Membership Corner: How do you describe Rotary?
By Tom Sturiale
You are approached by an interested person who asks, “What is Rotary?” How do you respond? We all have a few direct responses depending on our knowledge of Rotary. But do we also have an effective response? Are we able to capture the essence of Rotary in just a few minutes, to interest the person enough so they will inquire further? I will present a few thoughts as well as challenge our district’s membership to present their own ideas and suggestions on the “What is Rotary?” question.
This may be something that we have printed and distributed to all members.  PETS (Presidents Elect Training Seminar) is just around the corner and may be an ideal forum to discuss alternative answers to the question.  If one has a half-hour to delineate all the various features of Rotary, we may all have great answers to the question.  But if one has only three or four minutes to capture the imagination and interest of an inquiring stranger, then the “elevator speech” has to be both concise and include the most relevant aspects of Rotary.
So as a direct and immediate response, how about this? 
“Rotary is a worldwide organization of 1.25 million members in 34,000 clubs in 200 countries.  We are the world’s premier service organization focused on improving communities and people’s lives throughout the world.  We have been in existence for 110 years.  Each year, our Rotary Foundation raises more than $100 million for a multitude of good works throughout the world.  As a premier example, Rotary is responsible for leading the global fight to eliminate the scourge of polio throughout the world.
“We are organized into separate and autonomous clubs, such as ours in Everytown, USA, where we also focus on local community improvements, youth scholarships, and programs for the needy, the elderly and veterans.  We are a non-political, non-secular organization made up of local leaders, business and professional folks, and retirees.  We meet weekly, featuring an interesting speaker, and we devote a lot of time toward fun, fellowship and friendship through networking.”
Your next statement may be an invitation to attend a Rotary meeting or event.  Or the person may ask a follow-up question that requires more detail.  In any event, our purpose is to capture enough attention to open the door for more questions and interest.  Responding to a direct question about the nature of Rotary may appear to be a simple task. However, many folks may become totally tongue-tied and ineffective.  The inquirer may lose interest and we may have lost a prospective member.
What are your ideas on an appropriate response to the question “What is Rotary?”
Closing thoughts
We need to keep experimenting with our meeting agendas to maintain members’ interests and to encourage attendance. Meetings need to be fresh, exciting and interesting. This will also assist your club’s Membership Committee chair and members in attracting new members to the team. Please let me know any ideas, comments and stories about Membership you would like to share. E-mail me at
Tom Sturiale is vice chair of District 7910's Membership Committee.
Here are the Membership Corner articles that were posted during December: