Like most service and civic organizations in the
Due to major industries permanently closing their doors and still more jobs lost due to downsizing, business mergers and consolidations, many of our members were relocating to other cities and states. Sadly, we also began to lose increasing numbers of our long-time, dedicated Rotarians through death.
District 7370 was identified by the RI Board of Directors as not meeting the new minimum membership number requirement as set by the Council On Legislation of 1,000 minimum members. We had been encouraged to increase our membership for a decade but suddenly the District was in serious trouble.
The first “official” notice letter came in April 2005. The Secretariat sent an official notice requesting two things: First, our Plan of Action outlining how we would improve our membership numbers, and Second, our plan of consolidation for clubs to join surrounding districts should we fail to reach the 1,000 member mark.
From 2005 through 2007, our district and clubs focused on membership. We held membership seminars, talked about how to recruit new members and how retain our current members and emphasized membership growth in our newsletters. Yet it seemed that no matter how hard we worked-- more members were leaving than we brought in!
As the 2007-08 Rotary year began, a direct and to the point letter was received from the Re-Districting Committee. While we had all felt the “threat” of losing our District family before, this time we knew Re-Districting was an imminent possibility. This letter asked our Governor not what our membership growth plan was, but what our preferences were in the merging of clubs to surrounding Districts.
We Take Action To Save Our District!
Meeting with our Governor, the PDGs surveyed the membership reports. While membership had been one of our highest priorities, and we had worked hard, now we needed a whole lot more… and we needed positive results within six months! We decided not to submit a letter of merger and instead dug in our heels and decided to make a difference.
We had tried membership recruitment and retention but this time we added the third part of the membership calculation – EXTENSION.
A map of our geographic region was laid out. US Census figures were researched. The evaluation of possible sites for new club extension became our priority. Seven locations were identified as good extension possibilities with four selected as the best choices to get the project rolling.
Visits were made to the targeted locales. A meeting location had to be identified. “Seed” members needed to be identified. Day of the week and time of the meeting had to be set. Concerns had been heard that dinner meetings took too much time away from the family and breakfast meetings were impossible to attend and get to work on time. The expense of meals was also a concern, so we knew we must address meeting times as well as reducing the cost of becoming a member.
Working on the first locale, it was quickly identified that an “after hours” club would be the best idea. Members could stop on their way home from work, participate in a meeting with a light dinner, snacks or appetizers and be home to spend time with the family. This idea was a hit! The Lewisburg Sunset Rotary Club began meeting in October and by December 14th had added enough members to submit paperwork for chartering with 35 new members! (Note: This club was added in a town of 15,000 people with two active clubs in existence: breakfast and dinner. This proves the point: potential Rotarians are available, and are just waiting for the right time slot!)
We Can and Do Grow Our Membership!
The most interesting thing happened along the way… other clubs began to change their outlook. It almost felt like the dark storm cloud of re-districting had been replaced with a very positive karma. All of the clubs began to bring in new members. Assistant Governors jumped into action and promoted membership both in the new provisional clubs and in existing clubs. Weekly and sometimes daily membership count updates were emailed to all clubs. Clubs competed to see who could bring in the most new Rotarians. The clubs began to hold membership recruitment activities like they had not done in years, emphasizing fun activities along with Rotary club information. Some of these included:
· Wine tastings
· Football tailgate parties
· Open Houses
District 7370 Turns the Tide
The tide was changing in our little District. By the end of December, half way into the Rotary year, our District had shown positive membership growth, we had shown Rotary International that we were still “viable.” Suddenly our statistics began leading the Zone 31/32 region, later leading the
Mifflinburg began meeting in late fall of 2007. They worked together, often bringing telephone books and brainstorming about other business owners and professionals to bring into their club. With dedication and true commitment, they submitted charter paperwork on
Forty-five minutes north of the Mifflinburg and Lewisburg Sunset clubs, yet another club was underway. This region, known for Little League World Series, has a population of well over 40,000, but had only one lunchtime club and one breakfast club. When two professionals had to leave the breakfast club due to business time constraints, they were the first to admit that an after hours club would work for them and many of their friends. That’s how the
Currently, our fourth provisional club is working very hard to find members. As extension chair, the job became more than one person could handle. A co-chair was named and an Extension Committee is being formed. It is imperative that positive-minded, can-do attitude committee members be assigned to the clubs to help them grow and become their own entity.
As the clubs were adding new members, we sent out bold and colorful e-mail communications to keep our Rotarians informed and up to date on our the progress… brightly colored letters announced the clubs who were adding members. As we neared the end of 2007, and again as we neared the end of the Rotary year on June 30th we kept everyone informed of our growth progress. Three new clubs were chartered AND positive enthusiasm grew in all of our clubs! 35 (Lewisburg Sunset) + 22 (Mifflinburg) + 22 (River Valley-Loyalsock) PLUS renewed enthusiasm and excitement generated amongst all clubs = District 7370 success. Everyone took ownership in their club and our district and with renewed enthusiasm, everyone has worked together to achieve this fantastic goal. And – watch out, we’re not done yet! We have identified ten more towns that need Rotary Clubs!
International Membership Challenge
In February, two 7370 PDG’s joined an NID in
How Can Your District and Your Clubs Grow?
First, you need to develop a plan. And then you need to ask people to join. You need to build enthusiasm and become a cheerleader for the clubs. If you are hum-drum, not exciting, talk about membership in a business as normal attitude… things will likely never change. It is imperative that dedicated and positive-minded Rotarians who can put their time into the project, must be identified.
The obstacles that Rotarians personally experience but do not talk about deal mostly with their lack of understanding and their fear of being rejected. If they don’t ask and recruit new members a wrench is thrown into any membership growth plans! When we implemented our membership growth plan we often heard: “How do I do that? What if they say no? I’ve been in Rotary for years and I’ve not sponsored anyone because I still don’t know enough about Rotary. I don’t know how to ask.”
Start with the basics – teach your members how to ask. At a recent club meeting where I had been invited to discuss membership issues, I encouraged the club members to say “Are you a member of a service club?” when I learned they were not asking because they did not know how, or felt uncomfortable with how to ask. “Are you a member of a service club?” It’s that easy! You will either get a “yes” or a “no”… go from there. Once you break the ice, you can talk about specifics. Use “Be My Guest” cards and invite them to come see first-hand what Rotary is all about. “Be My Guest” cards are so easy to print using your home computer. Keep a supply in your wallet and use them! One Club President installed on July 1st was the recipient of one of my “Be My Guest” cards – it certainly paid off!
Lead by example. When was the last time you personally sought out and sponsored a new Rotarian? You are surrounded by potential Rotarians. All you need to do is Ask. For example: While we were organizing the Mifflinburg Rotary Club, on my way out of my dentists’ office, I mentioned to the Nurse/Practice Manager: “We’re starting a new Rotary Club in town, would you be interested in attending an information night?” Vivienne literally jumped up and shouted: “YES! My sister is a Rotarian in
Karen Teichman, PDG
Membership Extension Chair, District 7370
(570) 523-7810 home
(570) 524-1120 office