Membership Corner - May 30, 2016
Membership – A Call to Action!
By Tom Sturiale
Have you observed how meetings with high purpose sometimes devolve into unfocused discussions leading nowhere? A group of well-meaning Rotarians will meet to discuss the objective of seeking new members. The objective seems clear but the issues are significant and the discussion begins to devolve into many different areas.
What is happening? Members begin to voice concerns about meeting times, locations, meal quality, interesting speakers, attendance, lack of interest, exciting meetings, costs, lack of time, money or interest by younger folks, engagement of members, and on and on. At the end of the meeting, everyone leaves but no action is identified, proposed or taken.
Why does this happen? It may be easier to talk about all reasons why we can’t do something than it is to talk about what we will do. The issues seem to be so overwhelming that that the purpose of the meeting is lost. How can we avoid this waste of time? A few words come to mind – leadership, focus, problem identification, clear meeting objectives, action plan, minutes, dates, responsibilities and follow-up.
An example of a well-focused meeting with clear objectives, consensus, planned action, dates and responsibilities by a group of dedicated Rotarians is a visioning meeting I participated in recently.  A small group of folks was led by a district resource team through a clear path of ideas and issues toward an action plan aimed at the improvement of their club.
Membership meetings can be conducted in a similar fashion with a clear action orientation. All the issues mentioned above are real and significant. Of course, they vary in intensity by club but they exist and they have to be addressed and solved. There are many quick fix approaches to membership which you have heard. Membership drops at the club, district or national level and the calls for action go out.  Exhortations are heard at all levels. A few members are attracted and everyone goes to sleep for a while until next time. 
The multi-faceted issue of membership is at the heart of everything we do. All aspects of our organization have to be addressed when organizing to increase membership. An important aspect of membership is to ensure the current members are satisfied.  Membership committees have to develop a clear agenda of all the issues affecting membership and create an action plan to solve those problems.  Then, you will feel comfortable in beginning to develop prospective-member lists and an action plan to introduce those folks to Rotary.
When a meeting participant mentions an obstacle to bringing in new members it is imperative to accept the comment, address the issue and plan to solve it with an action plan. The best way to deal with naysayers is to assign them the task of solving the problems they identify.
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 of your ideas, comments and stories about Membership you would like to share. E-mail me at
April 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.
For more information on Rotary memberships: