By John Hewko, Rotary International General Secretary
What Rotary has achieved over the past century is remarkable. We were one of the world’s first membership service organizations. Rotary members have made a decisive positive impact in our communities and around the world, from helping to draft the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945, to spearheading the most successful global health partnership in history with the launch of our PolioPlus program in 1985, bringing one of the world’s most feared diseases to the brink of eradication.
The list of groundbreaking Rotary projects is too long to mention here. But as our Foundation enters its second century, we also need to think hard about how we will continue to have the kind of impact and influence that has shaped our first 100 years.
Our members, of course, are the beating heart of Rotary. So membership is a good place to start.
Over the past 15 years, Rotary has carried out pilot programs that have explored new definitions of membership, classifications, and the club experience. We have consistently found that when clubs are given the freedom to determine how to hold their meetings, the composition of their membership, and what defines engagement, the club is more vibrant and better able to grow.
In some parts of the world, the traditional club model works just fine, but in others, our membership is flatlining. To be frank, a single club model applied universally across our incredibly diverse Rotary communities is probably not sustainable.
To address this, and support Rotary’s future health, Rotary’s Council on Legislation adopted two measures that in my mind are critical for our organization: clubs now have greater flexibility (see the video) in when, where, and how they meet and the types of membership (see the video) they offer.
Also importantly, Rotaractors can become members of Rotary clubs while they are still in Rotaract.
It’s your choice
While this flexibility is available to those clubs that choose to amend their bylaws, a club that wishes to continue to adhere to the traditional requirements regarding meetings, attendance, structure, or categories of membership may continue to do so.
Some clubs are already taking advantage of the new flexibility, as this blog post from a Rotaract member who is also now a Rotary member shows. Rotary needs to retain the talents of qualified young leaders as well as attract members from all demographic groups. The membership decisions, like many others at this year’s Council, are a significant step for Rotary’s future.
Learn more about the membership and meeting flexibility decisions and the impact they will have on our organization’s growth in the years ahead (download the PDF). I encourage you to share this information with Rotarians in your club, district, and region. You can also read a review of the Council’s actions on rotary.org.