Membership Matters - Building in Flexibility
Who mandated that every club meeting needs to include a speaker and a meal?  And that community service can only be done outside club meetings?  That “rule” probably never existed anyway, and with the flexibility permitted in the last Council on Legislation, many clubs are experimenting with different models.
A great example is Rotary Club of Port Hope in District 7070.  Faced with declining membership, the club took the message of flexibility to heart and changed its meeting schedule drastically beginning with the new Rotary year in 2016. 
Club members continue to meet each week, but not over dinner! Yes, the club continues to have one “conventional” meeting each month, complete with a speaker, but has changed the other weekly meetings.  The club now schedules one social event, one hands-on project, and one session devoted to committee meetings each month. 
And the results are already showing:  In just over one year, the club’s downward membership trend turned around and already, the club has grown from 25 to 35 members. 
What are these meetings like?  The “conventional” meeting is straightforward. The social events have included ball games, bowling, theatre nights and excursions to local restaurants, and spouses and partners are of course invited. The hands-on projects have included cleaning the local beach, painting the walls and shelves at the food bank (BYOB, bring your own brush), giving out the Christmas hampers along with the Salvation Army and cooking dinner for some in need in the community. The committee meetings usually are held in someone’s home where planning or committee work can take place. 
All of these events have increased the social activities of the club, which means that the Rotarians have gotten to know other members of the club better — all while making a difference in their community. As an added bonus, the new format has reduced club costs: Not all meetings include meals and many do not require hall rental.
The example of Port Hope is one that we can all think about — particularly in light of Rotary’s freshest data on why people join Rotary and why they stay involved (see article at right).  The focus must always be on coming up with meeting formats that are most meaningful to club members.