By John Borst and Richard Bosworth
With the new flexible membership and club meeting rules, approved at the 2016 Council on Legislation session, one has to wonder what a Rotary Club might look like 10 years from now.
Already under the current rules there are many clubs trying innovative strategies to build their club membership.
One such club is the Rotary Club of Harrogate Brigantes in the UK. The home page of their website has this intriguing sentence. “Welcome to the Rotary Club of Harrogate Brigantes an active, friendly and growing multi-lifestyle Club…”
Multi-lifestyle club, now what does that mean? Fortunately, I was able to contact Richard Bosworth, the “What if Forum” specialist at that club. This is what Richard shared:
Thanks for your feedback about my comments in the RI discussion group regarding our multi-lifestyle club.
About how our club works at the moment, it is fair to say that it is a work in progress.
The Catalysts, the business networking group meet weekly over breakfast and the traditional group, who I refer to as the Coffin Dodgers, meet in the evening for dinner.
You would instantly be at home with the Dodgers as it follows the normal Rotary format.
The Catalysts is a mixture of the best of commercial business networking group practices and those from Rotary.
The prospect proposition is, “Business Networking with a Social Conscience” and “A place for business and personal development”. The mix of Elevator Pitch, Business Show Case, Success Round, Business Transacted, Business Speakers and Community and Fund Raising Projects is attracting young, ambitious business entrepreneurs and owners. The structure of the group is slimmed down to fit the lifestyle of the members. Outside the meetings Emails, Texting, Facebook and Skype have replaced Committees.
There is an executive of three – the Chair, the business manager and a finance manager, with the Chair sitting on the Club Council.
The big impact of the Catalysts on the Club is a new user friendly website and fresh ways of raising funds using new technology.
Ten Catalysts raised £4K in four hours with a Jail Break, using smart phone technology and, then went on to raise £10K in one evening event promoted solely through social media. They then applied their media and technology know-how to almost double the income of the Clubs largest project.
They have added a whole new buzz to the Club and the spin-off is, transferees are making a beeline to join the Dodgers.
More “Lifestyle” Groups Planned
There are two more groups in the planning stage, the Coffeeshop Set – for young professional families and, the Roundabout Group based on the rejuvenated Buffalo Niagara Rotary Club.
Based on the Bridge Rotary Club of Maidenhead in the UK, the Coffeeshop set will meet on a Sunday morning at a local coffeeshop with the whole family welcome. The local coffeeshop owner, a non-Rotarian, is fully behind the scheme and eager to get it off the ground.
Our Evolving Club Management Model
How best to manage this new Club without upsetting the traditionalists has been an interesting challenge. Our answer is to create a ‘sun and planet’ structure. Each group runs itself as it feels most appropriate while reporting into a Club Board comprising the President, President Elect, Secretary, Treasurer and a representative from each group.
The members of the Board will be elected by the all the members of the Club. This means the Dodgers can keep their beloved Council and Committee structure with a Chair instead of a President and the other groups are free to govern themselves as they see fit.
The role of the board is to provide: strategic direction and leadership; ensure key operational and financial procedures are followed and standards maintained.
Proof that the change has been accepted and definitely the biggest benefit for the Club of forming the Catalysts is that the Club president-elect is a Catalysts member and his nomination was supported from across the whole Club.
Membership retention through the change process has been interesting. When we started, nearly three years ago, I estimated that we might lose up to ten members as we had previously lost twenty when the first woman was invited to join the Club. To date only one member has resigned over the changes although, in part his retirement and change in lifestyle was a big contributory factor.
One other development, a local Club is launching and eClub following our success at attracting the millennials.
Yours in Rotary
Clearly, Richard and the Rotarians at Harrogate Brigantes are well on the way to conceptualizing the future nature of what a Rotary Club might be by 2026.
Two years ago when as club president I suggested creating an extension of the club using eClub principles, it went nowhere. It is now time to revisit that idea and begin the transition to Bosworth’s “sun and planet’ or “nuclear model” of a Rotary club.