Why it’s not good enough just to bring in new members

A club member gets a turn in the driving simulator during the Rotary Club of Brisbane’s vocational visit to the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety.

By Daniel Vankov, president of the Rotary Club of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

One of the biggest conversations around Rotary these days is membership growth. There are quite a few stories flying around and all of them provide good advice. But there is a second topic that is as important, if not more so, than membership acquisition, and that is retention. What can we do to keep these members we have worked so hard to bring in? 

My club did well in both membership growth and retention last year, receiving our district’s Errol Richardson Membership Development trophy, and one for membership retention, having not lost a single member over the previous year. As I began my year as club president, I naturally focused on growing our membership. In the first two months, I brought in two members, but we also lost two members. So no retention trophy this year! But more importantly, I realized I needed to discover what gives value back to our members. It is not good enough just to keep them busy.

The grim statistics suggest most clubs lose 50 percent of their new members within a year, and another 25 percent within two to three years. I knew I needed to do something but also didn’t want to undertake a monstrous effort or reinvent the wheel. So we looked back on some things Rotary clubs have done in the past and decided to dust a couple off and try them.

Club President Daniel Vankov, second from left, at the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety.

First, we focused on vocational visits. But we put some thought into how to make sure we weren’t just boring club members by having them sit in someone’s office listening to how their fellow member crunches numbers or browses the web. We thought hands-on would be a better way to go. For our first one, we went to the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety — Queensland and drove in state-of-the-art driving simulators. Top researchers hosted our club members and informed us on road safety research. Members enjoyed both their turn behind the wheel, and watching other members mess up. We even went home with gift bags to remind us of the visit.

Our second focus will be on leadership development. The club has organized an outing with the Institute of Managers and Leaders for a seminar open to members and non-members alike. Our speaker is Tony Holmes, a past district governor and one of Australia’s top business builders. We want to learn how he went from being an army officer to a leading management consultant, and how he builds businesses all over Australia and internationally while living on a 22-acres property on the Sunshine Coast.

Soon, we plan to put some other innovative ideas to work such as using virtual reality to build awareness for the dangers of driving under the influence.

Through all this, what we have learned is that membership retention is very much as important as member acquisition!

Encourage members to get involved for a more meaningful Rotary experience with the ideas in Connect for Good and other membership resources.

10 thoughts on “Why it’s not good enough just to bring in new members

  1. Greater representation of Rotary throughout the local community requires both obtaining and retaining members. It takes less effort to keep a member than to find a new one. Yet, many clubs concentrate efforts on new member recruitment. Without a solid retention strategy in place, any recruitment efforts will get wasted.


  2. Very good and innovative ideas to retaining members. Club need to think out of the box and be more creative with ideas that will make their club to be more vibrant. Vocational Service is a key aspect of Rotary but it is quite unfortunate that we are pushing it to the background. Let’s reinvent the wheel.


  3. Retention is absolutely the most important factor in membership growth. Finding something new members can devote time to and seeing fulfilling results makes them sense that there is a need that they are meeting as a member of Rotary. It happened to me 28 years ago when I suggested that Rotarians are very Business-savvy and can do something to create JOBS by teaching Entrepreneurial Literacy to school children. Focus Area Six of Rotary designates Job Creation & Entrepreneurship and I am chair of this in my District. My club launched a Junior Achievement entrepreneurship program in Pasadena Unified School District in 1995. Then a competition between students Business Plans with oral presentations in our club. Then a District Business Plan Competition between Rotary-sponsored school districts. The tv series ‘Shark Tank’ has stimulated students’ interest in Entrepreneurship. Internationally we have launched programs in seven countries. In Uganda in collaboration with a World Bank agency. In Zambia with a grant from the US Dept of State. Currently in Nigeria by sending 4-person Vocational Training Teams to universities and 12,000 have been trained. JOBS are the greatest need in the world today and business-savvy Rotarians enjoy meeting the challenge through entrepreneurial literacy. And seeing Rotary as the best way to fill this enormous need, locally and globally. And a good reason for being a member

    Liked by 1 person

    • You got it right and long sighted enough productively .Not just job but that the entrepreneurial training and business plan skills will equip the generation into the future a s viable citizens & Rotarians -who will be cheque writers for younger family of Rotary.Anything that can enhance the financial & ethical viability of Rotarians as members must not be ignored .it will make RI & her 35k clubs remain a compassionate in doing good in her 2nd century.However C.RAY Carlson highlighted majorly on project across the continents for millennia -the adults folks to need to have a support option to enable them be viable beyond the formal contributions of every Rotarian.This is crucial as physical meetings still remain but i m sure in less than a decade more viable potential Rotarians will be fished in to Rotary only if e-meetings are permitted across continents .I don”t think thisn’t good for huge or scanty member clubs in Papua New Guinea & USA Clubs.I ‘m not unhappy about RI’s trendy flexibility about membership & club s types….

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Why it’s not good enough just to bring in new members | The Rotary Club of Carteret

  5. There appears to be a problem with the link to Read More of THis Post

    Jp Joan Peggs, ‘On The Terraces’, 30 King George Terrace, Victoria, BC.,V8S 2J7, CANADA, 250-598-1716


  6. Love the article, but I would take a bit of issue with the last statement. Retention is actually more important that acquisition. The reason is simple. Membership in a Rotary club is a niche market. The most effective marketing technique to niche market is word of mouth. Retained members are happy members and will talk about Rotary to those they feel would make good Rotarians, be they male, female, young or old. In essence, as long as all Rotarians recognize that clubs should bring in new members to replace those that leave, paying more attention to retaining members will take care of the attraction matter. Paying more attention to retention will also get clubs and Rotarians closer to the heart of Why Rotary. That alone will help with Who Rotarians Are. https://zone34retentioncentral.blogspot.com/2017/09/rotarians-impact-on-communities.html


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