Not engaging Rotary is killing clubs

Martin “Marty” Postic, Jr.

Martin “Marty” Postic, Jr.

By Martin “Marty” Postic, Jr., past governor of District 5750 (Oklahoma, USA) and a member of the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City Midtown, Oklahoma, USA

I am proud to say that I consider RI President Ron Burton a friend. One of my first Rotary Club make up meetings in 1985 was at a small club that had bad food, a bad program, REALLY bad singing and (surprise!) very few members. However, as I sat down, a man reached his hand across the table and said, “Hi! I’m Ron Burton from the Norman Rotary Club” and introduced me to a Rotarian guest he had brought.

Over the years, Ron and I became good friends. So much so that, one day in 1989 we had breakfast together in Norman while discussing some pending legislation in our state (Ron and I are both attorneys). As you might expect our conversation that morning eventually turned to Rotary. I was preparing to “move up the ladder” in my club to be president in a few years. Ron had already been District Governor and held other positions in Rotary and with The Rotary Foundation.

I had a desire to someday be our district governor and sought advice from him. After listening to his advice, I then asked, “Ron where do you want to go in Rotary?” He said, with a very overt confidence, “Marty, I’m going to be president of Rotary International someday.” His demeanor and his “swagger” told me this was not just a pipe dream. It would be a reality. As of 1 July, Ron Burton is the president of Rotary International – only the second one from my State of Oklahoma.

The words of our incoming president during his theme speech, Engage Rotary, Change Lives, at the International Assembly truly hit the proverbial nail on the head in summarizing what should be our motivation to make Rotary successful. Too many times, clubs and Rotarians focus only on bringing the bodies into Rotary. Sadly, we don’t also bring their hearts. It is easy to fill a room with members of a Rotary Club. However, unless and until we turn those members into Rotarians, they have no motivation to stay.

The most defining moment in the development of the Oklahoma City Midtown Rotary Club was when, after getting a grant to purchase some tools for a local high school’s drama department, several club members went to deliver the tools. Most of our members were shocked by the reaction of the teachers and the students who were overly appreciative of our club’s gift – so much so that some were crying. I sensed that experience affected the Midtown members to a point where they wanted to do more. As the Midtown Club was chartered, it consisted of all younger people (their average age was around 32) with no former Rotary experience. However, almost all of the members of that club now “get it.” They understand the value of service. They understand the need to help. They ARE Rotarians!

The club where I first met Ron Burton eventually “went out of business” a few years later. Their members were not engaged in Rotary, they were “engaged” in a coffee klatch. Those clubs that are identified in the community as a “lunch club,” a “breakfast club,” or – even worse – an “old man’s club” will fail. They won’t grow.

However, the community where I first met President Ron did start a new club a few years later. It is dynamic, active and engaged. I sincerely doubt that new club could have grown out of the shell of the former club. It needed to start anew.

Where is your club? Are you already marked with the “tattoo” of the “old man’s club”? Or are you more like the Oklahoma City Midtown club? It’s not too late to remove the tattoo, and engage Rotary.

— Adapted with permission from Marty Postic’s blog, Rotary Membership Revival – The New Club Project.

10 thoughts on “Not engaging Rotary is killing clubs

  1. This article points to a very large problem. In my district, attendance at district event is less than 10 percent of the membership. Clubs are doing a poor job of publicity and the largest club, while over 100 years old is practically anonymous to general public. I have maintained for quite some time that if a member of any Rotary club doesn’t attend district functions to learn about what Rotary is all about, they will rarely engage and be a torchbearer. I was fascinated when I joined Rotary in 2000 to learn all that Rotary was doing in the world. I am proud of being a Rotarian.

    James A Dunny, DMD
    Executive Secretary Rancho Bernardo Sunrise Rotary Club
    Website Administrator and Newsletter Editor, RB Sunrise Rotary
    Newsletter Editor, District 5340


  2. Dear Sir
    It is a rotary phenomenon that the President of the club has to do the most.
    If he is a good leader he will induce members to participate in the projects and make them successfull.Every person wants to do something for rotary only if he gets the right que from the club leadership.
    Ours is a 38year old club with 30 past presidents and only 10 to 15 other members.
    Please advice for increasing membership and participation by members in the club projects.
    Thanks and regards
    Pratap Chande
    Past president 2009-10
    Rotary club of mumbai Sion


  3. I am relieved to say that my club is mostly “engaged” – perhaps we are not young at age, but young in Rotary, and while we have the Rotary principles at heart (“service above self”), we do not carry to much of the heavy burden of “old ways”. Rotary should transform itself, if I can complement the article – not only by engaging, but also by transforming starting by one self as citizens, family person, and of course, as Rotarians.


  4. Great article. I actually could not agree more with what it says. But I also think that this article misses an important point by focusing only the clubs and not on Rotary International. In my opinion, RI needs to rethink how it does business too. To be fair, I think some rethinking is being done already, but more is needed. Unless RI is an organization that operates in a way consistent with the times, it will be difficult for clubs, and thus the organization, to grow.


    • Just very right. We need to engage members in Rotary or we shall not exist/or our clubs shall not exist.


  5. Yes. We must not let our rotary club be called in any other name. Let service above self be our mark. To serve above self must really carry with it our whole heart. A heart that reflects our love for what we do. And this heart that loves to serve will shine and will help to encourage other people to engage in rotary and help change lives for the better .


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