Where are all the young members?

Evan Burrell and club

Evan Burrell, left, discusses membership with Rotarians in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Monika Lozinska/Rotary International

By Evan Burrell, a member of the Rotary Club of Turramurra, New South Wales, Australia

As a former member of Rotaract and now a young Rotarian, I get asked quite a lot, “where do we find more young members like you?”

It may seem like young members are as elusive to catch as Pokémon, but with the right strategy and awareness, it’s not that difficult at all. The truth is, they are really all around us. They may be in your work place, they may be in your neighborhood, or they may be in those other social gatherings you belong to. Others may be active in our youth programs like Rotaract and RYLA, readying themselves for the challenges that lie ahead.

Attracting new members is pretty critical to our clubs. They are the lifeblood of our organization, bringing in fresh ideas and insights, and keeping our clubs alive and relevant. In turn, young professionals seek a sense of purpose and belonging, and this is exactly what your club can give them.

As we celebrate Membership Month in Rotary, here are my tips for attracting younger members

  1. Don’t go too crazy at first. If the average age of your club is over 60, begin by trying to attract members in their 40’s and 50’s and work from there.
  2. Use your age differences to your advantage. Stress the opportunity for career mentoring and set up mentoring programs pairing members with vast experience with those just beginning their careers.
  3. Make sure you welcome new members into your club. At meetings, assign a seasoned veteran to each new member to be their host and introduce them to everyone else in your club. In time, the newcomer will get a better feel for the club.
  4. Use social media (Twitter, Facebook). Let’s face it, anyone under 30 is on social media 24/7. So use it to your club’s advantage by promoting your activities and what you do in the community.
  5. Sponsor participants for our young leaders programs. College or university students are excellent candidates for a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards event. Sponsor a high school student for a Rotary Youth Exchange, and you not only broaden their horizons, but also make a lifelong friend of Rotary. Work alongside these future leaders of tomorrow so they become interested in your club and our organization.
  6. Keep younger, and newer, members in the loop. This one is a biggie! Don’t waste all that effort attracting new members only to forget about them and let them drift away from lack of attention. Engage them in as many ways as you can. Find out what they are interested in, and put them in charge of things that match their likes. If you have enough new members with a particular interest, start up a new program or incorporate their interests into an existing one. Make sure you give them lead roles, and give them a real opportunity to make a difference.

Member recruitment is a must for any club that wants to survive and not turn into the Rotary Club of Jurassic Park. It is not difficult, but you DO have to put some effort into it. You won’t regret the time, though, when you see your club take on new life.

Register for our webinar, Revitalize and Rethink Your Rotary Club on Wednesday, 24 August, at 11:00 Chicago time.

Join a discussion of membership best practices

11 thoughts on “Where are all the young members?

  1. Pingback: Our top 5 stories of 2016 | Rotary Voices

  2. Make a synergy between ecperience of old members and energy of young members. Be open for their (young) thoughts.


  3. The best advice in this post is, “Don’t go too crazy at first”.

    Let’s not beat ourselves up too much over not having a huge number of younger members, and let’s be realistic. When we’re looking for younger members, even in their 40’s and particularly in their 30’s, we’re looking for OUTLIERS. Check out Malcolm Gladwell’s book by the same name. There’s a whole lot going on in the life of a 30-something or a 40-something. Kids, careers, mortgages, soccer, swim meets — it never ends.

    It’s a rare 30-something or 40-something who has all that under control and also has the time and money available for Rotary (or any other non-family volunteer activity). Those are the OUTLIERS we’re looking for, and they’re probably something like 5% of their peer group. They’re out there, and they’re exceptional people, and we need them. There just aren’t very many of them.

    John Hewko has reminded us countless times that our “sweet spot” of age demographics is 45-60 years old. Those are people who are in the shank of their careers, nearly or mostly empty nesters, and financially able to take on an additional discretionary expense. I’ll take 45 year olds all day long — they have at least another 20 years to contribute to Rotary’s mission and to get the value out of Rotary.

    So, it’s unarguable that your Rotary club will be stronger if you can find more members in their 30’s and 40’s. We need strategies in place to attract those prospects, and the suggestions in this post are good ones. As a GROWTH strategy, however, you’ll find a far more target-rich environment between ages 45 and 60. It’s a balance, not an “either/or”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Where are all the young members? | The Rotary Club of Carteret

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