Membership leaders discuss economic crisis
José Ubiracy Silva, a Regional Rotary International Membership Coordinator from Brazil, shares his thoughts during an open discussion at the recent RRIMC Training Seminar. Photo by Jamie Berg
Regional Rotary International membership coordinators (RRIMCs) discussed how to respond to the worldwide economic crisis when they met in Chicago for an annual training event in February.
The RRIMCs, who work with districts and clubs to improve member recruitment and retention, also focused on ways to achieve diversity and increase retention rates.
Judi Beard-Strubing, an RRIMC from Zone 23 in the USA and a retired Wall Street financial adviser, noted that some Rotarians are resigning from their clubs as a result of job loss or economic difficulties.
During a discussion led by Beard-Strubing and John Gomes, a member of the RI Membership Development and Retention Committee and a former RRIMC from South Africa, participants suggested that Rotary clubs help struggling members pay their dues by establishing support programs, or even dipping into district funds to offset some of the cost. Other ideas included:
- Allowing club members to attend meetings without having to pay for a full meal
- Finding a less expensive venue for club meetings
- Surveying club members about why they value Rotary, and contacting members who have stopped attending meetings to find out why
- Offering a job networking service to unemployed club members, such as through a club or district web site
RRIMC James Ives from Michigan, USA, cautioned that steps should not be seen as lowering the value of Rotary.
“In tough times, the last thing you let go of is the thing you value the most,” he noted. “We don’t want Rotary to feel cheap.”
Beard-Strubing offers suggestions for weathering the economic crisis in the zones 22, 23, and 24 membership newsletter .
RI President-elect John Kenny has set a membership goal of a net increase of one new member per club and one new club per district during the 2009-10 Rotary year.
Kenny’s membership goals also include encouraging more qualified women, young professionals, and Rotary Foundation and RI program alumni to become Rotarians so that each Rotary club reflects the demographics of the business community that surrounds it
Don Garner, a former Ambassadorial Scholar and past president of the Rotary Club of Chicago, USA, noted during a panel discussion that too often, an invitation to join is not extended to former Ambassadorial Scholars, Rotary World Peace Fellows, Group Study Exchange participants, Rotaractors, Interactors, or Youth Exchangers.
People just starting their careers need the networking opportunities Rotary offers, Garner said. His club welcomed 64 new members, including many program alumni, during his year as president.
“I did not anticipate becoming a Rotarian,” he said, “but I can attest to the willingness of many Rotary alumni to join Rotary.”
Kenny has also asked for an 80 percent member retention rate in 2009-10.
During a breakout discussion, one group of RRIMCs agreed that new club members need to be invited to serve on committees or service projects to feel welcome and included. Some suggested that it may be best in some cases to guide potential members to form a new club. They pointed out that if two 30-something professionals felt awkward in a club whose members were all over age 55, they might be open to starting a new club with 10 of their friends or business acquaintances. The original club can sponsor the new club, whose members are more likely to feel vested in Rotary.
The RRIMC program was started in 2001. RRIMCs, all past district governors, are appointed by the RI president-elect to a maximum term of three years. Terms are staggered among the RRIMCs and the group represents all Rotary zones.