I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last few months in Rotary training sessions and other Rotary related meetings involving our district, zone and international leadership.  As such, I can tell you that Rotary International is very concerned about membership growth remaining flat.  This is not strictly a Rotary issue.  All service organizations are experiencing the same dynamic (if anything, Rotary is probably in better shape than the others).  On a national level, the issue is not that new members aren’t joining but they aren’t staying for more than a year or two.
Rotary International appears to be placing a lot of emphasis on attracting younger members and allowing clubs latitude towards adjusting their membership policies.  For example, there is a deeply held theory that younger people don’t really gravitate towards the weekly breakfast, lunch or dinner meeting format.  So Rotary is trying to shake things up by encouraging new clubs to form that meet entirely online (or perhaps meet only once a month in person).  Or forming clubs that aren’t geographically based, but rather, based on similar interests. Or allowing corporate memberships. 
 
Looking specifically at the membership numbers of our club, we seem to be hovering in the mid 30’s for the last few years.  We gain a few, we lose a few.  Unlike the general RI trend, we do not seem to be losing newer members per se.  While we can always improve at member retention, I personally don’t think it’s a huge issue for us. I think the focus needs to be on new member recruitment.  It’s simple math – to grow we need to bring in more members than we lose on an annual basis.
 
My old Rotary Club when I lived in Maryland (Carroll Creek Rotary) has grown from 125 members when I left in 2014 to over 180 members today (I’m waiting for someone to chime in and say that my leaving is responsible for that growth!).  I don’t propose that we go from 35 to 180 but imagine how big our impact on the community could be if we could get up to 50 members in the next few years.
 
Let me be clear - I do not advocate growth just for growth’s sake.  I remember many years ago when I was in the Jaycees and our president was very focused on getting district awards for various metrics like membership growth.  But the growth wasn’t real.  People joined and then quit.  The same few people did all the work on the projects.  I don’t want to recreate this formula for our club.
 
The key is to reach out to those you know and those you meet who show interest in community involvement.   Don’t just think of “business people”.  And don’t forget about diversity and inclusion – are there communities within our community who aren’t well represented in our club?  If so, how do we reach out and make sure we are welcoming?
 
I know it’s not easy.  Full disclosure -  I haven’t successfully recruited a single person since I joined our club in 2018.  It’s not for lack of trying.  But, now that we are back to in-person meetings, I am redoubling my efforts to get quality community minded people to join us.  And I ask that you do the same.   Ask people to join us at our weekly meeting.  Send people to our link on the website https://montgomeryrotary.org/page/thinking-of-joining
 
We currently have one new member in the pipeline (thanks to Andy Mozumdar).  If you have any suggestions on ways we can improve our outreach, please contact Dennis Helms (our membership director) or myself.  Let's get growing!
 
Rotarically Yours,
Zoltan Nagy
President
Rotary Club of Montgomery/Rocky Hill (NJ)
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