By Mark Huddleston, a member of the Rotary Club of Edwardstown, South Australia, Australia, and District 9520 Membership Chair
My son can be a particularly picky eater. One of his favorite meals is ham and pineapple pizza. We occasionally make pizza at home, and I wouldn’t ever bother putting anything on his pizza but ham and pineapple, because he would just pick it off. If we order a pizza when we’re out, that’s exactly what he does.
So, what’s this got to do with Rotary? Many members approach Rotary like my son approaches his pizza.
I sort of think ham and pineapple pizzas are a bit on the boring side. If my Rotary experience was a pizza, it would be a super supreme. There’s a bit of everything. If I think over my greatest Rotary experiences, they would include the three conventions I’ve attended, including last year’s in Sydney. For a Rotarian, it’s the greatest show on Earth. The second greatest experiences have been the numerous district conferences I’ve attended. A few weeks ago I drove my wife and kids seven hours to Ballarat for an amazing experience. I enjoyed a remarkable conference, and my family enjoyed Ballarat.
But apart from me, only 228 Rotary members from our district made the trip. I’ve been scratching my head, wondering why under 17 percent of our district would come to such an amazing event. I ran a catering business for five years, and wiping out a weekend meant saying no to five or six functions; I just couldn’t do it. Affordability can also be an issue. While the registration is quite reasonable, accommodation, gas and meals add up. Some members are getting upward in years and health precludes their attendance, and sometimes it can clash with important events in our lives. I get that.
But I feel the overwhelming majority of Rotary members who elect not to attend a district conference are just not interested in “super supreme” Rotary. They like ham and pineapple, and will pick off anything else.
Assemblies, training events, visits to other clubs, attending fundraising events, service projects, and district events like a Rotary Day or Rotary Anniversary celebration offer more variety to the Rotary pizza. And taking on a role at the district level is like walking into a pizza shop — there is so much variety on offer.
But here’s the kicker. If you never even try those extra toppings, you’ll never know what you’re missing. I fear that so many Rotarians are not getting the most out of their Rotary experience, and many end up leaving the organization because ham and pineapple got a little boring after a few years.
Rotary has so much to offer beyond weekly meetings. Not everything is for everyone. Even I will pick the olives off my pizza. But you’ll never know how good pizza can be if you pick off everything that’s not ham or pineapple.
Adapted from Mark Huddleston’s blog D9520 Membership & PR Pulse
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