ImageMembers may leave, but Rotarians will die Rotarians because they understand the mission of Rotary.  The question for Rotary leaders is; “How do we convert members into Rotarians?”

The issue, brought to its basic terms, is why does anybody belong to any organization, or why does anybody do anything.  The answer is simple: motivation.
American psychologist A. H. Maslow described motivation as need fulfillment and established a hierarchy of needs.  We try to satisfy physiological needs such as hunger and thirst to remain alive, and that is the strongest motivator.  Then we provide for our safety needs with a roof over our heads and a job.  The need of belonging, of love and affection, is provided by our friends, spouses, children, and organizations.  Finally, we try to achieve self-esteem, status, recognition, and appreciation.

Rotary, and similar organizations or associations, try to satisfy the last two needs, belonging and self-esteem.  If a member does not perceive these on a continual basis, he or she leaves to find what he or she desire somewhere else.  The connection is lost, the hook is open!

What connection?  What hook?  Whatever held that person attached to that group or club!  

We remain Rotarians because, over time, our clubs hold onto us by means of various ‘hooks’.  We enjoy friendship, camaraderie in service, self-esteem, love, status, recognition, appreciation, etc.  We see all these begin to add up from the moment somebody takes an interest in us and we perceive opportunities to belong to something that is interesting, fun, fulfilling and with enough variety.  The ‘hooks’ are set and they hold us. The club is like ‘Velcro’ to us.

How to make a ‘Velcro’ club
This part is more complicated.  First, we need to want to.  We seem to be so caught up on what we enjoy most that we don’t realize we may be losing it.
The old timers respond: ‘Been there, done that.  It’s your turn to recruit and engage’.  They forget they probably were recruited by an old timer!
The board is so busy being the board that they don’t realize that engaging members is their main job.
The newer members do not recognize the duty yet; and who can blame them since nobody care to instruct them (another ‘hook’)!
So, who is in charge of engaging new members?  In many cases NO ONE!

A  solution?
There are many solutions.  Try this one or parts of this one if it suits you:
  1. Focus the club’s attention on membership recruitment and engagement for two full years.  Get the club committed!  Get the engine started!
  2. Proactively address the needs, wants, and desires of every member.  How?  Ask them what they want!
  3. Offer a variety of choices.  We have different inclinations, we may be at different stages of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, we are different!
  4. Don’t expect everybody to be the same.  Educate and listen to all members.  Show them what is available (alone or in partnership with other clubs or organizations) and listen carefully to their suggestions.  
  5. Service above self starts at the club and towards our own members.  If you don’t serve your own how do you expect to serve others!
Let’s build stronger clubs with Rotarians.  Let the ‘members’ leave if they so desire.  We cannot please everybody; we can only make an effort to do so.

  • Count every gathering or service opportunity as attendance.  
  • Have great speakers and programs (ask your local library for local authors, personalities, sport figures).
  • Hold debates on local, regional, or national issues and invite the public.
  • Invite newspaper editors to speak.
  • Ask the local authorities to describe community needs that your club could champion.
  • Invite the public weekly to attend your programs.
  • Appoint two mentors or ‘buddies’ to each new member.
  • Take new members to visit other clubs.
  • Invite another club for a golf or bowling challenge.
  • Invite another club to plant trees in each other’s community parks.
  • Have Rotary trivia five minute tournaments at regular meetings.
  • Plan random after hours get together at local venues at different day, times, and places.
  • Organize surprise dinners at ethnic restaurants.
  • Shuffle seating arrangements.
  • Ask for  ten minute member bios at regular meetings.
  • Quiz members on a regular basis to uncover desires or complaints.