How do we approach prospective members?
By Tom Sturiale
Last week, we discussed possibilities for finding new members after your club has reached consensus on membership objectives and identified the types of folks needed in your club. Now what? How do we approach these folks? What do we say? Who will call on them? How?
There is not just one perfect way to approach a prospective member. As in most situations, it all depends. First, let’s discuss the “who will approach?” question. Many members are reluctant to approach a prospective member. They may be shy, they may not feel equipped to present Rotary in an effective manner, or they may fear to hear a “no” answer. Others may feel the new member may not fit in or that other members may not agree with the choice, thereby damaging their reputation within the club.
These are all legitimate concerns. How do we deal with them? By developing a target list of needed prospective members and going through an initial vetting and prioritization exercise, you will eliminate much of the personal decision-making from your members. Therefore, it is a club decision, not theirs.
By developing a Rotary club “value proposition,” you will prepare your members to adequately tell the Rotary story. By introducing prospective members as visitors to your club instead of prospective members, you will allow members to properly vet and allow the visitor to properly assess prior to any premature decisions. Finally and maybe most importantly, by properly selecting two or three outgoing, socially oriented, sales-type, Rotary-knowledgeable members who do not fear hearing “no” for an answer, you will significantly increase your success rate.
It has been said by many in the sales business that if one is not getting a reasonable number of “no” responses, they would not be spending enough time selling. We are fortunate in that Rotary sells itself - we just have to package and present it well.  But there is a certain skill required for folks to cold-call others. Do not assign this task to anyone. Think about it first. How will you approach prospective members? Again, there are several possibilities. You may simply invite them in as a speaker. Or, you may call for a personal appointment and ask if they would be willing to learn about Rotary and your club. Or, you may call and ask them to attend a club meeting or a club event.
In all of our communities, there are scores of businesses and corporations, each populated with many folks willing to speak about their unique qualities and expertise. A potential opening statement might simply be, “It was suggested by one of our members that you may be interested in learning about the Rotary club. May I have a few moments of your time to share some information with you?” An initial breakthrough might be followed by a few comments about club objectives and the need to have someone of their unique talents to help the club achieve its objectives in education, scholarships, youth development, helping the needy, the elderly and/or the veterans, or in supporting local charitable organizations or any other signature objectives. And, that is long before any mention is made of the tremendous international achievements of Rotary!
If a positive connection is made, invite them to a Rotary meeting, or a smaller social meeting of several Rotary members, or a club event, or a district event. Introduce them to the members. Arrange for a follow-up visit soon. Address all the candidate’s questions. Talk about mutual expectations. Welcome them back to another meeting or two. If they should decide to join, ensure the approval process is quick and efficient and the badges and paperwork are available. Conduct a professional and inspirational induction ceremony. Make them feel important and needed. Welcome them in with open arms. Get them involved in something very soon. Assist them in Rotary education by good mentoring.
Now, you are well on your way to improving your membership.
Tom Sturiale, vice chair of District 7910's Membership Committee, may be reached at
July 2016 articles:
"A Rotary Membership Guide" is a collection of "Membership Corner" articles written for this weekly newsletter during the 2015-2016 Rotary year, which began last July 1. It is intended to offer an idea or thought each week aimed at stimulating discussions, questions and actions to effectively increase membership at all our clubs. Click here, to download this 52-page "Guide," in Word format.
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