Urban, rural areas require different membership strategies
D. Rae Carpenter, past district governor of District 7570, offers tips on club extension. Photo courtesy D. Rae Carpenter
During his year as district governor, D. Rae Carpenter made good use of his walking shoes, going door to door to promote Rotary.
"I spoke with every single business owner," says Carpenter, of District 7570 (parts of Tennessee and Virginia, USA). "I told them about the organization and the wonderful things it does for the community. When I talk to people, I always emphasize what they [as Rotarians] can do for their community."
While Carpenter served as district extension chair from 1998 to 2008, the number of Rotary clubs in his district increased from 69 to 84. He firmly believes that long-term planning and diversity are key to a successful membership strategy.
"Every club is a bit unique in membership makeup -- gender, age, socioeconomic factors, project enthusiasm," he says. "A new club usually attracts a segment of the community that the existing club has missed for some reason."
Carpenter highlights the importance of sponsor Rotary clubs that are enthusiastic about forming new clubs and unthreatened by a potential loss of members. He feels it is important to approach forming a new club differently in rural areas than in urban areas.
Here are a few of his tips on club extension:
- A classification survey should be used more as a way to ensure diversity than as an assessment tool for potential members.
- Breakfast or lunch meetings are more likely to attract new members, but a start-up should also consider early evening meetings
- A membership committee can volunteer to contact many people in a short period of time to recruit members for the new club.
- A new club can draw upon its sponsor club for help with communications, such as a newsletter editor, and for financial resources to help cover various start-up costs.
- New clubs can pull program speakers from the sponsor club, and will probably have an ample supply in the community.
- A classification survey is crucial to assessing potential club members and identifying initial contacts.
- The duty of recruiting is likely to fall more heavily on the special representative, whom the district governor appoints to work with the charter group in organizing the club, or on the district extension committee chair.
- A meeting time and day should be selected quickly; these factors will affect who can be recruited.
- New clubs in rural areas are likely to be farther away from their sponsor club than in urban areas, so the special representative and extension committee chair will have to spend more time with the new club. More ingenuity may also be needed in coming up with weekly programs.
- Rural clubs are ideal sponsors of other rural clubs because they better understand the needs involved.
- New clubs should tap former Rotarians who dropped out of their clubs because of time-of-day conflicts.
- New clubs should seek to recruit an even number of men and women
- District governors should carefully select the special representative
This is the third in a series of articles on membership tips from experts.