Anne and I have now completed 50 of our 65 club visits and the 2017-18 Rotary year has passed the first quarter. As I reflect on those visits the following observations come to mind:
- Every Rotarian is unique and so are their interests and passion
- Every Club is unique and has its own history, rituals and personality
- The range of community, youth, vocational and international projects they do is amazing.
There are some common aspects:
- Most clubs understand that membership needs to be a major focus, but some are running on hope rather than an actionable plan
- Whatever size they are, clubs seem to have a “membership thermostat” or range, below which they take action and above which they don’t aspire to be
- There is more turnover of membership than people recognise. At the District level we have had 2,400 members over the last three years. Yet we have had over 800 new members join in those three years. This means 800 people have left also.
- 50% of Rotarians who leave do so in their second or third year, so member engagement and mentoring is critical.
Some clubs are innovating to extend their community reach, public image and hands on projects. Clubs are encouraged to make necessary changes in:
- Meeting formats, location, times and meals to reduce cost and better suit potential members
- Create satellites of 8 or more new members which are more nimble and better able to focus on new projects
- Consider new club membership categories such as corporate membership, family membership or student membership.
One of the changes made in the 2016 Manual of Procedure is in the category of honorary membership, which now reads: “Persons who have distinguished themselves by meritorious service in the furtherance of Rotary ideals and those per-sons considered friends of Rotary for their support of Rotary’s cause may be elected to honorary membership”
So as well as the traditional role for distinguished Rotarians, it can now be used to include significant supporters of Rotary such as:
- Local councillors and politicians (this was widely the case, but not strictly included in the 2013 definition)
- Strong club friends or project supporters
- Those transitioning into Rotary, for example students with limited financial means, first year trials before active membership, etc.
- Are Rotarians, are inducted and can proudly wear the Rotary pin and visit any Rotary club
- Are included in the RI database and can access all resources in My Rotary
- Can fully participate in club events and projects
However, honorary members:
- Do not pay any RI, District or RDU dues and hence do not count in membership numbers
- Cannot hold any club office or vote
- Are appointed at the discretion of the Board, so this can be for a limited period or reviewed annually or periodically.
Clubs are encouraged to think about the potential use of honorary memberships for their wider circle of supporters.
In all cases of change, Club Presidents and Boards should use their Assistant Governors as a sounding board or to seek specialist assistance. Sadly, our ageing demographic and size means that some clubs are dealing with the passing of outstanding Rotarians and partners. This is where the support of the club members comes in to support those grieving.
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