Why Organization's Fail

Rotary didn't stop developing membership because people were not interested in joining local Rotary clubs. Recent membership metrics have proven that. It stopped growing because Rotary and its member clubs became product oriented instead of member oriented. They marketed the results of the Object of Rotary instead of its value to its member clubs and Rotarians - its customers - those who fund its operations.

Red Text Note

==============Red text has a link to a previous Rotatorial or referenced document.==============

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Is Rotary International Governance's Approach to Brand Management and Membership Development Stuck in the Era of Slide Rules and Handheld Calculators?

In the 1950s, after 33 months, four days, eight hours, and twenty minutes in the infantry, I entered the University of Florida intending to earn an engineering degree.  One glorious birthday, my wife, who had scrimped on our grocery money, surprised me with a Post Versalog slide rule, the elite hand calculator of the day.  That slide rule served my calculation needs, including sitting for my Professional Engineer's examination in 1972.  Programmable calculators were just coming on the market. In the 1980s, I purchased a Hewlett Packard 48G programmable calculator (The display shows the Rotary Club of Sarasota's annual retention rate).  Then, of course, came the age of computers, and my engineering firm adapted new technologies.  My slide rule and HP48G served their purposes very well, but what was purposeful back then became outdated and had to be retired.
    Our son followed to the University of Florida.  Now the owner of an engineering firm in Charlotte, NC and past president of the South Mech Rotary Club, he recently related this Tweet to me: In the 1990s, I used to go to a joint called “Burrito Brothers.” They had great burritos. One day, a friend of mine got the tacos, something that no one in UofF history had ever dreamed of doing. Fascinated, I asked him, “How are they?” My friend replied, “Meh. I think there’s a reason they don’t call them ‘Mexican Food Brothers.’”
            I’ve always used this as an illustration of the idea that organizations should stick to what they are good at, i.e., what their purpose is.

    Rotary International (RI) and its member clubs have only one purpose: develop Rotarians by advancing the Object of Rotary in local social fabrics throughout the world.  This alone makes the world better, one community at the time.  Are the institutions and practices that may have once been useful in helping RI accomplish its purpose similar to my slide rule and HP48G; still useable but substantially less effective?  For example:
  • District Conferences and International Assemblies'?  If their goal is to help develop Rotarians, are they accomplishing this purpose? In North America and other legacy regions, obviously not.  What systemic issues need to change?
  • Membership Month? Retaining and attracting members is a fulltime priority, yet this tradition clearly needs to change because it annually delivers the perception that developing membership is important only one month out of the year; that the other eleven monthly topics are equal in importance. What about changing this practice to where all monthly topics highlight how being associated with Rotary clubs differentiates Rotarians from all others who do good things?
  • Public Imaging?  How do RI and district public imaging approaches (Facebook, Twitter, Rotarian Magazines, Videos, Institutes, Seminars, etc.) differentiate Rotarians from the billions of other people who support local and international projects and programs?
  • Cost of Membership.  Clubs consistently hear suggestions about cutting the cost of membership, yet RI and districts increase dues every so often.  Shouldn't RI, districts, and clubs justify these dues increases by creatively improving Rotary's value proposition to Rotary clubs; to Rotarians?

     RI's People of Action brand revitalization is a start, but will take much more than redesigning logos and producing action photos and videos to revitalize membership.  RI and its administrative districts must have new, systemic value proposition deliverables that differentiate RI and Rotarians.  Short-term membership development thought processes have been used for over two decades.  It is rather obvious that they have not been successful.  Rotary Senior and Staff leaders that do not recognize the need for systemic changes in attitudes, long-term planning, and the creation of unique value proposition deliverables have their mindsets stuck in the slide rule and HP48G era.  

