Results Are In: 60% Membership Growth in First Trimester

No, Rotary International did not suddenly get 720,000 or so more members, or at least not yet! I am talking about the membership growth in my club – the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, from July to October.60-percent

Let’s admit it: a high growth rate (negative or positive) is more likely with a small club than a large club. Still, after more than five years of almost continuous decline in membership, my club is excited to report a 60 percent growth in membership from July to October. We had 18 members on July 1. Now we have 29, with 11 new members inducted in the first trimester of the new Rotary year. We are still a small club, and we have a lot more to do to gain strength, but we are on the right track.

How did we do it? Let me share our recipe:

Ingredient 1: Less meetings, more service and public events. Rotary’s Council on Legislation has given a lot of freedom to clubs on how they organize their meetings. So we decided to reduce our regular meetings from four to two per month, which gives us more time for service work and organizing public events.

Ingredient 2: Better service opportunities. Many Rotarians are professionals and business leaders, yet most do not use their skills when they volunteer with their club. We changed that in our club by creating teams of Rotarians and non-Rotarians combining their skills to provide free advice to local nonprofits on the strategic issues they face. This is not only more interesting in terms of volunteer work, but it is also more impactful to create positive change in the community.

Ingredient 3: Lower cost. By the standards of Washington D.C., our membership dues are not very high, at $600 per year. But this is too much for many. So we created two new membership types – a membership at half the regular dues for young professionals under 35 years of age, and a spouse/partner membership at one third of the dues. I hope we will be able to reduce dues further in the future.

Ingredient 4: Stronger public image. We are organizing better and more regular public events. One of our recent events was a seminar at the World Bank with great speakers on education for peace and social change. That same week we also had a stand at the main festival in our neighborhood. In addition, we have been writing posts for a local blog, a series of articles on volunteering for the local magazine (Hill Rag) for our neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and another article for a free weekly newspaper (Current Newspapers).

Ingredient 5: Strategic planning. We now have a strategic plan, our first since the club’s creation in 2003. The plan gives us a vision, and clear milestones and targets that we are trying to achieve.

Ingredient 6: Luck. Part of our gain in membership was just luck. For example, two new members transferred from other clubs due to changes in jobs and the location of their workplace. What’s great is that they bring with them a lot of experience in Rotary.

It remains to be seen whether we will continue on the path of membership growth for the rest of the year. We expect some members to relocate, so we will need to recruit more members simply to compensate for that.

We also have a lot of work to do to achieve our goals in terms of impact in the community, which matters even more than membership growth. But we are making progress, and we have exciting initiatives coming up that should help us become better known and make a larger difference in the life of the less fortunate.

This post is reproduced with a few changes from a post published by the author on Rotary Voices on Friday November 4, 2016.

11 thoughts on “Results Are In: 60% Membership Growth in First Trimester

  1. Quentin,

    The one ingredient you omitted was the active involvement of and guidance from a very committed and dedicated Club President! Thank you for your exemplary leadership!


    • Thanks Peter – not sure I am supposed to approve a comment like this, but as it is always nice to have comments on a blog, the comment is approved! Thanks for your great mentorship in Rotary!

  2. Hi Quentin,

    As usual, you are right on!

    We’ve found the involving prospective members in service projects FIRST is one of the keys. Inviting them to a meeting is a distant second.

    Here are three essentials for successful clubs: 1. Meaningful service projects – hands-on work, not just raising money to give to another organization. 2. Great programs – finding speakers who you’d pay to see. 3. Fun – all the rest.

    Our district is in a VERY diverse area of Southern California. Yet I still visit clubs that are tenacious about hanging on to traditions and customs that negatively affect their ability to attract new member: A. Christian prayers B. Singing (especially when the song book was out of date in 1940). C. Fining (without explanation) D. Not welcoming visitors

    Hope these help spur another article. What you do is needed.

    Best regards,

    Ray Sanford Governor 2016-17 T: 949.903.2222 E:


    • Thanks Ray – I agree with your three ingredients for success, recalling also the importance to keep cost down, including to increase diversity in the membership.

