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Monday, October 1, 2018


          Why do membership-based organizations flounder?  Almost always, it is because the organization's leaders are either unaware their organization is floundering or are aware but do not know why.  This is only logical because, if organizations' leaders knew what was happening and why, they would try to prevent it from floundering.

          So why don't leaders know what is happening?  Most often it is because the reasons are subtle and evolve over long periods.  Such conditions are difficult for leaders to grasp, particularly in organizations with frequent leadership changes, if short-term plans with realistic, measurable goals and results do not exist.  Such plans should always keep the organization's long-term vision in site.  Its short-range plan and long-range vision should;
  • be centered on the organization's unique, differentiating value proposition; 
  • have an unmistakable definition of who it wants to attract into membership; and
  • be clear on why those it wants to attract would be willing to exchange time, talent, and treasure for membership.

Without agreement on these issues, there cannot be adequate planning of any type, and it will be difficult to develop and support membership. Is this where Rotary is at this time? If so, where does it plan to go from here, and how will it get there?
     To create effective short- and long-range plans for Rotary International (RI) to continuously market and support membership development, its leaders should, at a minimum, use the following thought processes:         

1.  Define the characteristics of those RI wishes to attract into membership.  Who is going to pay for the services RI has to offer and how many potential buyers exist?  What is a realistic expectation of how many who qualify will actually become members?  How many will remain Rotarians and for how long?
2.  Have a brief but well defined mission statement. A brief mission statement should define why RI exists.  It should succinctly describe RI's core supporters, and the value proposition that will attract them to Rotary.
3.  Overcome poor management.  Instead of understanding what its supporters are saying, leaders often lose trust and start trying to micro-manage.  They do not react to what is actually happening because they do not know why it is happening. They usually rely on excuses instead of reasons, and often believe that they know what their supporters want and need better than their supporters.
4.  Learn from failure.  Learning from failure is difficult because very few former or present leaders want to actually admit that their past, or present, actions did not or are not working.  In doing so, they are not learning the whys of what happened or is happening, therefore they cannot effectively react.

Few places are less forgiving to organizations than competitive, ever-changing social atmospheres.  RI was quite successful adjusting to such conditions between 1905 and 1995. Since then,overall membership has stagnated, primarily due to declining membership in some legacy regions. So what happened and why did it happen?  Does RI have any idea where it is going from here or how it is are going to get there?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jim. Perhaps technology needs to be included in the strategy for the future of Rotary? The Next Gen is a technology-driven society that connects on forums other than face-to-face.