Where are Rotary's visionary leaders?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Wind that Drives Rotary's Service Windmill

   Local clubs and Rotarians are the wind that turn Rotary's service windmill. It appears that present senior Rotary and staff leaders now realize this.  Their problem is delivering that image to district and club leaders.  The words are there for all to read, but the perception is lacking because the words are not reinforced by recognizable actions, particularly at district levels.
   RI President Nominee Mark Mahoney may be planning Regional Membership Seminars centered on developing Rotarians.  If so, RI's prestige is at stake with these seminars.  If they do not deliver the perception that developing Rotarians is Rotary International's highest priority, they stand the chance of doing more harm than good while wasting precious resources.
    Past RI membership seminars have approached membership development by:
  • ·       classifying, considering, and treating Rotarians as volunteers who do good it their community and the world instead of local professional People of Action (most of whom are already doing good in their communities),
  • ·         promoting The Rotary Foundation and its 4 Star Rating by Charity Navigator,
  • ·        encouraging everyone to bask in the glow of polio eradication and,
  • ·        persuading clubs to recruit more members so RI can do more good in the world.

     Rotary clubs are centered locally. The seminars must address concepts that linger in all local leaders' minds, questions such as:
·               "Why should a group of local People of Action aspire to become a chartered Rotary club?"  Is it because RI is over 100 years old and does good in the World? (Boring - not a differentiating factor) or because advancing the Object or Rotary has proven to help groups make their lives better (opens the mind for more discovery!)?
·            "Is the purpose of Rotarians and clubs to help RI be a worldwide service organization?" (This is irrelevant in legacy regions because local People of Action have unlimited opportunities to help local and international service organizations without joining any local organization.)
·        "Which has the highest priority: Develop Rotarians or contribute to The Rotary Foundation?"  (Local People of Action are more interested in expending resources to improve their local social fabrics.  Anyone can financially support The Rotary Foundation without joining a local organization.)
·          "Why have a membership month if developing Rotarians is a continuing priority?" (Shouldn't each monthly action relate to how it helps develop Rotarians; reinforce the concept that Rotarians are the wind that drives Rotary service windmill?)
The type education needed for district and club leaders to deliver the perception that developing Rotarians is RI's highest priority simply cannot be done with ill-equipped or improperly prepared facilitators.  They must be ready to address the serious concepts that local People of Action face day in and day out otherwise RI's service windmill stands an excellence chance of becoming calm.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Is Rotary International Encouraging Clubs to Hook Up or Develop Relationships with People of Action?

In the Rotary world, membership development to most people means get more members into Rotary clubs.  It is not unreasonable for Rotary leaders to think this because for decades industrial era executives encouraged their customer development – marketing – departments to get more customers engaged in buying their products and services.  Kodak, for example, centered its marketing on "getting more customers engaged with our products and services."  Kodak, of course, is now a shadow of its former self.  Had Kodak been more interested in developing acquaintances with instead of just engaging its customers, it may have come to realize that most customers were not engaged with cameras, film, and developing services, they were engaged in creating memories.  Kodak's management was product oriented, not customer oriented, which was the prime reason for the downfall of the company whose research and development department actually invented the digital camera.
            RI data indicates that Rotary clubs are engaging new members at enviable rates.  This appears to be a Rotary version of hooking up because RI's membership needle has wobbled around 1.2 million for almost two decades. Kodak's customers engaged with what the company produced, and moved on when the engagement was no long beneficial.  Is just engaging existing and potential members going to retain them?  Wouldn't it be better if RI itself engaged in developing relationships with clubs, while encouraging clubs to engage in developing relationships with existing and potential members?  
            Studying Rotary and its expansion, historians will most likely conclude that RI's leaders meant exactly what is expressed in the first Object of Rotary, "The development of acquaintances as an opportunity for service."   This indicates that RI, from its beginning in 1905, was successful because it promoted developing relationships with dues-paying local business, professional, and community leaders.  For eight decades Rotary advanced the Object of Rotary because, with pinpoint accuracy, it centered on serving its customers - clubs and their members.  During the 1980-1990s RI’s leadership evolved into centering on what Rotarians produced after adopting the ideal of service in their personal, business, and community lives.  In other words, RI became product centered and changed the Object of Rotary’s intent to “Get more members engaged in financing and producing more service."  The result:  RI membership stagnated due to severe declines in legacy regions because local business, professional, and community leaders do not pay dues to engage in financing and doing more service, they pay dues to engage in ". . . developing more acquaintances as opportunities for service."
       Rebranding Rotarians as People of Action can be a major initiative because it is Rotarian centered and establishes the commonality “We.”  The success of this initiative depends upon the ability of RI leadership, particularly at the zone and district level, to shift focus from being a product centered service organization into being member centered.  Down the line leaders must understand why people join and stay in local Rotary clubs, and continue to find unique ways to help clubs retain them as loyal Rotarians.  The longer members remain actively advancing the Object of Rotary, the better their Rotary Lifetime Value (RLV) will be to all concerned.  In Rotary clubs' niche market, the most effective public relations campaign is word-of-mouth, and satisfied Rotarians are proud to say good things about Rotary.  This alone will improve membership equity in clubs and RI.

