Who should we attract to Rotary?

By Jim Henry, PDG D-6960 and Chris Jones, DG 7680 2012-13

Rotary clubs must know WHO to ATTRACT. Before we get too technical on this, we recommend that every reader take an objective, personal inventory by critically evaluating why you remain engaged in your club and why you joined your club. The reason: your motivations are quite similar to everyone with your attitudinal and behavioral descriptors. By performing this self-analysis, you will gain insight into engaging and attracting. If you serve in any leadership role, you might consider having others join you in this exercise, but we warn you: if you are objective, you may be in for a discomforting surprise.

Why have you remained engaged with your club? How does remaining engaged give personal satisfaction? Which personal needs and wants does membership satisfy? Has it allowed you to become better known in your community? Is it because of the friends you have made? Has it brought you any degree of respect or recognition? Has it allowed you to participate in or accomplish anything special? Has it presented you with unusual opportunities? When you have completed and prioritized this list, match your reasons with each of the four Objects of Rotary. By refreshing your memory, you will be gaining insight into how your club could attract existing members to become more engaged, which is a direct lead-in to the next question.

Why did you join your Rotary club? The traditional response is that someone invited you, but that’s not the reason you made the final decision to complete the application, write the check, and submit your application. So what was your rational? Was it to be able to perform community service? Was it to get better known or connected in your community? Was it to be able to perform International Service? Was it to be able to give back to your community? Was it because your boss said to?

Once you list the reasons you joined, prioritize and match them with the four Objects of Rotary. When you do this, you will be gaining insight into the power of the engaging and attracting mentality.

So WHO should clubs first attract? WHO is your Rotary club’s prime target audience? Without a doubt it is present members. The introduction to this series1 discusses the importance of engaging them. If clubs cannot engage existing members, there is no way they will be able to attract and engage new members.

In the Distinctive Position workbook available on Retention Central2, there are fun exercises club and district leaders could utilize to help them more clearly understand target audiences’ need and wants.

Knowing these, clubs should be offering something different; something not commonly offered by other organizations. The Standard Rotary Club Constitution defines, in societal position terms, who should be a Rotary club member.3 This is a simple target audience qualifier, but what is more important than knowing their position in their local social fabric is defining what motivates them. You may find that you have many common attitudinal and behavioral descriptors.

Utilizing your self-inventory as a starting point, try these three exercises:

Exercise 1: In twenty-five words or less, using general characteristics common to all generations, ethnicities, and genders, define the attitudinal and behavioral descriptors of a typical person in your club and those identified by the Rotary International Constitution.

Exercise 2: In twenty-five words or less, explain the motivation behind why a person in your target audience would make the final decision, like you did, to join your club and what they would expect from your club.

Exercise 3: – In twenty-five words or less, define the intellectual asset that delivers the rational and emotional reasons why a member of your target audience would do as you did: join and stay in your club.

Why are these mental gymnastics important? Two major reasons. First, local Rotary clubs are not what the clubs or Rotary International say they are: Rotary clubs are what local clubs’ target audiences say they are. Since existing members are clubs’ primary audience, it is vital that clubs engage them because clubs are what they say they are. Existing members say what clubs are by attending meetings, being proud members, supporting clubs’ activities, inviting friends to visit meetings, etc. Worldwide, in over 34,000 local communities, existing members are the face of Rotary. Existing members are Rotary.

Rotarians love to tout ‘service to others’ or ‘serving the community.’ In a 2009 report titled Non-Rotarian Focus Groups – US Markets, prepared for Rotary International by Levy Marketing Research, a 30 – 45 year old Chicago female said, “I don’t need the title of Rotarian to do any of these things, I do that stuff already.” Putting it bluntly, to a North American non-Rotarian, service to others, serving the community, or even Rotary’s motto, Service above Self, are not institutionally sound distinctive positions; they do not differentiate a local Rotary club from other charitable or service organizations competing for a Rotary clubs’ target audiences’ time, treasure, and/or talent.

Second, people tend to develop relationships with others who have attitudinal and behavioral commonalities. For those who wish to say that is only true of the older generation (like Jim), consider reading Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. The authors note that successful social networking is based upon the trust developed between those using the technology, not the technology itself.

If you, the reader, attempted all exercises mentioned, it should be clear that a Rotary club’s audiences are people with special, often common, interests. They most likely are leaders in local businesses, professions, or the community. Most desire to help make their community a better place in which to live.

They also, like most everyone else, have an innate desire to connect, to create, to stay in touch with, and to help each other. This is particularly true when they trust each other.

ATTRACT WHO? Each Rotary club is in a community. Every community has leaders. Most of them want to make their community, and the world, a better place. Every club should strive to make membership in a local Rotary club attractive to all community leaders independent of their ethnicity, gender, or generation.


1Are Clubs Engaged to their Members http://zone34retentioncentral.blogspot.com/2012/02/thoughts-on-engagments.html

2Retention Central, Right sidebar under Workbooks http://zone34retentioncentral.blogspot.com/

3 Rotary International Constitution, Article 5, Section 2 Composition of clubs.

The above article was published March 8, 2012 at Zone 33-34’s the Retention Central blog as “Attract Who?”. It is reprinted at 5550opinions with permission of the author. 

About John Borst

John Borst’s career in education spans the years 1960 to 1996. During those 36 years, he spent an equal amount of time working int he English language, Public and Catholic school boards. Borst taught in both elementary and high school environments. Positions of responsibilities held included department head in Geography, curriculum coordinator of Social and Environmental Studies, Principal, Education Officer with the Ministry of Education, Superintendent of Schools, and Superintendent of Student Services. Borst retired in 1996 as Director of Education for the legacy Dryden Board of Education. During this time, Borst has lived in the Ontario communities of Brampton, Toronto, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Aurora and Dryden. Currently, Borst splits his time between Dryden and Toronto. Since retirement, Borst has served as a Supervisory Officer with a remote School Authority; been a freelance writer of articles on education in particular for Education Today, the magazine of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA); founded and edited from 2006 - 2010 the Education blog Tomorrow’s Trust: A Review of Catholic Education; and from 2003-2010 was a trustee of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.
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