Editor’ Note: Some time ago I ask past District Governor Doug Mortin to write a commentary on “membership”.  As a result of my personal crisis this past summer I lost track of Doug’s piece and am only now catching up. The message is fortunately timeless. 

By Doug Morton

In the “Opinion” of a Past District Governor, Rotary shall live or die with “Membership”!

Each year, Rotary International declares the month of August as “Membership and Extension Month”; 30 days when Rotarians are encouraged to pay additional attention to the subject of membership. Many documents on the subject will be newly prepared or resurrected for us to view and hopefully become inspired to rush out and find folks waiting in our path to be invited to join us in Rotary. This phenomenon has yet to be experienced by me in any case!

Rotary’s membership statistics are a bit alarming. Internationally, we sit at 1,227,563 Rotarians in 34,103 Rotary clubs with 196,000 being women. These numbers have not significantly changed over the past 10 years.

Closer to home, District Governor Eva Vida’s March 31, 2011 membership analysis for D5550 indicates that during the first nine months of last Rotary year, 48 clubs in our district attracted 44 new members, almost one per club. Not too bad!

Members lost for various reasons during the same period were 43 leaving us with a net of one new Rotarian in our entire district among 48 clubs. Only 18 clubs generated a net increase of one or more members.  That was virtually offset by 14 clubs who had a net loss over the same period.  Meanwhile the remaining 16 clubs had no change in membership status at all.

So ……………., what do we do? Whose responsibility is it to attract and invite folks to join Rotary?

This is my “Opinion” and “to do” list that may make a positive difference in membership:

  • Is the culture of my club friendly & welcoming to each other every week, particularly to strangers and will I be proud to introduce it to a guest? If not, speak to members about your concerns and solicit their help. Every guest, speaker and non-Rotarian entering our club’s door is a potential new member!
  • What is my club involved with that will be of interest to my invited guest?
  • Does my club have an “active” Membership Committee of more than one Rotarian, meeting monthly who keeps membership matters top-of-mind among members monthly? RI’s Membership & Extension month of August is good however, if we are serious about increasing membership, our focus needs to be every month of the year.
  • Membership retention and growth requires the attention of the club leadership, however it is also the responsibility of each Rotarian.
  • It is simply a matter of “ask, ask, ask”.  As in any sales process be mindful that people will, by nature, lean toward automatically responding with a “no” answer. They can hardly wait for us to stop speaking so they can do that. So….. we must phase our question so that we get a “no” answer.  “Would you have any objection to accompanying me to my Rotary meeting? “No!” “Great we meet on Monday noon; I’ll pick you up at 11:30.”

Well, these are my ramblings and my “Opinion” about membership. In conclusion, success in growing our organization is the responsibility of each one of us; “If it is to be, it is up to me!”

Have a successful Rotary year in Membership!

Doug Mortin, PDG was Governor of Rotary District 5550 during 2005-2006