Thursday, June 13, 2013

Either Get On The Cart Or Go To The Mattresses!

Membership is a major concern for most, if not all, Rotary clubs and new ideas seem to be presented on a regular basis on how to attract new members (especially young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s). Unfortunately, many clubs can hear Eric Idle’s chanting from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” ringing in their ears. What we must do in response is to persevere and let people know “I’m getting better… I feel happy.”

I am not going to waste your time saying I have the answer and I am not going to tell you what is the right way or wrong way to attract members. The purpose of this post is to help you organize and set the ground work for an effective membership drive during the next Rotary year which is approaching fast.

Many of the building blocks outlined below mirror the fundamentals reviewed in my post last week because that is exactly what they are… fundamentals. The following seven steps have been specifically selected as they can be applied to all clubs regardless of geography, size, and financial health.  

1.      Know Your Club – As I have said before, you need to analyze each of the items mentioned in the previous paragraph and see where your strengths and weaknesses are. By knowing the members of your club, their professions, their capabilities, and their interests you can better focus the direction of the club not only with regard to service projects but also in how to proceed in pursuing members and how the responsibilities for that task would be best divided.

2.      Review Demographics – This is not only the other half of the equation in finding the most appropriate service projects but it is also essential in properly pursuing members. Determine the average age and income of the community. Understand what kind of businesses are the most prevalent. Find out what kind of events and speakers garner the greatest attendance in the area. Basically, know the people around you and coordinate your membership initiatives accordingly.

3.      Be Ready To Sell – Just like any sales force, make sure your members are informed. Make sure there is a working knowledge in place regarding all aspects of Rotary and specifically what the club does for the community. Don’t be timid about letting people know you are a Rotarian… this can be achieved simply by making sure your members wear their Rotary pin every day and encouraging members to be open and ready to talk about Rotary when someone asks.  

4.      Focus On Service, Not Food – Now that your clubs service efforts are in sync with both the abilities of the membership and the needs of the community, invite perspective members to participate. We can’t lose track of why we are Rotarians. We are not a club for foodies. We are a service organization. After all, it’s not about the dealership, it’s about the car.

5.      Be Honest and Be Flexible – When a prospect asks you a question be up front with them… we each need to be the embodiment of the four way test. At the same time, speak up and encourage new and perspective members to do the same. If something isn’t working for you discuss it with your fellow Rotarians because, in this instance, silence is the absence of truth. This facilitates an ongoing evaluation of the club… do you still meet at the best time, place, day? Are their new skills available to the club or any other service projects that a new person is particularly passionate about? Make sure everyone is part of the process.

6.      Communication and Networking – How does your club best communicate with one another? How do you communicate with other clubs? You have to know the basics of communications. If no one in your club uses social media then it is useless to post information only pertinent to members on Facebook. With that said, every club should have all lines of communication available to members and prospects ranging from a mailing address to a twitter account. Communication is essential to the networking capabilities of the club and is the key to the overall structure of the community and media relations efforts. The club needs to be open to the public because where else do your members come from?

7.      Make Your Presence KnownRotary has proven that good PR leads to an increase in membership. Just as each member’s voice should be heard within the club so too should the club’s voice be heard in the community. In order to magnify the club’s efforts a single point of contact, a public relations chair (if you have not done so thus far) should be appointed and all members (officers in particular) should support their efforts by continuously communicating with the chair. A record of your club’s service, achievements, and guest speakers (past, present, and future of each) should be readily available to everyone, Rotarians and non Rotarians (or as I like to say Rotarians and future Rotarians) by way of your club’s social media accounts and, when possible, through traditional media placements. And remember, when it comes to events and announcements, don’t underestimate the power of a press release. 

Is this list perfect? No. There is always something that can be added and there are always essential details that need to be tailored to your club. Are these steps guaranteed to work? No. But they will provide you with the basics. This is not a how to article; this is a way to formulate your own plan. What if it doesn’t work? Try something else. Are we going to give up and let the pessimistic voices win? Heck NO!

We represent the community, we represent Rotary International, and we represent our fellow Rotarians. We are not a group that simply gives up because we can see what happens when we persevere… ask yourself the following questions, how many cases of Polio have been reported this year? How many cases were there before 1985?

The work speaks for itself. We must rise and continue to fight. And if all else fails, go to the mattresses!