Rotary Membership Analysis 6: What Works Well and What Could Be Improved

by Quentin Wodon

How satisfied are Rotarians with various aspects of their membership experience? This question was asked in the membership survey on which many posts in this series are based. In this post I will share summary results for my district, but readers should remember that because clubs and districts are all unique, each club and district should conduct its own assessment of strengths and areas for improvements – these can differ substantially between clubs and districts.

Satisfaction with the Membership Experience

One of the questions asked in the survey was “How do you think your club is doing in the following areas?” Twenty five different areas were identified in four categories. For each area members could rate their membership experience as excellent, good, average, poor, or don’t know. The areas were:

  1. Club Membership: Quality of the existing membership, Diversity in the membership, Growth and retention, Gender balance, Age balance, Efforts to meet/welcome new members, and Fellowship between members;
  2. Club Meetings: Location convenience, Location décor/atmosphere, Quality/variety of the food, Quality of the speakers, Organization of meetings and timeliness, Day and time of meetings, Club attendance at regular meetings, Quality of other meetings/events, Greeting and treatment of visitors, Attendance at district/other events;
  3. Information/Communication: Communication from leadership & assembly, Quality of the club’s newsletter or bulletin, and Communication with the local media;
  4. Service activities: Amount of local service activities, Quality of local service activities, Amount of international service activities, and Quality of international service activities.

Rotarians were highly satisfied with the quality of their club’s membership (81% favorable ratings, i.e. an excellent or good rating) and the fellowship between members (77%). Ratings were lower on the ability to attract (46%) and retain (43%) new members. On diversity in general, ratings were fairly encouraging (66% favorable), but gender (58%) and age balance (40%) ranked lower. As to the ability of clubs to meet and welcome new members, it was rated favorably by 61% of members, which is too low given that this should be a top priority for clubs.

Most aspects related to club meetings were rated very highly, with favorable ratings ranging from 76% to 91% on seven of the ten attributes in this category. Recall that in a previous post I mentioned that meetings as well as service projects were two core products that clubs are “selling” to their members. On meetings, clubs are doing well with the existing membership. The three aspects related to meetings that were rated lower were the quality/variety of the food (with still 70% favorable rating), club attendance at regular meetings (60%) and especially attendance at district/other events (33%). The issue of low attendance at district events is widespread – but annual district conferences and other events can be implemented successfully (see the 3-part story on district conferences here).

Ratings were relatively good for internal communication within clubs (71% favorable ratings for communication from the club leadership and 66% for the quality of the club newsletter/bulletin), but lower for communication with local media (32%, the lowest score for all attributes combined).

Finally, local service activities were well rated (66% for the quality of the activities and 63% for the amount of local service done), but this was less the case for international service (50% and 45% respectively).

Level of Club Involvement

In order to triangulate the above results, another question was asked as to whether Rotarians found their club’s involvement with various activities excessive, adequate, or insufficient. The activities included were: Membership development, Member orientation/education, Membership retention, Fellowship activities, Support to Rotaract/Interact, Other club administrative/internal matters, Service to the district, Local service projects, International service projects, Club public relations and/or media, Fundraising, Rotary International Foundation, and Other.

Very few members responded that their club’s involvement was excessive in any area, although one in ten Rotarians suggested that fundraising may be too prominent (there may be a risk of donor fatigue for a small share of the membership). The areas for which more than a fourth of the membership requested more active involvement by clubs were membership development, member retention, member orientation/education, club public relations and/or media, and finally support to Rotaract and Interact clubs.

These results should not be too surprising. At least in North America, many Rotarians may feel that the results broadly apply to their own club or district. The membership challenge in high income countries is recognized by members, which is why they see membership development, member orientation and education, and membership retention as top priorities that clubs should invest even more in than they do right now. But it is worth noting that the issues of the support provided to Rotaract and Interact clubs and of the visibility of clubs in the media are related to the membership challenge. Rotaract and Interact may help in building the future pipeline for Rotary membership, and media relations are essential for Rotary’s public image, which is also likely to affect the future membership pipeline.

What Next?

What works well and what could be improved tends to be acknowledged by clubs, but I still wanted to share those basic results from our membership survey to provide more precise quantitative estimates on perceptions about those issues. Sometimes quantification can help focus attention, and when membership surveys are repeated over time, this helps for monitoring and evaluation.

We are now more than half-way through this introductory  series of posts on Rotary Membership Analysis. In the next four posts in the series, I will move a bit closer to some of the solutions that clubs can implement to confront the membership challenge. I will first discuss how to estimate relative potential for growth by geographic area – an approach that can help in targeting resources to areas that are underserved by Rotary. Next, I will discuss some of the strategies that have been implemented by clubs in my district to boost membership. After that I will discuss interesting initiatives for fundraising that have the added benefit of also building community awareness of Rotary. Finally, I will briefly touch on the use traditional as well as social media to promote clubs and districts and the importance of telling the story of our successful service projects.

Note: This post is part of a series of 10 on Rotary Membership Analysis. The posts with links are as follows: 1) Introduction, 2) The Challenge; 3) Why Do members Join?; 4) Volunteer Time; 5) Giving and the Cost of Membership; 6) What Works Well and What Could Be Improved; 7) Targeting Geographic Areas for Growth; 8) Initiatives to Recruit Members; 9) Fundraising Events; and 10) Telling Our Story.

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