Conferences inspire Rotarians to boost North American membership
RI President Wilkinson shares a moment with attendees at the membership conference in San Jose, California, USA.
Speaking at a series of conferences in the United States and Canada, RI President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson warned that Rotary club membership is declining in North America and the Caribbean and called on Rotarians to recruit and retain new members.
The seven Share the Magic of Rotary Presidential Conferences, held in July and August, were organized at Wilkinson’s request by current and past RI directors, other senior leaders, and Rotarians. The events were targeted to Rotarians at the club and district levels to promote membership development and growth in North America and the Caribbean. More than 2,900 Rotarians attended the meetings in six U.S. cities – Philadelphia; Nashville, Tennessee; South Bend, Indiana; Denver, Colorado; San Jose, California; Fort Lauderdale, Florida — and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Though Rotary club membership is increasing worldwide, it's lagging in North America.
To reverse the trend, conference chair Ron Beaubien, 2007-08 RI Membership Development and Retention Committee chair and past RI director, promoted the “member get member” approach: Every Rotarian in every club should recruit one new qualified member each year.
Beaubien said Rotary and other traditional service organizations, including Jaycees, Kiwanis, and Lions, are losing members even though volunteerism is on the rise among 25- to 54-year-olds. He called for “progressive” changes that will give Rotary a more flexible structure to attract younger people with busy lives. “New members will not join boring Rotary clubs that just meet and eat,” Beaubien said.
Wilkinson encouraged all clubs to use a new-member sponsor pin and follow through with a strong mentoring program until new Rotarians become a committed and active part of their clubs.
Other conference speakers addressed aspects of membership recruitment and retention and new club organization. Participants also studied current demographic and lifestyle trends, best practices and success stories, and methods for properly informing and inspiring new members.
At the Vancouver conference, RI Director Monty Audenart explained that a newly chartered club needs about three years to stabilize and become solvent.
“A new Rotary club, just like any Rotarian, needs four things to retain them in Rotary: fellowship, an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, ongoing education, and recognition,” Audenart said.