The biggest problem in calculating Rotary Retention Rates isn't the arithmetic; it is getting diverted by attempting to account for each existing member, new members, reinstated members, transferring members, members leaving for reasons the clubs cannot correct, and new members' gender/generation/ethnicity. When focused on the Overall Goal of Growing Rotary, these issues are detractions; the result of Rotary International's (RI) many failed membership initiatives. I have, over the years, responded to many retention rate questions. Believe me; Rotary's foremost challenge in calculating retention rates is simply not maintaining focus on the Overall Goal of Creating Rotarians.
In easy to understand terms, to calculate an annual 2014-15 retention rate, whether it is for a club, district, zone, region, or RI, all anyone has to know is the number of members on record as of June 30 or July 1, 2014, how many on record on the same date in 2015, and how many new members were added during the year (new members are not eligible to renew).
Here is a real life example, courtesy of the Rotary Club of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, USA. On July 1, 2014, it had 66 members. On July 1, 2015 it had 72 members. During the year, it inducted 11 new members. Five did not renew.
Another way to look at it is to take the number of members on June 30, 2015; 72. Subtract the number of new members; 11. The result is 61. Divide 61 by 66 (the number of members on July 1, 2014). Still, the retention rate is 92.42%; five members did not renew!
Common diversions to which I have responded are:
1. How should reinstated members be counted?
At some earlier date, they did not renew which lowered the retention rate. Count them as new members.
2. What to do with members who renew after the invoice deadline?
See number 1.
3. What about Rotarians that leave one club and join another?
They did not renew in one club; that club's retention rate is lowered. They are a new member in the other club. For worldwide membership, it is a wash.
4. How do we account for Rotarians that leave for reasons clubs cannot correct?
They do not renew, which lowers the club's retention rate. To grow, the lost member has to be replaced.
5. How do we account for new members that resign and renew during the same time period? Arithmetically, at year end, they are still only one new member.
6. How do we deal with RI encouraging an increase in membership gender/generation/ethnicity?
Keeping the Overall Goal of Growing Rotary in sight, all are Rotarians.
The bottom line is that when calculating Retention Rates, do not to lose sight of the Overall Goal of Growing Rotary. RI's premier Membership Development Award should be based on combined Retention and Growth Rates - RGIs.
Wouldn't we be jubilant if all of RI's member clubs had the Rotary Club of Pagosa Spring's 101.52 RGI?
Since RI has adopted the practice of invoicing clubs based on the number of members each have on June 30 and December 31, Retention Rates, Growth Rates, and RGIs should be based on the memberships of record on these dates.
If anyone wants the Excel spreadsheet with embedded calculations, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the Subject Line, put RGI Calculation Spreadsheet or the email will probably get stuck in my spam filter.