Membership Corner
How Do We Approach Prospective New Members?
By Tom Sturiale
As in all things concerning membership, there is not just one way or a best way to approach a prospective new member but it seems this step may be the most problematic for many of us. 
Why are many members reluctant to approach a prospective member? Are we shy? Is it that we just don’t know what to say or how to ask? Do we fear: that the new member may not fit in; that they may hold it against us if they don’t like Rotary; that other members may not agree with the choice; that they may damage our personal reputation within the club? How do you answer this question? 
It is critical to the success of our clubs that we have a process we are comfortable with. Someone has to do it. Who? How? What to say? Are we selling or are we buying? It is very clear that not all members want to get involved nor would they be very effective in the prospective-member contact process. So let us not waste our time wishing it were not so. It is! Surely there are a few members in each club with the requisite personal skills to open up a conversation with a prospective member. Let us get them to do the job.
We will take for granted in this note that all clubs have prepared the requisite information about Rotary International, and have a great story to tell about their club’s goals and achievements and their fellowship programs.  We will also assume they have a great venue, good food, a well-organized agenda, meetings that start and end on time, functioning committees and friendly and welcoming members. It will be obvious to any prospective member that Rotary is the place to be - and this club is where they want to spend their time, money and energy to make the world and especially their community  a better place.
So how can we reduce the burden on our reluctant members of approaching a prospective member? Let us suppose that we have at the very least polled our members for names of folks who would be good Rotarians. We should expect no less from our members. This can be done either through assembly meetings, individual polling or by private write-ins. However it is done, it is imperative that the Membership Committee or its chair develop a list of potential candidates who should be vetted. Of course, the criteria of classification and diversity should be met. But for clubs with less than 40 or 50 members, can this be a major issue? 
What if the Membership Committee chair selects two-person teams to approach folks on the candidate list. They could use as an opening remark that it was suggested by others that the prospective candidate would be a great asset to the local Rotary Club, and that he/she is needed to help the club achieve its goals in education, youth development, helping the needy, the elderly, veterans and in supporting local charitable organizations or whatever the club has identified as its signature objectives. The candidate needs to hear that not only do you want them – but also that you need them!  Of course, during the initial conversation we would explain Rotary International, present various information pieces, which abound on the Rotary website, and describe in some detail your local club. 
If a positive connection is made, invite them to a meeting and introduce them to the members.  Arrange a followup visit soon. Address all the candidate’s questions. Welcome them back to another meeting. If they decide to join, ensure the approval process is quick and efficient. Welcome them with open arms and make sure they meet all the members. Lastly - and very importantly - ask them to help on a specific committee and/or project, take them to any district event or another club, and get them involved immediately. 
If we can get a new member invested in the Rotary Way early in their membership, they would surely stay in for the long term.
Tom Sturiale, vice chair of District 7910's Membership Committee, may be reached at