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4 questions about

How to use Meetup to recruit new members

with Steve Cook, past membership chair, Rotary Club of West Springfield, Virginia, US

1. What led you to help create RotaryNXT as a satellite club of the Rotary Club of West Springfield

I’ve been a Rotarian for 34 years, and I’ve watched how younger people are attracted to Rotaract clubs. I wanted to figure out how to attract people to Rotary in a similar way.

We had to change the Rotary experience, because it wasn’t working. We threw out the book when we started the satellite club. We said we’ll meet twice a month for cocktails, and we’ll do business education meetings for younger people or new businesses once a quarter, and see if that helps. We also said we’ll continue service projects with our sponsor club and do some of our own.

Steve Cook, past membership chair, Rotary Club of West Springfield, Virginia, US

Illustration by Viktor Miller Gausa

2. Why do you feel so strongly about the importance of attracting new members? 

If we don’t tell our story and we can’t attract younger people, we will age out and die. I have seen this attrition – clubs that started at 110 members are now down to 40. They’re losing people faster than they’re attracting them. How are we selling the Rotary experience? Good businesspeople know how to succeed, but with Rotary, they forget to think about what the product is. Our product is not meetings. We are a membership organization, and service is our product. The Rotary Foundation gives us the tools to do that service.

3. How do you use 

We have an IT guy who suggested we use it. We put up photos and advertise our meetings and other events and have folks RSVP. What we like about Meetup is that it gives you a list of who is attending.

People also search for social networking or service opportunities on the Meetup site. They ask to join our Meetup group and are accepted by the chair of RotaryNXT. 

Meetup is like Facebook – it’s another social media tool to get the word out to like-minded people. There’s no pressure. We wanted to reach out to those looking to get involved in the community. Meetup costs us $33 a year and gives us great visibility.

4. Can anyone come to your Meetup events? 

Yes! When we post a club meeting on Meetup, for instance, we have current members as well as prospective members who are part of our Meetup group. They do not even have to be a member of the Meetup group, though we suggest they join to find out what we are doing.

The club started with eight members in January 2016. Now we have 16. Two new members have come through Meetup, and we have 119 people who are part of our Meetup group. They get all the information about meetings. 

We consistently have 19 people at meetings, often including two or three new and inquiring minds.

Find more ideas for connecting with potential members at

• Read more stories in The Rotarian