August is Membership Month.

This except is taken from the 2007 August issue of “The Rotarian” 

Number one job: recruit

By Tiffany Woods   

It seems that one of the easiest things to do as a Rotarian is to recruit new club members. After all, what could be simpler than inviting someone to your club’s next meeting? But sometimes it’s not that easy. So for inspiration and motivation, here are some winning tips, including real-life examples of what has worked and what some clubs are hoping will work, as well as one report of a secret poker game somewhere in New Hampshire.

Rekindle old relationships

Remember that spunky 16-year-old your club sent to Ireland 14 years ago as a Rotary Youth Exchange student? You know, the one who now runs her own business organizing tours to the Emerald Isle? But wait – you don’t know that, because your club lost touch with her. Look her up, and ask if she’d like to become a Rotarian. Who knows, she might bring a little luck o’ the Irish to your recruiting efforts. But don’t stop there. Contact alumni your club or district has sponsored or nominated for Rotary International and Rotary Foundation programs, including former Group Study Exchange participants, Interactors, Rotaractors, Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholars, and Rotary World Peace Fellows. Angela Forthun knows what happens when Rotary clubs remember their alumni. She studied Japanese in Osaka, Japan, on a Cultural Ambassadorial Scholarship from the Foundation, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Glen Waverley, Australia. “I was 31 years old at the time,” she says, “and on my return was approached by two Rotary clubs to become a member but in June 1999 was inducted as a member of the Rotary Club of Glen Waverley.”

Put new members to work

Encourage new Rotarians to nominate another new club member within their first year of joining. Loren Kuehne’s club, the Rotary Club of Las Cruces (Rio Grande), N.M., USA, tried and still uses this approach. “After holding a membership development drive, we had all new members sign a pledge to propose a new member within three to six months of joining the club,” he says. “We followed up with the new members and reminded them of their promise. As a result, we doubled our membership from 33 to 67 between 2002 and 2006.”

Get carded

When Joe Dino was governor of District 7490 (New Jersey, USA) in 2004-05, he asked clubs in his district to hand out cards at fundraisers to invite people to attend one of their weekly meetings at the club’s expense. He also encouraged Rotarians to keep a couple of the cards in their pockets in case they ran across a potential recruit. The cards, which his district’s clubs still hand out, say Be My Guest and include the day, time, and location of club meetings, as well as a blank line to write the host club member’s name. “That’s the best way to bring them in,” says Dino, a regional RI membership coordinator and a member of the Rotary Club of Paterson, N.J., USA. He estimates that since 2004, about 150 people in his district have become Rotarians as a result of receiving these cards.

Wear your Rotary pins

“Hey, Bob, what’s that on your lapel?” “I’m glad you asked, Paul. It’s a Rotary pin. Are you familiar with Rotary?” OK, so it sounds like a scripted dialogue with B-list actors in a corporate training video, but you get the point: Wearing your pin affords you more opportunities to pitch Rotary. Just ask Mark Flegel, of the Rotary Club of Menlo Park, Calif., USA. He was wearing his Rotary pin at an awards dinner hosted by a local hotel and chamber of commerce when he struck up a conversation with Jonathan Farrington, who noticed the pin. He told Farrington about Rotary and later called him up to invite him to visit his club. In December 2005, Farrington was inducted into the Menlo Park club. Now, Farrington says, he proudly wears his own pin.

Find your competitive spirit

There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to motivate people. In 1995-96, clubs in District 6580 (Indiana, USA) used football as an inspiration to increase membership. The clubs divided their members into teams of 10, and each team was charged with nominating potential members. Teams received one point for nominating a candidate and six points if the candidate was inducted. Just like in the National Football League, teams with the most points advanced through a playoff cycle until one was named champion. The district ended the year with a net gain of nearly 150 new club members. And the winning team? Peggy’s Panthers from the Rotary Club of New Albany.

Honk if you love Rotary

Marty Peters, a 2006-07 RI membership zone coordinator, has a bumper sticker on his convertible that reads, Good-bye Polio – Thanks Rotary. Here’s what inevitably happens when he’s at a gas station or a parking lot: “Someone asks about the bumper sticker,” he explains, “and I say, ‘I don’t have time now, but here’s my business card. Give me your card. How about lunch next Thursday? I’d like to introduce you to some of my crazy friends.’ And then what I do is, I follow up with a simple phone call. I’ll say something like, ‘I hated to be rude to you at the gas station. Let’s meet next Thursday. I’ll pick you up.’” Peters, a member of the Rotary Club of Del Mar, Calif., estimates that in the last seven years, at least 30 people have become Rotarians in his club or clubs in his area as a result of seeing his bumper sticker.

