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Monday, October 10, 2016

Misunderstanding Membership Development Can Derail Organizations.

            Throughout the last century the world's population grew and generally became more affluent. Rotary International (RI), an association of local, autonomous Rotary clubs, flourished.  Its charitable subsidiary, The Rotary Foundation, thrived by internally marketing worthwhile projects and programs that attracted contributions, primarily from members of North American Rotary clubs.  Toward the end of the century, RI undertook an ambitious worldwide service project to eliminate polio.  But on the horizon of this sunny optimistic future, a sinister, dark cloud loomed.  Income from dues-paying members stagnated.  Club membership in North America and some other regions began a gradual, steady decline.   To reverse this trend, RI leaders assumed that all they had to do was come up with tools that would encourage clubs to get more members.
            This self-centered assumption made it easy for RI's leaders to be seduced by the same siren melody that victimized many, and doomed a few, successful organizations.  It is not uncommon for leaders to believe that by concentrating on getting better at refining and improving their attributes, projects and programs that membership development is simply a matter of recruiting more members.  What leaders have difficulty comprehending, some until it is too late, is that their organizations should approach developing membership by being innovative in creating ways that their attributes, projects and programs enhance the membership experience.

Being innovative at enhancing the membership experience for Rotary clubs and Rotarians will face many obstacles.  Perhaps the most difficult will be overcoming two decades of misdirected priorities embedded in the minds of many Rotarians, most previous leaders, and many aspirants.  This can only be conquered by an intensive internal marketing initiative that delivers, in words and actions, Rotary's differentiating value proposition; a campaign centered around conveying the perception that 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Does Rotary International Really Understand Who Its Supporters Are and Why They Support Rotary?

  Rotary International (RI) does not have one group of supporters (customers).  Just like automobile manufacturers, Starbucks, McDonald's, Woolworth's, and many other national and multi-national organizations, it has two:  local outlets and their customers.  These organizations succeed when they authorize local outlets to deliver their differentiating value proposition and support the outlets as they adapt to local customers' values, wants, and realities.  For this reason, and this reason alone, organizations with local outlets, franchised or otherwise, must thoroughly understand the realities, situations, behaviors, expectations, and values of their outlets AND their outlets' customers.
    These are basic big business fundamentals, yet few Rotary leaders are educated and/or supported on understanding and applying them.  RI is not defined by its name, constitution, by-laws, Code of Policies, motto, the Four-Way Test, The Rotary Foundation, the quantity or quality of the service projects and programs it and/or its member clubs sponsor, or any amount of public information. It is only defined by the differentiating value perceived when people pay dues to join a local outlet (club), recognize themselves, and are identified locally as "Rotarians".  It is the same with all successful organizations that have many local outlets.  For example, the automobile manufacturer BMW is not defined by its name or the mode of transportation it produces.  It is defined by the differentiating value perceived by customers when they purchase a mode of personal transportation, recognize themselves, and are identified locally as owners of "the ultimate driving machine".
    RI is a multi-national business with over 35,000 outlets (clubs).  Since 1996 its membership (customer) base has hovered around 1.2 million.  Many more than that have come and gone.  Important positive changes have been adopted and are beginning to spread throughout the Rotary network.  Unfortunately many outdated mindsets - 'clubs are local service organizations', 'Rotarians are just volunteers or charity workers''clubs exist to support districts, RI, and TRF' and 'membership is strictly a club issue' - continue to flourish among Rotarians, many of them in, or seeking, leadership positions.  This can only be overcome by continuously internally marketing to clubs and Rotarians on how the Object of Rotary compliments and supports local clubs and Rotarians in their realities, because, as People of Action,