influence Rotary's worldwide network of business, professional, and communities leaders has had on them.
    What seems to be lacking in marketing the network's collective value is a worldwide acceptable public image position statement.  For example, the Rotary Club of Sarasota created this statement:

Rotary clubs do not make communities,  
Rotary clubs make communities better. 
(Since changed to:   Rotarians make the world better. . . One community at the time)

    Subtle, but it can deliver a public image wallop!  (Remember, a club's prime public is its members; its secondary public is the few that may be interested in joining a local Rotary club.)  All the club had to do was center on answering "Why does the Rotary Club of Sarasota make Sarasota better?"  To see how the club puts this thought process to use in its internal and external public image efforts, browse these web sites - Rotary Club of Sarasota and its charitable arm, Rotary Club of Sarasota Foundation.  (Oh, yes.  The most important details - the club has 96 members, and this past year it had a 98% retention rate, sponsored a new club, and last week added two new members.)
    In this BLOG's Marketing Rotary for Non-Professionals series, this Rotatorialist suggested that Rotary International should develop a position statement that would be acceptable worldwide similar to Rotary Makes the World Better - One Community at the Time.  Building public image initiatives around a similar positioning statement could work in virtually any social fabric.  Its most important asset is this: it would encourage the Rotary network, particularly its leaders, to critically examine why Rotary makes the world better - one community at the time.
Most likely the network would come to understand that its public image value lies in its social capital - Who Rotarians are.  Then it would be easier to respond to "Why Rotary?" and to create more Rotarians.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Is Rotary's Social Capital in Decline?

"Social capital provides the glue which facilitates co-operation, exchange, and innovation."
The New Economy: Beyond the Hype.

Rotary International (RI) President Ravi is spot on prioritizing retention rates.  Retention rates are accurate measures of how effective RI and its member clubs are at exchanging social capital and maximizing the Rotary network's collective value.  For Rotary and its member clubs, retained Rotarians are greater assets than new Rotarians. They have longer lifetime values and are membership multipliers, a major advantage because, in Rotary's niche membership market, word-of-mouth and person-to-person networking are Marketing Rotary's most effective protocol.
  Everything Rotary does, from local club initiatives to the worldwide polio eradication project, is accomplished by Rotarians utilizing four paths to exchange social capital: group action, broad identities, reciprocity, and information flow.  For example, Africa, which has not recorded a case of endemic polio for a year, can thank the collective value of the Rotary network's social capital.  In 1985 RI started the worldwide polio eradication initiative through group action, broad identities, and extensive information flow.  Its success has been primarily due to local Rotarians using friendship reciprocity and information flow to jump start eradicating polio from their local social fabrics and exchanging social capital until polio no longer existed.

      1.  RI would like clubs and Rotarians to participate more with Rotary Club Central.  What are the reciprocal benefits i.e. how does the participation improve clubs' and/or Rotarians' social capital and collective value?
     2.  It has been suggested that Rotarians, particularly in North America, commit $1 US a day to The Rotary Foundation (TRF).  What are the reciprocal benefits i.e. how does this improve North American clubs' and/or Rotarians' social capital and collective value?
     3.  RI, as it should, wishes to improve the collective value of the Rotary network.  Its top organizational priority is now membership development.  Is RI being transparent and proactively supporting this ?  Can clubs trust that RI's organizational priority will not change according to the whims of future presidents?

Retention rates and Retention Growth Indexes (RGI) will increase, as will the collective value of the Rotary network, when the exchanges of social capital between RI, its member clubs, and individual Rotarians are beneficial to all concerned.