By Michael Walstrom, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Downtown Boca Raton, Florida
I think most would agree that Rotary has struggled to attract and retain young professionals. At a district conference in 2016, my district governor, Eric Gordon, asked me to put together a program for “YP” development. This was a new committee, so I was starting from scratch. I was 38 at the time and two years into my Rotary journey. The only thing I really knew was that I had a lot to learn.
My first step was to gather data. My district, 6930, has 6 percent membership in the “under 40” category. I put together a survey of ten questions designed to get at the core of what brought those members into Rotary, why they stay, what they want, and what the challenges are for them. Club presidents from all over the district helped get their YP members to complete my survey.
The process was fantastic. I knew why I was in Rotary, but I needed to know if my experience was similar to others, or anomalous. Reading through scores of submissions I began to see some distinct trends.
- Younger members were drawn to Rotary through a friend or business contact.
- They value networking, for personal but primarily business purposes.
- Many are interested in developing relationships with community leaders, those who could offer guidance or mentorship.
- Some identified time and financial commitments as ongoing hurdles.
- Only about half identified service as an initial motivation for joining, but to most it is clearly an important factor.
Surveys can help put an issue into context, but how can clubs turn this into a strategy for YP membership development?
I think it means knowing what Rotary has to offer. It’s putting together a Value Proposition that can effectively pitch Rotary to the YPs in any community.
This pitch comes down to one idea, Leadership. Rotary is a unique environment wherein YPs can learn, practice, and exhibit leadership skills. This is an immeasurable benefit for one’s personal and professional development. Their values can be made clear; they learn to work with others and pay it forward.
Download Walstrom’s survey (PDF).
Engaging Younger Professionals, a new online toolkit, helps clubs better understand younger professionals. From ideas for outreach and engagement to long-term benefits of becoming a Rotarian, this toolkit helps clubs rethink their membership, from a broad perspective down to a tactical level.