If RI leaders want to use this decade's organizational buzz-word engage, they should be more specific by stating specifically that RI and its member clubs should engage in developing relationships rather than engaging in instant gratification by hooking up then moving on.  Membership in a Rotary club should help People of Action become more of who they want to be.  RI and clubs should carefully examine the characteristics that make them exceptional.  Then they should focus resources on developing and refining relationships with People of Action as an opportunity for service. 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Is Rotary International's Influence Respected & Mutually Beneficial to Clubs and Rotarians?

In 2008 I became Zone 34’s Membership Coordinator.  It wasn’t long before I visioned Rotary International (RI) as Sisyphus struggling up the membership development slope pushing a network of 34,000 clubs weighted down by decades of outmoded, and sometimes misguided, practices and attitudes, especially in legacy regions.
But now, thanks to a few People of Action leading the way, RI’s business model is changing. RI appears to realize that greater value will be created if its worldwide, community-centered autonomous Rotary clubs are released from recent customs to pursue Rotary’s common purpose and objective – the Object of Rotary – centered locally and spreading globally.  Successful organizations, businesses, consultants, and Wall Street experts say such a move is wise because RI is transitioning its visions and strategies from the outmoded hierarchies and practices of the Industrial and Information eras into the “modern” Social Era.
Throughout the Rotary network, influential Rotarians are skeptical, which may be one reason changes in attitudes and practices on membership-related support, public relations, and other business practices for our member-driven organization is slow coming to districts and clubs.   Rotary history indicates that they should not be skeptical because Rotary pioneered the Social Era in 1905.  Back then, Rotarians talked to people face to face i.e. developed acquaintances.  Traveling first by horseback, wagons, trains and ships, they grew the network from one Rotary club in Chicago into a worldwide organization simply because they were spreading a common value .
Near the end of the twentieth century, RI left its differentiating Social Era brand behind and began trying to brand itself as a worldwide service/charity organization.  It didn’t work.  But that’s history.  RI’s present and future leaders cannot be weighed down by past hierarchies, customs, and practices, but the lessons learned should never again be forgotten.  RI leaders at all levels should clearly understand:
  1. What business Rotary is in,
  2. Who its supporters are,
  3. What its supporters value, and
  4. How to set and measure results.

 Most of those now leading Rotary understand these business fundamentals.  They should plan for RI to gain club and Rotarian insights by staying interconnected, and to expeditiously act with relevance.  Present Rotary leaders should free the association’s over 35,000 autonomous Rotary clubs from past and present impositions set or implied by RI, its zones, districts, and/or The Rotary Foundation.  RI should center all activities on chartering and supporting clubs as they strive to retain and attract People of Action to advance the Object of Rotary.

RI is, and always will be, Rotary’s center of influence, but its influence must be respected and mutually beneficial to clubs and Rotarians if it wants to spread and receive value through interconnected relationships.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What Happened to 2,200,000 Rotarians?

