October – November 2023 | Features

We Have To Grow Rotary – There Is No Option

We Have To Grow Rotary – There Is No Option

Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland’s membership lead, Steve Martin, reflects on the challenges which are being faced to develop the organisation, and details an exciting new initiative to grow Rotary to 60,000 members in these isles by 2028.

It’s simple, without members Rotary is nothing. Ever since the days of Paul Harris and his friends gathering together, Rotary has been about expanding and growing. But let’s not forget, he also said it’s about being “evolutionary and revolutionary”.

This organisation we are all so proud of has achieved enormous things. Rotary is hugely respected across the globe; a brand which can be trusted.

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As members, we are all aware of the large-scale projects we undertake. Thanks to The Rotary Foundation and the seven areas of focus, countless lives have been saved across the world and this work has made living on our planet much easier for so many.

There is a willingness in the soul of mankind to volunteer and help people.

Rotary is the largest collection of those people since what has been achieved since its inception is mind-blowing. From a small stall at a village fete to the near eradication of polio, the size of the project doesn’t matter, it is the effect that it has on the person it is intended for.

This is how I view Rotary and is why I love the organisation so much.

Our clubs should reflect the community they serve with a membership which is diverse in every way.”

I entered Rotary through the group study exchange route which was a lifechanging experience. Since joining I have been active in the district team, as well as within my own club.

I joined Rotary aged 37 when everyone seemed much older than me! I stuck with it because I was meeting some great people who I learned so much from.

When I looked at the international impact Rotary had around the world and locally within my own town, I was proud to wear the badge. I have travelled the world with Rotary, gathering a large network of friends across the globe as the internet makes the world a much smaller place.

I chose to look outside of my club at the wider Rotary experience which was the best decision I have ever made.

Some 20 years later and this organisation that I joined is looking different.

In Rotary Great Britain & Ireland, we have lost 20% of our membership in the past five years and numbers are declining.

Clubs are closing because no-one is taking on leadership roles, and we have clubs which won’t change but still want younger people to join.

We have some Rotarians desperate to change and evolve their clubs, but they are being prevented from doing so. These Rotarians end up leaving the organisation, disillusioned and frustrated.

In the coming months, you will hear more about the ‘North Star’ project. The Rotary GB&I Board has set out its plan to achieve 60,000 members by 2028.

This is a huge target, but it is realistic and can be achieved. It will need all of our membership working together and taking responsibility, with the specialist adviser teams fully supporting the districts.

In the future I see a Rotary with a much younger, stronger and more flexible membership.”

It is important to understand that we are not asking our membership to take sole responsibility for this as there is a large financial investment by Rotary International into the implementation of the plan.

Among the initiatives will be a type of corporate membership to attract large numbers of new members from the corporate world. Negotiations are under way, and this plan looks very positive. We will also be investing heavily in our direct membership approach which will, in turn, grow district numbers which will run alongside the amazing efforts of districts and clubs.

Steve Martin, Specialist Adviser Team Leader for Membership and Rotary International Coordinator for Region 20.

Rotary must continue to evolve and make our clubs more appealing. Engaging current members is vital to keep them happy, ensuring the culture of clubs is an attractive one.

We also need to continue to start new clubs, different types of clubs which will appeal to those wanting to join, and we need the experience and cooperation of experienced members to bring this plan to life.

I am fortunate to have an overview nationally and I know that Rotarians want to grow their clubs, they want to start new flexible and innovative clubs. These clubs are opening, and we also have more women joining Rotary than ever before.

We have a support system in place to help you and your club move forward.

We will run drop-in sessions open to anyone for help on anything to do with membership. Specialist advisers can come to your club and district to help. That is what they are there for, so please use them.

In the future I see a Rotary with a much younger, stronger and more flexible membership. One that is appealing to younger people so, as they join, others will come on board because they can relate to this more modern organisation.

Rotaractors who have come straight from the Rotary Youth Leadership Award scheme will move straight into Rotary because they will see it as an organisation that is good for them.

There is a willingness in the soul of mankind to volunteer and help people.”

Our clubs should reflect the community they serve with a membership which is diverse in every way. Our goal has to be to create a culture and a climate where people join Rotary, become engaged in projects and want to stay with a vibrant club because it fits with their busy life.

Make growing your club your number one project this year. Not the Santa sleigh, not the supermarket collection or the youth project. If you don’t change your club now and bring in new members, none of these valuable projects will be possible in the years to come so it’s time to act now.

This magazine is full of ideas and stories to inspire you, but the ultimate decision lies with you and your club.

Do you want to change and grow? Do you want to start a new club to ensure Rotary lives on in your community?

Do you want to encourage and inspire new members in your club to go out and explore the endless possibilities within Rotary?

It is our duty as Rotarians to ensure this happens and ensure there is a Rotary for generations to come.

Our magazine covers a wide range of fascinating features, exclusive interviews and inspiring human interest stories from across the world of Rotary.

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