Why we changed our meeting format

Past President Chris Brand works the webcast computer during a recent meeting.

By Margie Kersey, Rotary Club of Stone Mountain, Georgia, USA

I love my club, but I was concerned. When I joined in 2006, there were over 60 members. By July 2016, there were only 43. We were adding new members every year, but we were losing more. Looking at the average age of my club, I was more worried – over 30 percent of the club was over the age of 70. The future didn’t look bright.

My goal as club president in 2016-17 was to make my club stronger. Membership was at the top of my agenda. The board and I identified two major issues: 1. We charged the second highest dues in our district and 2. Many members couldn’t make a weekly meeting.

Margie Kersey, right, and Waylee George from Areta Media Associates.

We addressed dues first. We moved our meeting to a church hall and hired a caterer that charges far less than the country club. We presented the plan to our members, who enthusiastically supported reducing our dues from $800 per person to $380 annually. Our dues didn’t include food or anything else, meals and Foundation donations were on top of this charge!

Dues had gotten out of control because the membership didn’t want to conduct fundraisers, so they voted to assess themselves instead. It cost us members – both senior members who were retired and on a fixed income and potential new members who could join “cheaper” clubs within 20 miles of us. We now pay our annual dues in full on 1 July, and our quarterly bill includes the meals we have eaten and other assessments.

That was the easy part.

Going hybrid

To address the second problem, we became a hybrid club. Thanks to the Council on Legislation providing more flexibility and removing some of the distinctions between clubs that meet in person and E-clubs that meet online, we became both. We stream our meeting every week using software. Members can log in to view and hear the meeting, as well as interact with other members and the speaker.

We purchased the equipment for $400. It was small and easy to install. The camera fits in the palm of your hand and the microphone sits on top of the slide projector along with the laptop. Most people don’t even notice the equipment.

Now, all our members are able to attend a meeting any way they wish. It has resulted in better attendance from our existing members and has generated a lot of excitement with potential new members. We have added six members so far, and we expect our club membership to continue to grow.

Our next step is adding membership types.

Throughout Membership and New Club Development month, we will be featuring blog posts that focus on club flexibility. From a hybrid club to dual membership, these posts feature clubs who have benefited greatly from restructuring or implementing new membership options.

13 thoughts on “Why we changed our meeting format

  1. Thanks for sharing your innovative ideas in exploring the flexibility ideas in Rotary. My club tried the idea of having meeting twice In a month but it did not work for us. The bond between members were not just there and members were missing meetings more than before .Now we are back to the weekly meetings. However,we are going to explore the Membership types to see if it will help in increasing our membership strength.

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  2. Margie,

    Thank you for sharing the story of how your club was able to be so innovative with respect to membership. I hope that leaders in the highest levels of Rotary have heard you and taken to heart what you have experienced. In the United States, I feel that Rotary has been stagnant for many years. Without innovations like the ones your club is undertaken, that stagnation can easily become decline.

    I was in a club much like yours. Our membership peaked in the high 60s around 2008, and fell to the mid-50s by the time I served as president in 2011-12. When I finished my term as president, we realized we were on the cusp of losing several more members. We started a satellite club, but it eventually withered and died. When it did, I could no longer justify the financial commitment required for a full time member of my former club. Luckily for me, I found a satellite club in a different Rotary district that accepted me as a transfer member.

    What I think is most vital about your message is that your club was able to redefine “meeting” in a way that was truly innovative. A ‘meeting’ doesn’t have to be physical. When my old club was trying to come up with ways to expand our reach, we never really thought about streaming the meeting and making it available on line. Just this change alone is huge – and it would enable many people to join Rotary who would otherwise not be able. A frustration of our satellite club is that any face to face meetings among members are generally a long distance from where I live, and aren’t an option.

    In addition, I was glad to see that you acknowledged that the cost of Rotary can be a huge disincentive to join/remain. Not all of us are able to induce our employers to underwrite our membership. Over half of the cost of my membership in my local Rotary Club was food, which I paid for whether I showed up and ate it or not. With two teenage children in the house, I did not feel that was an expense I could justify. While the club had to take on an obligation like guaranteeing a number of meals (we were a breakfast club, with buffet service) to secure a meeting place in our community, the members could vote with their feet (like me) and move on.