Year-End Membership
# of Clubs
Rotary International’s membership has hovered around 1,200,000 for the last fifteen years.  During this time, according to RI’s own records, Rotary clubs have inducted - and lost - approximately 2,200,000 members.  Why?  Nobody seems to have reasonably definitive answers, only conjectures.
Rotary International (RI) has acknowledged that it is a business, and that it should be led and managed accordingly.  Because of a 2011 international study, RI has rebranded itself as an organization created by and for People of Action.  To assure that the rebranding initiative is, or will be, effective, RI must maintain and continually study membership information.  By doing so, it can have an educated answer to why it lost over 2 million members and a more dependable base to launch its future.

Senior Rotary and staff leaders must accept that the rebranding initiative will only be effective when all interconnecting relationships are mutually beneficial. In doing so, RI can begin to critically examine, study, and address important issues such as:
  • Are clubs pinpointing the appropriate target audiences to attract? 
  • Are clubs informing target audiences what to expect when they join? 
  • What percentage of the target audiences inducted left their club for reasons beyond club control (health (personal or family), relocation, financial setback, etc.)? 
  • What is a reasonable Retention Rate expectation for one-year, two-year, three-year, five-year, & ten-year Rotarians? 
  • What is a reasonable Attraction Rate expectation for the clubs, districts, and zones?
When RI begins to zero in on these types of critical issues it will be able to:
  • Judge the degree of success of its rebranding initiative, and 
  • Strategically plan for a successful future.
It is vital that RI establish a priority on recording and analyzing important membership related information.  Accurate information is necessary for RI to establish a mutually beneficial interconnecting relationship with its primary target audience – Rotary clubs.  The most cost-effective place to start is to utilize data RI presently collects and semi-annually publish Retention Rates, Attraction Rates, and RG Indexes for each club, district, zone, and RI.

Retention Rates and Attraction Rates are both important.  Retention Rates are particularly helpful in determining if clubs are delivering the People of Action brand’s promise.  Attraction Rates, in combination with first, second, and third year Retention Rates, indicate the quality of the target audience clubs are attracting, the clubs’ effectiveness at delivering the brand’s promise early, and the club’s ability to inform target audiences of the relationships the clubs offer.  RG Indexes help identify clubs, districts, and zones that are most successful at delivering Rotary’s brand promise and quickly highlights clubs, districts, and zones most in need of assistance.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rotarians Should Focus For Success!

2018 International Assembly - Click here to view the Who Rotarians Are - People of Action Rebranding address by Brad Howard, Past RI Director and Chairman of the RI Communications Committee.

Rotary International (RI) is rebranding itself to be an association of Rotary Clubs organized and operated by and for People of Action.  For this rebranding initiative to be successful, RI and its member clubs should focus on:
  • segmenting membership markets in accordance with RI’s Constitution and
  • maintaining accurate measures of success. 

Market segmentation in its simplest form is identifying the behavior and characteristics of the people who comprise Rotary’s niche market. Those in this niche are, or wish to be, People of Action who want to make life better for themselves, their families, their professions, their communities, and the world – in that order.  Segmenting these groups will make it much easier for RI and clubs to identify, communicate with, and serve existing and potential Rotarians, pinpointing those who might find buying Rotary’s People of Action brand beneficial.
Segmenting cannot be accomplished with focus groups or surveys.  Proper segmentation can only be successful by spending time experiencing clubs’ and Rotarians’ realities.  The methods and importance of market segmentation must be discussed at assemblies, seminars, conferences, and institutes. RI should also consider inviting Rotary Leadership Institute to assist in educating grass roots Rotarians about the rebranding initiative and where market segmentation fits in.


