Growing your club is a constant challenge. Adopting a system will make the process of attracting new members more focused and efficient. 

Written by Robyn T. Braley, Rotarian, Brand Specialist, Writer, and Speaker
New members are the lifeblood of Rotary. They add passion, energy, and a renewed sense of vision. They remind long-time members why they do what they do. 

When you become a Rotarian, Rotary becomes a new chapter in your life story! You discover that changing lives and building communities is as exciting as it is motivational. As you discover a new purpose, you find how easy it easy to make a remarkable difference in people's lives. 
As your story grows, you want to share it! That often happens on a casual basis when the subject of what Rotary is and what Rotarians do comes up in conversations. 
Reversing Attrition
But, in some clubs, the rate of attrition is higher than the rate of inducting new members. We need to be more aggressive in member attraction. 
But how do you identify and engage prospective members? An organized structure brings focus and predictability to the process. 

In my keynote address, 'Building the Rotary Brand in a Post-Pandemic World,' I outline a structured plan for identifying and attracting new members. 

Above all, it must engage prospects by emphasizing the relevance, value, and positive experiences Rotary offers. Every day Rotarians around the world give hope to millions of people through some form of service. 
I remember a club President making a plea to our members to find new Rotarians. He explained it this way.
"Our members are getting too old! We're overworked and must find new members in order to meet our service obligations."
The President's voice had a tone of panic mixed with angst! I'm certain any visitors to the meeting who may have been considering Rotary made a hasty exit. 
Shifting the Focus
The key to sustainable club growth is to shift the focus from meeting the club's needs to those of prospective members. People become Rotarians for different reasons. It is a very personal decision. If you don't know a person, begin a conversation that will lead to a relationship. Sometimes those conversations evolve in minutes and sometimes over years. The trick is to not be pushy but be ready when the time is right. 
The classic relationship funnel goes like this. 
  1. You meet someone and feel you know them
  2. You get to know them and discover you like them
  3. As you get to like them more, you trust them
  4. Trust leads to engagement. 

What Prospects Look For 

• Meaning 
• Relevance
• Acceptance
• Value 
• Engagement 
• Service
• Relationships
• Personal and professional growth 
• Mentoring, networking 

Service is Alive and Well

The good news in this story is that the ideal of service is very much alive in all age groups. We see it in Roteract, Interact, RYLA, and family members who volunteer for club projects.
A few years ago, Southern Alberta was hit by a devastating flood. 

The day after the flood, I stood at McMahon Stadium with 2,500 volunteers who had responded within hours to the first call for help. Traditional and social media had summoned each of us. Most were younger, with only a few grey heads like mine.
The organizers were overwhelmed by the large crowd and didn't know what to do. They had expected 1-200 at best! They didn't even have a sound system big enough to communicate with us.

All were ready to serve, but no one knew what to do. There were also lingering questions; 
  • Would we be exposed to health or safety risks? 
  • Would we be distributing food and water? 
  • Would we be rescuing survivors? 
  • Would we be recovering victims? 
That was when our Mayor, Naheed Nenshi, took a hand-held bullhorn and challenged us to go and help neighbours. He urged us to do what we could with what we had until crisis response systems could be properly mobilized! And, THAT is what thousands of people did. 

My point is this! Most of the crowd was younger and viewed service as an opportunity rather than a duty. They were there because they cared.

Of course, Rotary organized a tremendous response that included clubs from District 5360, clubs from other districts, and Rotary International. But, that's another story. 

Give it A Name

The idea that club members are consistently approaching potential new ones throughout the year is the dream. However, that drive is difficult to sustain. Identifying a period like the months or May or October gives the program a beginning and an end.  
Giving your campaign a name will raise the profile of the exercise and make it easy to keep it before your members. Here are samples. 
  • Rotary Advance
  • Capacity Building
  • Share Rotary
  • Together We Grow

Brainstorm a Prospect List

Ask each member to brainstorm a list of potential members. Challenge them to keep a 'scratch' list close by to add random names. 

The brainstorming process works best when you free-flow ideas. Don't delete any names. While a particular name may not be a genuine prospect, it may lead you to think of another person who is. It's a form of mind mapping. 

Where Do You Find Them 
Write each of these descriptions as a heading across the top of a piece of paper. Under each, write names that come to your mind. In my presentation, BTRB, I give examples of Rotarians who joined my club that fit each of these categories. 
  • Business Networks
  • Personal networks
  • Community networks
  • Out-of-town transfers
  • Collaborative partners - suppliers, NFP's, funding partners 
  • Service projects
  • Immediate and extended family
  • Marketing - Social media, website, events, traditional media
Create a Persona

As your list develops, create a prospective profile, also called a persona, for each one.
Who are they?
  1. What do they do?
  2. Where do they live and play?
  3. What are their biggest concerns, needs or interests?
The Ultimate Recruiter
One of my good friends is a dentist, Tony Knight. He reached deep into every area of his life to invite friends, patients, and acquaintances to join our club. In fact, he was influential in attracting 25 new members during an 18-month period. 
He had a passion and drive that was hard to resist. He also had real-life stories about people he had personally seen being helped by Rotary. 

I never asked if he had ever posed the question about Rotary while patients sat in his chair with mouths wide open, watching him move ever closer with those giant tooth extractors.

Did they wonder what would happen if they said no? He does have a great sense of humour!

The End

Robyn Braley is a Rotarian, brand specialist, writer and speaker. From 2014 to 2018 he wrote monthly posts for the blog site Building the Rotary Brand. The series has been brought back at the request of the District Learning Committee. Each month we'll share ideas and tips for growing your local club. 
Future Articles
  • Make Meetings Culturally Relevant
  • Meetings as a Marketing Tool
  • Easy Club Marketing Tools
  • Zoom Calls! Look and Sound like a Pro
  • More