Twenty years ago a man named Chuck Hanson, an attorney that worked in downtown La Crosse, invited me to join Rotary.  Back then, that was the common practice.  A business person invited you to join Rotary because he thought it would be good for business and good for the community, and you said yes.
If It was not for Chuck (yes… that one – our past District Governor) it is unlikely I would be a Rotarian.
August is Membership and Extension month.  In District 6250, our Membership Committee thinks every month is August – they are continually focused on helping clubs grow and thrive.  More to come from John Locke and the membership team later.  Be sure to use this valuable district resource to make your club stronger and more vibrant.
Growing a vibrant membership was my entrance into Rotary at a beyond-my-club level.  For three+ years, I was the District Membership Chair. I focused on traveling around our district with my sidekick Joe Ruskey (yup – also a past District Governor) on how strong clubs create a strong Foundation… and vice-versa.  During my travels, I crafted ten tips to attract and retain members. These tips proved effective: our District had growing membership during two of these three years – and the third year was flat.  So If you’re looking to add members to your club, consider taking a page from these 10 tips...

1. Create a list of all the great things about your club.

List your star members, the advantages of your meeting location, how many members you have, the kinds of projects and events you host, and so on.  This list can serve as a template when sending an email or note to a potential member.  Make sure to tailor any correspondence so it addresses the specific interests and wants of any potential member.  For instance, if someone is interested in international work, your email or letter should focus on that.  To help you start this list, answer for yourself (also a great board exercise) this question:  “What is my club known for?  What are we great at?  What is our identity?”

2. Keep a list of potential members.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a paper list or if it’s kept on your computer.  Either way, it makes you think about those people who might be a fit for your club.  Discuss the list at board meetings – not just the concept of bringing in new members, but the specific names who’s going to contact them and when.  Don’t overlook some obvious suspects, such as member’s spouses, Youth Exchange host parents, and even former members.

3. Know your club’s strengths.

Most things are strengths if your target the right audience.  If you meet in the morning, you’re probably a good fit for someone working 9 to 5.  Meet at noon, and you’re more likely to appeal to retirees and parents of schoolchildren.  If someone doesn’t fit your format, recommend them to another club. 

4. Make membership growth your club’s top priority

Make sure that every member understands that.  The best way to make your year as president easier is to bring in more members.  New members bring new energy – it means more people to serve on committees, work on projects and events, and raise money for the Foundation.

5. Look to younger Rotarians for fresh perspectives.

Want to attract younger members?  Look to our After-Hours models.  Younger professionals are drawn to lower dues and costs.  They are often drawn to less frequent meetings.  If you want the game changers and move makers in your community – people who are busy and thriving in their everyday lives, you have to take advantage of the flexibility Rotary now offers clubs as to meeting times, frequency, and style.  If that does not fit your club – then grow a new club alongside of your own that is more attractive as a Satellite or a free-standing club.

6. Appeal to local volunteers

Consider creating events that are equal parts community outreach, game show, and, as one area Rotarian called it – organizational speed dating.  Encourage participants to connect with each other during and after the meeting and find new ways to collaborate and partner based on what they have heard each other say.

7. Talk about Rotary wherever you go

At work, family gatherings, neighborhood get-togethers, parties.  You will be amazed at how easy it is after you practice awhile.  We’ve heard it before – people who are never asked never join.  Most people are not unhappy that you asked – even if they say no.  And remember, it’s never NOT a good time to invite a potential member to a meeting.  People say it’s a bad time to invite a potential member because it’s the holiday season… or maybe because of this COVID “thing” 😊  You will be surprised how COVID has stimulated people to want to be a part of their community and to help – they have missed it while being in quarantine.  Now is the best time to ask.

8. Make a list of club members’ responsibilities.

It’s important to engage with potential members beforehand.  They will want to know how they can fit in with your clubs and what opportunities there are for serving.  The list should include information about dues, attendance guidelines, and other club expectations – and it should emphasize the many benefits that come from being a Rotary member.

9. Realize there is no finish line

Even if your club is the optimize size (what exactly would that be?), it’s no reason to stop recruiting.  There are always reasons people leave.  People transfer jobs or have work conflicts, some have family issues.  You are either growing or you’re dying as a club.

10. Emphasize service

For many energized doers, having a meal and “weekly meetings” puts them off from joining.  They wish to serve.  The more your club can connect to the community and to the world by giving back, the more attractive your club will be to others.

I could go on my friends. 😊  Know that if you are interested in attracting new members, Rotary has a ton of resources – visit for a great list. Also be sure to utilize our District Membership Team – they stand ready to assist and help.  Keep your Membership front of mind – it is at the front of our District’s key list.  We start the year with 2,627 members… let’s see how many new friends we can introduce to our Rotary Clubs!

Much success as you strive to grow and strengthen your Rotary club!

Bill Pritchard
District Governor 2020-2021