Rotary’s Global Membership Migration…
and what it means for clubs in developed countries - Part 2
In November’s column, I talked about Rotary’s staggering growth rate in developing countries, and the equally staggering membership decline in Rotary’s traditional strongholds such as North America, Europe and Australia, and promised a suggestion or two for countries like Australia facing membership decline.
I believe we need to change our message. Rotarians for far too long have hidden their light under the bushel. For close to a century, we were happy to get on with the job without fuss or notoriety. All very noble, but when our membership started to stagnate 20 odd years ago, we came to the realisation that we needed to do a better job of telling the world what we do. And whilst we still have a long way to go (I’ve been heard to mutter “our marketing sucks” on the odd occasion), we seem to be getting better at talking about the lives we’re changing by eliminating Polio, providing basic education, and improving health outcomes with clean water and sanitation projects.
My question today is this, “Are messages solely about feeding the hungry, providing clean water, educating the illiterate and eradicating Polio gaining traction with an audience who are fed, have clean water on tap, are educated and healthy? Will that audience recognise the value of Rotary?”
I don’t have space to give a detailed explanation on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (you can always google it if it doesn’t ring any bells), but Rotary is addressing the first two rungs on the ladder (triangle?) in these developing countries, and I suspect that’s why membership is growing in those areas: Rotary appears more relevant. But how do we appear relevant to an audience here in Australia, where we have clean water, electricity, education and health care? I believe the answer is in the top half of the triangle. These days people are increasingly asking, “What’s in it for me?”, and Rotary membership can address those higher needs, such as friendship, belonging, accomplishment, creativity and prestige.
We need to change our message so it’s not just about what we do, i.e. clean water, Polio and literacy, but also includes the benefits of membership, such as personal development, friendships, and being part of a team. There needs to be a deliberate strategy to weave the benefits of membership into our personal conversations about Rotary, our newspaper articles and advertising, our club bulletins, websites and social media presence. When the wider community start to understand not only what we do, but what we get out of it, we might just start to appear more relevant, and membership might appear more attractive.
As we edge towards the half-way mark of the Rotary year, I want to welcome all of our new Rotarians into this wonderful organisation, and congratulate those who have worked so hard to bring the new faces, new enthusiasm and new ideas into the district. A special thanks to Assistant Governor Lesley Mitchell for her hard work in organising a successful training day in Mildura on November 16. The visiting presenters were shown some wonderful Sunraysia hospitality and we got to meet some passionate Rotarians.