    Along this line, there seems to be an expectation in Rotary (especially Rotary beyond the Club level) that Rotarians are check writers with cash just begging to be tapped. I was appalled when the District Governor of my current e-Club made a statement during an on-line meeting that since we were saving a lot of money on membership dues, meals, etc., we should be more able to write checks for The Rotary Foundation and District projects. I primarily joined Rotary for community service – after all, it is the world’s preeminent service organization. There are other organizations I belong to that also perform community service – and don’t cost me anything for my affiliation.

    So, excellent work. I look forward to finding out how you will define different levels of membership in your club.

    Greg Brown
    Washougal, Washington

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  3. Pingback: Pourquoi avons-nous changé la manière de tenir nos réunions | Rotariens de Melun

  4. I also whole-hearty support this new meeting format, I will apply 2 times official meeting in a month, while the other 2 weeks, I encourage members to do things for club in their own way, for example trying visiting another club to learn (particularly for new members), do social work outside club, and every 2-3 months will do in-house meeting in rotary ways, so every member get their turn to host. Hopefully it will work.

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    • We trailed twice monthly meetings for 10 months last Rotary year and have returned to weekly meetings. Reason being, none of the things we had hoped would be beneficial in reducing the number of members actually occurred, in fact it was just confusing to members and they would phone frequently to find out if the meeting was ‘this week’. If a member was unable to attend for one or two meetings it made a large gap between their meetings as there was not a meeting either side for them to come along to.
      We had hoped attendance would improve, however, this did not happen.
      Members became disconnected rather than it being of benefit.

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  5. Being Relevant. What touches every Rotarian every day? What touches all people everywhere every day? What is beneficial to all concerned?
    May I suggest that peace and the ability to be civil and fair in resolving difference and conflicts are the keys to Rotary’s success and growth. Let’s be peacebuilders and problem-solvers in our efforts to do good. We are in a fortunate position to be peacebuilders. And if not us, who are the world’s peacebuilders?
    In this light please consider opening every meeting (the way we usually close Rotary conferences) by singing the song – “Let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with Me.”
    Let’s do it.

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  6. Our Rotary club have an average to much elevated, for this reason we now former one Satélite club whit young people at this time we have twelve new member I think this new options for increased the membership is a great opportunity for clubs EGD Jorge Vega D District 4320

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    • Hi, I like to know your structure of the satellite club viz a viz the sponsor club. Do they meet as often as the sponsor club? Does it get involved with the sponsor club’s activities? etc.

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  7. Margie – this is brilliant, I’m very happy to read this. At our club of Douala Mangroves in Cameroon, we do the same thing: meeting are livestreamed via appear.in software directly on our website, and we meet every fortnight. It made us so much more efficient and a vibrant club!

    Really happy to see fellow Rotarians having a similar experience. Maybe we could have a joint meeting some day?

    Cheers!

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  8. Hi PDG Doug,
    Here are the details on software & equipment:
    Software – http://www.gotomeeting.com subscribe for $30US a month (we share our subscription with another group to save money!) This software allows you to record your meeting and save it to post on YouTube!
    Camera – Logitech 920e or 930e It is a USB camera, plug and play. About $80US
    Microphone – CRITICAL! This is the one item you must have the best. We recommend the Blue Yeti professional USB. Plug & play, no programming About $120US
    The camera & microphone are available at amazon.com
    We also bought a small Dell laptop and a tripod for the camera.(only $150US total)

    Everyone takes a turn “hosting” online which involves greeting online attendees (either speaking outloud for the microphone or typing if the meeting has already started) The online host also shares questions / comments typed by the online attendees.

    Hope this helps!
    PDG Margie Kersey D6900

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  9. Hi Margie: Thanks for sharing. Can you please provide more details and what you purchased to do the live-streaming and the technical process. With thanks. We are a small club and sometimes have speakers via internet, usually on Skype.
    PDG Doug Vincent, D7080 Ontario, Canada

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  10. Pingback: Why we changed our meeting format | The Rotary Club of Carteret

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