Why it’s not good enough just to bring in new members

One of the biggest conversations around Rotary these days is membership growth. There are quite a few stories flying around and all of them provide good advice. But there is a second topic that is as important, if not more so, than membership acquisition, and that is retention. What can we do to keep these members we have worked so hard to bring in?

A club member gets a turn in the driving simulator during the Rotary Club of Brisbane’s vocational visit to the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety.

My club did well in both membership growth and retention last year, receiving our district’s Errol Richardson Membership Development trophy, and one for membership retention, having not lost a single member over the previous year. As I began my year as club president, I naturally focused on growing our membership. In the first two months, I brought in two members, but we also lost two members. So no retention trophy this year! But more importantly, I realized I needed to discover what gives value back to our members. It is not good enough just to keep them busy.

The grim statistics suggest most clubs lose 50 percent of their new members within a year, and another 25 percent within two to three years. I knew I needed to do something but also didn’t want to undertake a monstrous effort or reinvent the wheel. So we looked back on some things Rotary clubs have done in the past and decided to dust a couple off and try them.

Club President Daniel Vankov, second from left, at the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety.

First, we focused on vocational visits. But we put some thought into how to make sure we weren’t just boring club members by having them sit in someone’s office listening to how their fellow member crunches numbers or browses the web. We thought hands-on would be a better way to go. For our first one, we went to the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety — Queensland and drove in state-of-the-art driving simulators. Top researchers hosted our club members and informed us on road safety research. Members enjoyed both their turn behind the wheel, and watching other members mess up. We even went home with gift bags to remind us of the visit.

Our second focus will be on leadership development. The club has organized an outing with the Institute of Managers and Leaders for a seminar open to members and non-members alike. Our speaker is Tony Holmes, a past district governor and one of Australia’s top business builders. We want to learn how he went from being an army officer to a leading management consultant, and how he builds businesses all over Australia and internationally while living on a 22-acres property on the Sunshine Coast.

Soon, we plan to put some other innovative ideas to work such as using virtual reality to build awareness for the dangers of driving under the influence.

Through all this, what we have learned is that membership retention is very much as important as member acquisition!

Encourage members to get involved for a more meaningful Rotary experience with the ideas in Connect for Good and other membership resources.