About the Author

Who is Robyn
Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

Rotary Speaker
Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

Free Content for #Rotary and NFP Use
Please use any posts for Rotary District or club Newsletters. Include the profile at the bottom of each article, Robyn's headshot and a link to this blogsite. Let him know and he'll promote it to his social media followers.

Contact him at robyn@unimarkcreative.com

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Six Step Plan for Sustainable Rotary Club Growth

What will rocket your club to new
heights in membership growth!
Written by Robyn T. Braley

Membership growth is a primary focus for every service organization.

However, the challenge is not growth for growth sake. The challenge is to achieve sustainable growth to ensure long-term viability..  

Rotary Club growth requires a commitment by its' members to share their passion for living out the mission of the organization with others. As we know, enthusiasm is contagious.

I know what question is on your mind. "Is there a magic bullet that will propel my Rotary Club to unprecedented growth?"

Probably not! Sustainable growth is seldom that easy. It is a process that takes time.

And, the 'sustainable' part is hardest. Put simply, if your club has an influx of new members, will they become integrated and stay? 

New members add vitality and energy. The way they are nurtured and helped to blend into the life of your club impacts it's future. 

Why is that important? Because the work Rotary does in serving others is too important not to continue doing it through future generations. 

An Integrated Approach
Imagine that your club has initiated an image campaign using social and mainstream media. If attracting new members is the primary goal, you must have a plan to engage them. In other words, a plan to 'connect,' introduce the idea of Rotary and cause them to ask for more information.

Let's say you've done that. Curiosity has been aroused and several visitors will attend your next meeting. What will they think? What will their first impression be? 

  1. Will first impressions be positive or negative?
  2. Are your clubs website, brochures, social media and PR professionally branded and engaging?
  3. Do service projects intersect with member interests and passions?
  4. Are your meetings, or gatherings, relevant, organized and packed with value?
  5. Is there an intentional and focused program to care for new and existing members?
Think of it this way. If you were not already a Rotarian, would you join your club based on the way you might be welcomed and made to feel valued? Would you take the next step based on your first impression? 

My point is this. It doesn't matter how successful your mainstream or social media campaign is in profiling your club if potential members don't have a positive 'customer experience' when they visit. The 'Rotary' discussion will be over.   

Your Ideas and Experience Count

The sun never sets on the Rotary world. The analytics for this blogsite tells me people - Rotarians and non-Rotarians - from around the world will read this post.

Wherever you are in the world, your local culture and unique needs will shape how your club approaches growth and sustainability. Further, each club within specific cities or regions is  distinctive. While some of my suggestions may be universally applied, others may not work in your situation.

Change Requires Authenticity and Positive Attitudes

Bringing about organizational change requires open minds and the willingness to try new ideas. It begins by haveing a general agreement on what the problems are.

When I do Creative Problem Solving sessions with company teams, I ban negative thinking by taking the group through the list below. While it is meant as a fun exercise, there are always a few nervous looks at the bah-humbug people in the room.

Focus on what you CAN do rather than on what you CAN'T! 

Step 1 – Creating a Culture of Engagement

Shift the focus of your club from looking inward to looking outward. In other words, develop a sales and marketing culture within your membership.

How does that work? Simply put,
"Ask what your club can offer potential members rather than asking what they can offer your club. In sales terms, how can you meet the needs of potential members? What are they looking for?"

It’s a mental thing. If existing members aren’t actively looking for prospects, they may never see them. When you create a culture of engagement, members begin to identify potential Rotarians among people they see every day. 

More Info 

Step 2 - Increasing Community Awareness

Before launching into a membership marketing program, doing a brand audit will provide helpful information. Ask this simple question. Who are we now, and who do we want to be in the future? 

What is a brand? A brand is what others - members, potential members, suppliers, media, collaborative partners - think it is! It is that simple. 

What do they think about your club? What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Are tweaks necessary? 

For background, read the most popular post on the BTRB site.
Read This

As members become active ambassadors, give them tools to work with. Prospective Rotarians become Rotarians through conversations with current Rotarians. Raising Club awareness makes those conversations easier.

  1. An easy-to-use brochure that is specific to your club and organized into a sales format  
  2. A website that is engaging and vibrant – designed with non-Rotary online visitors in mind
  3. A professional powerpoint running before and during meetings that profiles service projects, fellowship, upcoming speakers, past speakers and includes inspirational sayings.
  4. Social media channels that offer value to visitors; not just for announcing meetings 
  5. An enews program to keep in contact with past speakers, visitors, suppliers, collaborative partners, etc.

More Info

Step 3. Meetings that Engage and Connect

At some point, a potential new member will attend a meeting for the first time. Are your meetings visitor friendly? 

All the publicity, networking, or community engagement in the world won’t help grow your club if visitors don’t feel welcome and attracted to your members and your meetings. 

Do  meetings offer value and opportunities to grow as people, professionals and friends?

