By Robert Fisher, Rotary Club of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
As the first club chartered in Australia, we have a membership of around 250 people. We had two ‘champions’ who were keen to introduce corporate membership. Over several years, they sought acceptance of this category in the upper layers of Rotary, and eventually were given the go-ahead to try it as part of a pilot project in 2011.
We saw corporate membership as a way to uphold our club’s long tradition of attracting the most senior members of Melbourne’s business community, and tap into corporate networks to use their expertise to enhance our social programs. It was our belief that we could achieve significantly greater impact by getting entire corporations involved. We are able to offer them access to a highly respected service organization, and opportunities for their staff to put in volunteer hours and engage in projects.
Five years on
We currently have 17 members from six organizations. RI, district and Rotary Down Under dues are paid for each corporate member as if they were ordinary members. We aim to have just one corporate partner per industry or field. Professional services, banking, and higher education are among some of the industries that are represented. (One member dropped out last year due to lack of senior level connection, and probably inadequate relationship management on our part.)
Our corporate members are engaged in one or more of our projects such as homelessness, domestic violence, and clean water. While they are enthusiastic contributors, the greatest challenge is getting and keeping their attention. They all have extensive time commitments. Attending regular lunch meetings is not easy for them, so we run less frequent and more informal evening meetings to provide them an additional option to keep in touch. Also, our club has a corporate team which meets quarterly with all the corporate members to provide updates and identify potential areas of cooperation.
What have we learned?
Perseverance and focus are required to ensure that the expectations of corporate members are met. This requires constant efforts to maintain close relationships with the corporation and the individuals. We have found that it is better to get prospective corporate members excited in projects first, rather than just focusing on adding members.
Even with its challenges, we have found corporate membership to be highly beneficial.
Editor’s note: All clubs are free to experiment with different membership models– such as corporate membership — through the flexibility granted by the latest Council on Legislation.