Making sure your club reflects your community

Ten years ago, the Rotary Club of Cupertino, California, USA, had about 100 members — nearly all of them white men. Today, it boasts a growing membership that better reflects its predominantly Asian community. How did the club do it?

“We made ourselves relevant to the community we serve,” says Past District Governor Don Allen, a member of the Cupertino club. The club’s membership, which has doubled, is now 27 percent Asian, 34 percent female, and 20 percent under age 50.

The club drew on its community leaders’ classification to attract Asian non-profit executives in the area.

“We also forged a relationship with the Shin Shin Educational Foundation and helped raise funds to refurbish rural schools in China,” Allen says. The club also worked with the Sankara Eye Foundation to provide eye surgeries in India, “and we became relevant to that community,” he adds.

Members of the Rotary Club of Amsterdam-Arena. Photo courtesy of The Rotary Club of Amsterdam-Arena.

Promoting member diversity is one of Rotary’s strategic goals, and is emphasized in the RI Statement on Diversity in the Rotary Code of Policies, which encourages clubs to reflect their community in professional and business classification, gender, age, religion, and ethnicity.

In Brazil, the Rotary Club of Resende-Campos Eliseos, Rio de Janeiro, has gained more female members by inviting couples to join. “It keeps our club balanced, plus members are already familiar with each other and Rotary,” says club president Renata Santos, a 30-year-old  Afro-Brazilian.

In Australia and New Zealand, an initiative is underway to increase female club membership to 40 percent by 2015. Strategies include highlighting prominent female Rotarians, creating satellite clubs, and encouraging female members to recruit their friends, relatives, and colleagues.

Another approach is launching culturally based clubs. Don Kremer, a past governor of District 5230 (California) who helped start the Rotary clubs of Fresno Latino and Monterey Korean, notes: “We have a great opportunity to develop new members while helping our communities.”

Reprinted from the March 2012 | Vol. 2, Issue 5 of Rotary Leader