A Membership Minute
by PDG Brent Rosenthal
Zone 30 Assistant Rotary Coordinator - Membership
District 6690 Membership Chair

     Suppose a salesman comes to your door and asks you to buy the latest widget he is selling. So you ask him, “Why should I buy this? How will it benefit me? Why should I spend money on this instead of something else?” His response, “Well I don’t know how it will benefit you or if you would even need it. But it would sure help me make more money.” Your response? SLAM!
      Welcome to the wonderful world of Rotary recruiting! Because whether we realize it or not, 99% of Rotary clubs approach membership growth just like the self-centered (and probably starving) salesman. We talk about “recruitIng” members so we can grow. Our first (and often only) thought is club-centered. We don’t think of the customer – the member! And the primary thing she is thinking of is “what would I gain from joining Rotary?”
     The result? If we are successful in recruiting members, they seldom last long in Rotary. You have seen this and the numbers bear it out. Every year in North America 44,000 new Rotarians join. That’s a lot of people - enough to result in significant growth! But also every year 55,000 Rotarians quit! Why? Because these busy people feel the clubs aren’t giving them enough value to justify the time and money membership in Rotary requires.
      Sadly, we give hardly a thought to how we can attract people to Rotary by showing them the tremendous value that Rotary holds for them! Equally sadly, we too often don’t evaluate our clubs by asking the most important question: are we providing activities and services the current and future members want? Or do we cling to unpopular, tired programs and activities because “we’ve always done it that way”?
      A “recruiting” mindset focuses only on how the club will grow in numbers, and always produces only temporary results, with longer term attrition resulting in a smaller and weaker club. However, a focus on attracting members through a diverse menu of service, social, and professional development activities and programs results in the club gaining productive long term members who will gain from Rotary and in turn build a stronger club.
      When we ask someone to join Rotary, we are asking them to invest their time and money in Rotary instead of somewhere else. So they naturally ask (as you asked the widget salesman), “what’s in it for me? How will I benefit? And will I benefit more than if I invested that time and money elsewhere?” My friend PDG John Adams (D6740) has a great way to express membership growth as a formula: “Membership is gained and retained when the value of membership to the Rotarian is equal to or greater than the cost of membership."
      Let’s lose the recruiting mindset and focus instead on making our clubs attractive to “seasoned” members, newer members and potential members. You will be amazed not only at how your club grows, but how the energy and enthusiasm do as well. And that will in turn attract even more members!