RI’s rebranding initiative must have an accurate and dependable method to measure its success.  That can only happen if RI serves its member clubs by creating and maintaining an easy-to-understand Index of gauging how many people are renewing their memberships and how many are being attracted into local clubs – their Retention Rates and Attraction Rates. These rates should be combined into a single (RG or RA) Index because it is possible for clubs or districts to sustain or improve their retention rate while losing members, i.e. retain themselves out of existence. (It would not be a surprise to find that some "blended" districts have already done this?) It is also possible for clubs to achieve higher Retention Rates while other clubs offset lower Retention Rates with higher Attraction Rates, resulting in both having identical RG Indexes. It is also possible that should priority be on Attraction Rates that clubs, districts, and zones could again be seduced by Rotary's Recruiting Death Dance of yesteryear. All three data points should be readily available so Rotarians could detect where more effort should be directed.   

The rebranding initiative stands a much better chance of succeeding if RG Indexes would become second nature for RI’s senior Rotary and staff leaders.  This would deliver the perception throughout the Rotary network that Retaining AND Attracting members is more important than achieving Every Rotarian Every Year or Paul Harris Fellow expectations.  This can only happen when leaders focus on how effective clubs, districts, and zones are at delivering the brand promise that RI is an association operated by and for People of Action.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Are Rotary's "Leaders" Leading?

In July 2015, Retention Central asked if Rotary’s leaders were leading or managing?  In the history of organizations, the difference is subtle but significant.  Rotary International’s only purpose is to sustain itself.  It does not exist to reach a specific goal.  Leaders reach for growth – individual and organizational - because growth stimulates and helps achieve goals.  Managers reach for goals.

     We are entering 2018, a new calendar year, halfway through RI’s fiscal year.  It appears that RI’s senior and staff leaders, who I affectionately refer to as young lions and lionesses, have breached the managing mentality, a breach initiated by Past RI Presidents Ravindran and Germ.  They discarded the ‘membership goal by an interim cutoff date’ which fostered the ‘my year’ management mentality.  Rotary leaders up and down the Rotary network prioritized ‘my year’ performances, which severely limited any visions of what the future may hold.  Because of the ‘my year’ mentality, minimum resources were dedicated to what kept RI operating – income from dues paying Rotarians and related metrics. 
     Most of RI's present senior and staff leaders now understand that RI is not in the service business, but is in the member business.  They realize that what is accomplished in the name of Rotary – past, present, and future – is the result of Who Rotarians Were, Are, and Will Be.  This is a major revelation that will have a substantial effect on its future, which is shining brighter.  To stay on course, RI must continually develop and analyze critical metrics because they will reflect the results of attitudes and initiatives that affect its most important income source – Rotary clubs and Rotarians.
   The most important metric, of course, is how many Rotarians are renewing their membership – RI’s Retention Rate.  To improve this critical metric, RI must encourage its administrative districts and their clubs to segment their populations and concentrate on the psychometrics of Who They Attract. To help clubs and districts, RI must continually refine and publish its membership metrics.  While metrics can help identify problem areas, only people can analyze, dissect, and solve problems.  For example, lower than normal Retention Rates dilutes the value of being a Rotarian, degrades Rotary’s public image, and destroys it brand.  At RI, naturally defining what is ‘normal’ means, among other things, the necessity to study regional Retention and Attraction Rates to determine what is ‘normal.’  When clubs and districts drop below 'normal' then people at district and club levels can be alerted, investigate, and hopefully solve the problems they identify.
     With eyes on RI’s future, it is rebranding itself as an organization organized by and for People of Action.  This initiative will be successful only when RI and its leaders demonstrate that they are People of Action who prioritize, recognize, and celebrate results.  All Rotary leaders should be encouraged to adopt this basic leadership philosophy from WALKTHETALK.com:

What gets celebrated,
Gets repeated.
What gets recognized,
Gets reinforced.
What gets reinforced,
Gets Repeated.
Considering recent happenings, it appears that RI’s senior Rotary and staff leaders are leading instead of managing; are thinking long-term instead of ‘my year’ or ‘my term.’ To solidify this opinion, improvements in membership development results must be recognized and celebrated as the most important accomplishment of any zone, district, or club.  To accomplish this, RI must serve each entity with simple and understandable meaningful metrics, which should be their Retention and Attraction Rates – their RG Indexes.