      One note – in my previous club, we had a member share words of inspiration before each meeting, sometimes a Christian prayer, sometimes something else. I thought this was great, and we don’t really have that currently in my current club. This is something I am thinking of re-establishing in our club. As some members are Christians and others are not, it would need to be very open, so that each member interested in sharing words of inspiration can feel free to talk about whatever inspired her. But in a way, words of inspiration can be a great way to start a meeting.

  3. Thanks, Quentin, for sharing the reasons for your Rotary Club of Capitol Hill’s recent membership success.

    In my previous club, fyi, immediately after the Call to Order, we started every meeting with a Rotary Toast in which we toasted a Rotary project undertaken by one or more Rotary Clubs anywhere around the globe in an effort to educate and inspire our members on the potential for Rotary projects to improve the world.

    This Rotary Toast was followed by an non-denominational Invocation.

    The following is one example of this Rotary Toast and Invocation:

    “1. Rotary Toasts
    We will be toasting the Rotary Clubs of Fergus-Elora, Ontario, Canada and Basoussam, Cameroon, Africa for installing potable water systems in seven rural villages, one of which, Bawouk, has 13,000 residents, mostly women and children, as the men have migrated to the cities to find work, benefitting not only the residents, but also the traders and students who now come to the village market and the primary school. Cheers to these clubs!

    2. Invocation
    May those assembled here today enjoy the many offerings of Rotary. May we abide by the rules we
    have established, those of trust, fellowship and ethics, and may we place Service above Self, in our daily endeavours. And may we always test ourselves and our efforts to be sure they are the truth, good for all concerned, of benefit to mankind, and provide peace and understanding. Amen.”

    At my current e-club, we have two meetings – Club Assembly and Guest Speaker – each month; and we monitor member engagement – not attendance – in particular, engagement beyond our e-club in Rotary at the district and international levels. We encourage our members to attend one traditional Rotary Club meeting or Rotary event per month to experience face-to-face Rotary fellowship.

    As an e-club, we focus on projects and events that we can do online. For instance, yesterday we organized and sponsored an online Leadership Unplugged, RYLA-like event featuring a leading Youth Service Rotarian from our district being interviewed on his Rotary experience and his business.

    Last week, we found out that 2 of the 6 At-Large, Rotary Peace Fellowship Applicants our e-club and district interviewed and endorsed have received TRF Rotary Peace Fellowships for their Master’s studies. Our Egyptian Rotary Peace Fellow will be studying at the University of Queensland Rotary Peace Center in Brisbane; and our Somalian Rotary Peace Fellow will be studying at the International Christian University Rotary Peace Center in Tokyo. In addition, our Japanese-Mexican American applicant is an Alternate for the Masters Program at the International Christian University Rotary Peace Center in Tokyo. This past year, there were 540 Rotary Peace Fellowship Applicants globally for 100 Rotary Peace Fellowships and less than 20 Alternate spots. So, my e-club’s success rate was about double the global average 🙂

    Also a small club, my e-club’s membership has increased by 28.5% from July to October this Rotary year. Our membership fee is around $250 US annually. We are currently investigating a lower membership fee for Rotaractors, who would like to also be Rotarians, as a way to help transition them into become Rotarians.

    Warmest Rotarian regards,

    Gordon Crann
    President, Rotary E-Club of Southern Ontario – Western New York (SOWNY)

  4. Hello Quentin, I enjoyed your blog very much ,specially for the thoughtful strategy. We are a very small Club with a fairly impressive Global Grant international programme ( 5 current Global Grants ).We need to gain ground on our local community programme. We have a few.

    We are launching a Rotary Community Corps( we have done needs assessment) – the idea is to bring together local volunteers and organisations under one umbrella and then support programmes of common interest amongst the group ( cancer care, adult illiteracy, homelessness ,substance misuse etc.).

    We intend to help the group with their community programme, through funding ( District and Global Grant) ,our members hands on professional efforts(if applicable)and advocacy.We hope this brings them to our Club also for fun and fellowship

    The programme will be launched at a ceremony marking our small clubs 100 per cent Paul Harris Fellowship Club status.
    One point you could consider is time – as well as making the club less expensive, we also try to reduce the formal meetings time – encouraging those who wish to linger on for a drink and chat later to be able to do so ,without forcing everyone to stay longer.
    Himansu Basu
    RC Northfleet with Ebbsfleet
    PDG Dist 1120

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