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

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Most Most Disturbing Membership Information Statistic I have ever seen!

A slide from the Rotary International PowerPoint "State of Rotary Membership as of July 1, 2018" reflecting worldwide membership statistics.  


  1. Do you have any more information on how this data was acquired? I'm with you that it sounds pretty bad, but it's hard to know what to make of this without more context.

  2. Dan I got the slide from an RI PowerPoint available for download from the Rotary International website. The presentation is titled "State of Rotary Membership." I am not aware of how RI went about getting and compiling the information.

  3. Reinforces what we know to be the truth about Rotary ckubs; maybe not all
    They are not inclusive
    Don't make an effort to involve new members.
    Tend to be elitist
    Force fit members into activities they are not interested in
    Sink or swim attitude towards orientation of new members
    Too much push from clubs and international to donate
    As a visitor to clubs you generally don't get really welcomed

  4. Of the three reasons for leaving, cost and attendance are the biggest at 31%. It is also the main roadblock to young membership prospects and some retired members.
    Being a Rotarian is not expensive and attendance rules have been relaxed. Its our insistence on expensive weekly meetings with meals, often billed when absent, that make it expensive. Clubs that have adapted from this traditional model show the results.

  5. Anyone who thinks Rotary dues are too expensive is really missing the boat:
    Imagine not going to Rotary....but going out to eat on the one day per week that Rotary meets. Is it possible that we might spend $8.00 on that meal? My district’s quarterly dues are $200.00. What’s 8x12? $96.00. Subtract $96 from $200. Now we have $104. Let’s call it &105. Divide by 3? We now have a net cost equivalent of $35 per month. What does that $35 do for us? Get out the RLI easel and flip chart and get ready to become a scribe: Would it cost us more than $35 per month to travel to the people who come to us to deliver timely programs from the For-Profit, Non-Profit, and Government sectors? Is networking, advertising, and mingling with a few customers and possible prospective customers worth $35 per month? Could you take leadership courses and/or hone your public speaking skills somewhere else for $35? Does ethics training cost us any extra money? We have worldwide name recognition that becomes the equivalent of a Rotary AAA card.....yet there is no card and no fees. Could you have developed the friendships,you cultivated at Rotary, outside of Rotary for $35? I can go on and on.

  6. The older you get,most of these issues vanish. We should be loading up with members that are 50 or over. Has anyone done a study on their retention rate.

  7. The information pictured lead me to believe that clubs are not being very selective about who they attract in the first place, probably a result of Rotary many years of promoting its Recruiting Death Dance. Perhaps it would be a good idea for more clubs to be encouraged to do what many successful clubs are doing. Consider reading this Rotatorial

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  9. Jim, glad to see you back after such a long wait for a new post - thanks. I am prompted to share some personal reflections which I believe are fairly typical and illustrate many of the specific issues identified by others.

    I think your point about the lack of a selective approach to membership is a very powerful one. Quality(=service commitment/passion + consistency/continuity) should rank above quantity (=Recruitment Death Dance). One bad egg at Club President level can set any change process back years so continuity and consistency (common vision and long term planning) are also essential leadership and teamwork components. Much needs to be done at District and RI HQ to address the underlying infrastructural status quo/inertia issues with multiple leaders at multiple levels buying into a clearly defined Strategic Plan. Technology and Adult Education also seem to me to be related operational support areas which are very much behind the times. We have a holistic core leadership 40 year old inertia problem reflected in many areas of deficiency.

    A club which re-captures Rotary’s "Service above Self" quality principle will initially contract before a new period of activity/engagement based growth emerges. The change process may take five or more years as a new cadre of kindred-spirit leadership emerges. Much courage is needed to initiate and implement such a fundamental cultural re-alignment. Our club started our process of cultural change in 2012-2013. We currently have 23 active members and of these, only 3 of the original members remain.

    By the time they reach 50, many folks find themselves with more discretionary time to fill and more bucks to share in support of good causes. Whilst actively seeking out sweat equity service opportunities, they typically prefer to donate their dollars to causes close to home rather than distant national or international charities. 

    55+ retirement communities are growing apace in my part of the world, Florida, with huge investments in new and expanded communities. My wife and I moved to one of the smaller ones with 3,500 homes last May. We are now released from multiple property/yard maintenance time gobblers. There are many free established social and service engagement opportunities covering a wide range of hobbies and service interests. These communities are all driven by volunteers and I have recently joined several groups.

    The inevitable result is that the personal friendship threads that have kept me attached to Rotary for 15 years are now stretched and weakening. Following a personal 700 mile move south, I have found no inspiration from local Rotary Clubs and their mostly awful websites. They are clearly mainly interested in fund raisers and check writing.

    Rotary forgets that most of us will reach a point as we age where we will eventually transition from service providers to service recipients. At the same time, our number of active years grows with life expectancy.

    In terms of strategy, it seems to me that Rotary would be well advised to channel less energy into soliciting donations without any related sweat equity content and to put more effort into Community, Vocational, Youth and Club Service volunteerism. Club Service should include board rotation plans, member to member support, and volunteer recognition.

    I am now increasingly busy with multiple community service groups outside of Rotary, including mobility assistance for those in need. Florida’s Good Samaritan law provides the needed legal protection.

    I am also mindful of the fact that the cost of volunteer group membership in our community of 3,500 homes is generally zero although some charge $10 a year.