Recycle The Rotarian

You’ve read the most recent issue of The Rotarian, and now it’s under a pile of magazines on your coffee table. Gasp! Worse yet, when you tidy up, some of you may even consider tossing the magazine into the trash. Stop. Think about recycling. No, not in the bin. Recycle your old magazines by passing them out to friends, or keep them on hand to give to club visitors, speakers, and prospective members. Attach a letter from your club’s president that lists projects and activities along with contact information. Also, ask club members to place back issues of The Rotarian in their office waiting rooms or lobbies. Or be like the Rotary Club of Exeter, N.H., USA, and leave a copy at your library.

Go door to door

“By going outside your comfort zone, you can discover many men and women who would make good Rotarians,” says Bob Kelley, an RI membership zone coordinator and member of the Rotary Club of Selma, Ala., USA. “Just before becoming club president, I realized how many businesses I had never stopped into because I might not have needed to wallpaper a room or practice martial arts.” For months, Kelley made a point of going into every store in town that he’d never visited, and as a result, seven new members joined his club.

Invite, inform, induct

The Rotary Club of Driffield, England, invited 40 prospective club members to a dinner and informational meeting. More than a third of the invitees attended, and eight joined the club. In South Africa, the Rotary Club of Pretoria-Hatfield organized a  “get to know Rotary” evening that featured talks and videos about community, vocational, and international projects. As a result, four people joined.

Set up a task force

Membership in the Rotary Club of Loughborough, England, was falling. So the club created a special team of six Rotarians charged with recruiting club members. The team started a database of 140 potential candidates and invited 25 to lunch. Eleven ended up joining.

Remember former Rotarians

For some ex-members, circumstances change. Reasons for leaving the club, such as a lack of time, may no longer be valid, and they may be keen on rejoining. Check in with them. Charles Grant is glad his Rotary club did. Grant joined the Rotary Club of North Shore (Houston), Texas, USA, in 1980, when he was selling fire and safety equipment. But in 1983, he had to leave the club because his job classification changed when he went to work at a local community college. At the time, clubs were supposed to have only one person in each job classification. In 1987, though, he was invited to rejoin the club under a rule that said if a club member held a job classification for 15 years, the club could invite someone else to join with the same classification. And if he hadn’t been asked to rejoin? “I guess I wouldn’t have been a Rotarian,” says Grant, who chaired Rotary International’s Rotaract Committee in 2005-06.

President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson’s Message on Membership

August 2007 The Rotarian

Dear fellow Rotarians,

In Rotary, August is the month we set aside to focus on membership. It’s appropriate that this time occurs at the beginning of the Rotary year, because everything that happens in Rotary begins with membership.When I speak at Rotary gatherings, I often tell the story of how I was invited into the organization. I was new in my town of Trenton, Ont., Canada, and my wife, Joan, and I hadn’t yet met many people. We were active in our church and in the Boy Scouts, so it probably would have just been a matter of time before we were asked to join a service group. And as it happened, I was invited to a Rotary club meeting.

Rotary seemed like a good place for someone like me to meet like-minded people. I talked about it with Joan, and we both thought it could lead to some new friends, and possibly a good chance to do some worthwhile community service. I thought I might even attract some new clients to my fledgling accounting practice. So, when I was invited to join, I did.Now, 45 years later, that decision has shaped our lives. I thought I was joining a club. Really, I was joining one part of an organization that strengthens communities, improves health, creates possibilities, saves lives, and makes the world better in too many ways to count, every single day.

So many things I’ve seen as a Rotary leader have made me proud to be a Rotarian. But I know that being proud is not sufficient. We must share our pride with colleagues, friends, and family members, and we must seek out qualified men and women whom we’ll be proud to see as Rotarians.A new generation of Rotarians is essential to every club, and to Rotary. In some parts of the world, our clubs are thriving, and new ones are forming. But in others, clubs are aging and doing little to attract new members. As members leave, there is no one to replace them – and when a club disappears, there is no one to take on the work that’s left undone.

All of us know that when we ask someone to join Rotary, we are not imposing a burden. We are giving a gift. We are sharing with another person the wonderful, amazing force that is Rotary, just as Rotary Shares with us.

So I urge each of you, this very week, as proud Rotarians, to share Rotary with a qualified individual. Submit the name of at least one prospective member, and if approved, ask that person to join – just as someone did for me, and just as someone did for you.

Wilfrid J. (Wilf) Wilkinson

President, Rotary International


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