Treating your club like a start-up business

Elaine Lytle at a school in the Philippines her club is supporting through a service project.

Elaine Lytle, second from left, at a school in the Philippines her club is supporting through a service project.

By Elaine Lytle, Rotary Club of Como-Jannali, New South Wales, Australia

As a small Rotary club, we were on the road to extinction when we decided to hold a series of meetings as a whole club. We reviewed the usual list of strengths and weaknesses, action plans, and brainstorming ideas that we have done in the past with no real follow up.

But what really made a difference was when we looked in depth at the new means of communication and technologies available to us. One of our members is a financial consultant and another an accountant and we had them lead a session on approaching our club like it was a start-up business.

What is our product? How do we get clients, advertise, set budgets, measure customer satisfaction? Combining this with our previous data, we drafted an action plan with completion dates allocating tasks to small teams. We looked at what type of members we wanted to attract using the classifications system and focused on those areas. We avoided thinking of membership as a numbers game.

There are a number of small clubs like ours nearby, so we began planning joint meetings so we can present an image of size and confidence to people we wish to attract, rather than that of a small desperate group. We never call them membership nights, but combine these meetings with Pride of Workmanship awards or a beneficiaries night.

If it’s interesting, they will come

Whenever we do events in the community, we set up a display with information including leaflets about club activities. At our main fundraiser, a collectables fair, we put out leaflets on coffee tables near the stage in the community center, and run a slideshow in the background focusing on images of club members doing things.

We are somewhat flexible with attendance as we feel it is more important for people to help us with our many activities than have dinner every week. Very few of the clubs in our area are strict about attendance. We find that if our meetings are interesting, people come. We try not to have all our speakers from people needing help or money. We have had people speak on everything from diets to underwater photography. We’ve had an Australian champion boxer, an Olympic medalist, and even a fortune teller.

We do not focus on age so much as the value of a member. We found information nights on our overseas projects were very popular and we sometimes show a short presentation on these at our special nights. Our last two presidents have been in their 40s, the one before that was in his 60s and the one before that was 32. Not all our efforts have worked out as we expected, but we were able to change as we go to suit new circumstances.

We have found that no one thing helped revive our club, but a combination of many little things, all driven by having the right focus. It is my hope some of our experience will be of help to your club.

Find membership tools to strengthen your club


About the author: Elaine Lytle is a member of the Rotary Club of Como-Jannali, New South Wales, a past district governor, and member of the Rotarians On the Internet (ROTI) Fellowship. She served on the Host Organization Committee for the 2014 Rotary International Convention in Sydney, Australia, and is chair of the Village Aide Project, Philippines. She is an anthropologists, psychologist, engineer, and eternal student.

3 thoughts on “Treating your club like a start-up business

  1. Pingback: Rotary Membership-Development training hand-out | Abundant Resources for You!

  2. Pingback: Treating your club like a start-up business | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

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