If not, one-time visitors will not become two, three and four-time visitors who eventually become members.

You may need to change the location, time-of-day, meal prices and context of your meetings to make them more appealing to target groups. These elements are all part of your brand.

Do you have traditional meetings, or informal gatherings? Millennials love ‘gathering’ and connecting though not always in the traditional ‘meeting’ sense. 

Two years ago, I wrote 8 posts packed full of ideas that will help to improve your meeting content and presentation. If you look on the right-hand side of your screen, you will note posts about meetings are ranked 4 out of the top 10 in readership. 

Check This

Step 4. Service Project Alignment

I feel very fortunate to belong to the Calgary West Rotary Club. Our club is engaged in a wide variety of local and world service projects. We are blessed to have members who share a passion for making a difference.

Some believe new members become fully engaged in the mission of Rotary the day they see the light of hope in the eyes of someone receiving much needed food, health care, education, clothing or one of many other acts of service by Rotarians. It's true. It happens. 

There are also situations where members were enthusiastic about humanitarian service, were committed to making a difference, but still left their club. Many felt they did not feel they received value from other club activities. Many didn't feel there was a place for them. Some felt taken advantage of as their volunteer load increased.

Homes of Hope - Rotarians from District 5360
 building homes for the poorest of the poor in Mexico
When service projects aren't aligned with club interests, frustrations can fester. Doing the same old projects for the same old reasons may not reflect curent member interests.

For example, if your club is growing, there is a good possibility the average member age of your club is lowering. Younger people deep into careers can't volunteer for service during weekdays. 

  1. Do projects align with member passions and capabilities?
  2. Does your club fund projects just because you always have?
  3. Do you balance volunteer action with organization funding?
  4. Do you access Rotary Foundation matching grants?

Step 5. Develop a Member Care Program

Most Rotary clubs have a membership committee focused on recruiting. Few clubs have a committee focused entirely on member retention. Why not ask committee members to only focus on this avenue of service? It is that important. 

Engagement levels are governed by time of life, health concerns, family demands, financial restraints, career changes, changing interests and other dynamics. There is seldom a single reason why Rotarians leave or stay engaged in their club.

Membership Care is about walking alongside new members and not rushing them into leadership roles before they are ready. It is giving them time to grow into their Rotary experience.

It is also about keeping in contact with existing members. Member Care  conversations do not include requests "to do" something more within the club. 

New members, especially in smaller clubs, are sometimes placed into roles where they become frustrated or feel overwhelmed. They think their only option is to leave the club.

An Organized Program of Caring

Sales professionals know exactly what a Customer Management System. Why not introduce a CMS into your club and make methodical engagement of all members a core value of you club? Just google CMS and a number of free programs will come up.  

A care program must not be overly aggressive, annoying or invade personal space or privacy. However, in most cases, new and long-time members alike will welcome genuine interest, caring and being valued.

As a quick test, answer these questions. 
  1. Can you account for the current status of every member on your club roster?
  2. Is there an organized program for connecting with every member in every quarter? 
  3. Do existing members go out of their way to get to know new members?
  4. Are social activities for the sole purpose of building relationships and having fun actively promoted?
  5. Does your club have a mentor or buddy program that is organized and accountable?
  6. Are new members given opportunities to tell their story in meetings – career and life experience?
  7. Is there flexibility in payment of dues and other costs?
  8. Does your club have a leadership development program that is defined and fully transparent?

Make it Fun 

A few months after writing this post I wrote an article proposing ways to have fun in ways that build relationships. Some of the content evolved through hearing Past District 5060 Governor Jim Adamson lead a seminar called Membership, Priority #1. 

Jim's premise is this. Rotarians stay Rotarians because of relationships. While some join expecting to dive into service projects, others join for reasons like friendship, networking or to grow as people and professionals.

As relationships grow, he suggests, developing a passion for serving others through humanitarian projects or club service will also evolve. So let's start with fun and get to know each other.

Other fun content was influenced by conversations within my Calgary West team of about 15 people. We are exploring ways to engage more of our members. 

Click for Great Ideas

Build Your Rotary Club Through Building Healthy Relationships

Step 6. Sustainable Growth

If you have made changes in Step 1 through 5, you will undoubtedly see positive results. The key is to adjust and adapt each year and continue the program over the long term. 

What do you think? What has your club done to stimulate growth? What does your club do to retain members? Do you have tips? I want to hear from you. Please comment below.  

Robyn Braley is a brand specialist, professional speaker and writer. He is also a Rotarian who is passionate about Building the Rotary Brand. He has led two teams that received the Rotary International PR Award. He has also served as the PR Chair for District 5360. He often speaks at Rotary clubs, conferences and leadership development assemblies. He currently serves on the District Membership Committee.

Contact Robyn

Email: robyn@robyntbraley.com   Connect on LinkedIn Follow on Twitter: @rtbraley_rotary 

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