Editor’s Note: If your membership is declining, it might be time to evaluate the health of your club. Find an evaluation exercise and helpful strategies in Is Your Club Healthy? in the Learning Center.
By S. David Chang, Rotary Club of Seoul, Korea
Our club, The Rotary Club of Seoul, was established in 1927 as the first club in Korea. We are unique in that our members are multinational and our official language is English. Like most other clubs, our challenges were: diminishing membership; inability to attract younger people; lack of community service; and uninteresting meetings sinking motivation and enthusiasm.
In recent years, our club board decided to transform our club with several new initiatives. We decided to form a satellite club for English speaking young leaders in Seoul between age 19-35. The group got started with Ray Chetti as its first leader, and we were successful in recruiting 65 young leaders. During the first year, this “Seoul Young Leaders Satellite Club” conducted 38 fundraising and community service events, raising over $7,000. Now with new co-presidents (Sayel Cortes & Haein An), the club is focusing on helping single mothers without support.
Another exciting thing we did was to create a “convertible membership program” for busy people of age 36-55 to pay only half of our annual fee and come only a couple of times per month.
We also decided to lower the barriers for new members. We got rid of the clerk and lowered the annual dues and made our meetings more interesting. Now, every month, we have one formal lunch meeting, one community service event, one informal fellowship night, and one cultural or outside activity to engage new friends.
By cutting down operational expenses enough to give a $100 contribution to The Rotary Foundation for every member, we became the only 100% Foundation Giving Club within our district. During the first year of our transformation, we increased our membership from 38 to 125 including 65 young leaders. We wiped out almost all district awards and restored our club image and reputation. It is important to create a challenging vision with stretching goals, but it is more important to sustain that momentum for several years. We are lucky to have club leaders like Andrew Lee, Marc DeVastale, Sugar Han, and many others who really care for Rotary and our club.
Rotary is all about service and friendship; and we must continue to be creative to make it enjoyable and meaningful.