Engage your members, and they will stay
Mike McGovern, 2009-10 chair of the RI Membership Development and Retention Committee and past RI vice president. Rotary Images
Rotarians, like most people, need to feel like they belong.
That is the No. 1 tip from Mike McGovern, 2009-10 chair of the RI Membership Development and Retention Committee and past RI vice president, on how to expand membership. McGovern says many members leave their Rotary clubs because they don't see how they are contributing, or they feel disconnected from other members.
"We need to connect with members of our club within our meetings and at our projects, but also outside of Rotary," he says. "This involves having other members and their families over for dinner or going together to be a spectator at an event."
McGovern postulates that if more clubs used the assessment tools available on RI's Web site, they could prevent more than half the resignations that occur with the first five years of membership, effectively doubling their size and ability to serve over time.
McGovern and other members of the committee also offered these ideas on promoting membership for Membership and Extension Month:
- McGovern suggests deemphasizing attendance. "Constantly emphasizing attendance is a turnoff to many younger members and to those with family and business obligations. Rotarians should attend meetings because they are a good use of time, not because they would feel guilty not attending."
- Rotary clubs should list their accomplishments on their Web site, McGovern says. "A Rotarian recently told me that her favorite meeting was the year-end meeting at which the club president reviewed all the club had accomplished during the prior year. She felt good about being a Rotarian."
- McGovern believes that most communities need to have more than one Rotary club and that larger communities need many clubs. "We need to be in neighborhoods, and our members need to be from those neighborhoods."
- Committee member Rupak Jain suggests clubs place a placard at the head table announcing the classification the club wishes to fill. The emphasis for the next week or two would be to look for a suitable member from that classification. He also feels it is imperative for new members to be linked up with a mentor.
- Past RI Director Ken Collins, vice chair of the committee, suggests that clubs focus on finding worthwhile, hands-on projects that benefit individuals in their community, which will help produce a pool of "satisfied customers" who will publicize Rotary to friends, neighbors, and relatives. "In Rotary, we underestimate the value and power of word-of-mouth advertising. It costs nothing and is repeated over and over again, over a wide area."
This is the fourth in a series of articles on membership tips from experts.