Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's the Economy, Stupid! & Its Effect on Rotary Club Membership!

I share some insights from Judy Beard Strubing, RRIMC for Zone 23, on the recent economic downturn and the pressure it is placing on Rotary Clubs in the membership area. This is equally applicable to us in Zone 33!  

We’re hearing reports that some areas of North America are experiencing resignations from Rotary due to the economy.  Because the reports we get from RI are often delayed, we have no way of checking to see if this is true for the districts in our Zone.  (We're also advised that another aspect of this is that we may experience a pull back in giving to TRF.)

This is one of those critical times to work together.  I'm asking seven things of you..........

1.  Please check the district records to see if the economic situation is affecting membership numbers in your district.  Are there areas that are being particularly hard hit?  Industries that are being affected?

2. Talk with the clubs about sensitivity to those who might be feeling the pinch because of company cutbacks. Offer ways to help the clubs identify those who may potentially leave and be sure those members feel their membership has value and a special meaning to them - i.e. engagement and involvement.  (Businesses may also begin to cut expenses and may not subsidize their employee's dues and/or sponsorship of Rotary events.  This could have a huge effect on our clubs. )

3. Consider the "New Generations" or “After Five” model in setting up new clubs, which can mean a less expensive approach to meals and venue.  Some clubs may also wish to consider converting to this model.

4. Be creative!  Dues are not the big expense – food, fines and contributions tend to be what our members find expensive.  Consider some of the following:

·        5th meeting of the month – “brown bag” at the business of one of the members – make it a Vocational Day.

·        Meet and eat with Interact Club at school – good for connection and communication with our young future Rotarians and school lunches are cheap!

·        Picnic at a local park during the summer.

·        Are there less expensive meeting venues?  How about Churches or other town meeting halls?  Meals can be “brown bag” or Sub sandwiches.

·        Talk with the restaurant about simpler lunches, i.e. soup and sandwich.

·        Re-evaluate “fining.”  Ask each member twice a year for their estimate of personal club fines for that period.  Encourage “Happy Dollars” as an alternative.

·        Look for hands-on projects to give members alternatives to just writing checks.

·        Consider setting up “Rotary First Harvest” as a district/club project – great for hands-on and community involvement.

·        Consider joint project with County Extension (or whatever group in your community) to teach young families how to do things for themselves: gardening, canning, sewing, home repairs, carpentry (all the things our schools are no longer able to teach.)

·        Big Foundation Gala a tradition?  Consider instead a “Subsistence” Dinner (based on a typical Third World meal) with a minimum donation for dinner, but a great program inviting contributions to TRF.  Money goes to TRF instead of to a fancy meal and evening for the attendees.

 5.  Friendship and socializing is an important part of Retention.  Plan simple monthly events, i.e. “First Friday” – keep it inexpensive and be creative.

    • BYOB drinks and appetizers
    • Potluck dinners
    • Desserts and games
    • Super Bowl Chili Party at one of members’ home (or several homes if your club is larger.)
    • Mystery dinners
    • High School ball games
    • Costume parties
    • Access to a farm?  Hayrides, barn dance
    • Pumpkin Carving party
    • Christmas Tree cutting with hot cocoa and cookies afterward
    • Divide into 12 groups and each group draws a month for which they’re responsible in coming up with a fun and inexpensive social event.

6. Keep your radar tuned to any signs of difficulty.

7. Call your RRIMC for assistance, information or ideas -- that's my job!

If we approach this in a proactive way, we may cause a member to put resigning from Rotary or cutting on Foundation giving further down on that list of where they will cut corners!  


Bevin Wall said...

An idea to counteract attrition from D5160:

Concord CA Rotary has set up a program called "Shoulder to Shoulder" for proven (their word) Rotarians who have fallen on hard times. The term is six months, renewable one time for another six months. Dues and meal costs are waived, in turn the Rotarian has to commit to attendance and participation in club projects and activities.

The thought is that the loyalty will be rewarded when the participants get back on their feet.

Bevin Wall said...

This is a real issue affecting Rotarians at the Club level.

There are a number of "Family of Rotary" year inspired programs that stress club interactivity, sensitivity to a member's problems, and and member-to-member contact. For example see PDG Jay Kapner's "We Care" Program from District 7730 at Care - District 7730.doc.

The time is now to resurrect some of these programs in Rotary Clubs to reach out to those in need.