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What would it take to make your club irresistible?

That is the question that Louisa Horne, a trainer in District 7820, asks leaders to think about when she runs her version of the presidents-elect training seminar (PETS) in the spring. When she was asked to be a district trainer three years ago, Horne knew she wanted to reshape what she called “drill and kill” sessions that revolved around information participants needed to learn.

“Instead, we leveraged the talents of some highly skilled trainers we happened to have among our members,” says the incoming district governor. “We got people who were adult educators who understood how facilitation should be done and were able to create a very different approach to developing our leaders.”

Rotary members should be thinking about what they can do to make their clubs more interesting to potential members. Good service projects is one way. Rotarians in Tanzania, above, operate a project helping people with albinism become financially independent. 

Photo by Miriam Doan

Horne recruited Doug Logan, a past governor, to help. They named their seminars “Training for Leaders of Clubs” (TLC) to stress the changes they made and persuade those who might not want to attend another seminar to give it a try. They later led a breakout session at the 2018 Toronto convention and have also brought their workshop to others outside of their district.

Strategic doing

The core idea is to get people thinking strategically about what they need to do to make their clubs more attractive to members.

“Decline in membership is not the problem. It is a symptom,” says Logan. “So rather than rushing to develop recruitment strategies, we want people to start thinking, ‘OK, what else is really happening here?’”

Logan and Horne recruit facilitators with a background in management consulting or adult education. They use a variety of tools to encourage “strategic doing.” Participants are asked to create a list of what they’ll do in the next 30 days to help achieve their clubs’ goals and decide how they will evaluate their completed tasks. They then make a list of what they’ll do 30 days after that to keep making a difference.

Succession

The seminars also stress succession planning and courageous leadership.

“This is not just for presidents and secretaries. This is for all leaders and aspiring leaders,” says Horne. “You can’t think of it in terms of ‘my year.’ Most clubs need to have a longer-term plan for what they want to accomplish and how they want to have an impact. Those strategic conversations need to involve people who can give it continuity.”

By shifting responsibility from a single person to a team, Horne says, clubs can make a role less consuming and more appealing. Horne plans to exemplify this approach to her clubs by using the title “chair of the district leadership team” in place of “district governor.”

“We expect our club or district leaders to be all things to all people, and that just doesn’t work,” Horne says. “It has to be a team, and there have to be very simple tools that people can use effectively with some basic training.”

Rotary members should always be thinking what they can do to make their clubs more interesting. Quality service projects is just one way.