How we added younger members with an evening group

Stratford-Upon-Avon club members prepare for the Shakespeare Duck Race.

By Jonathan Craig, secretary of the Rotary Club of Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England

Our club meets at lunch and has a membership that is mostly retired. We do have a few younger members who have their own businesses or retired early, but gone are the days when employers encouraged their local bank managers to take two hour lunches. We began to be seen as a club that wasn’t a good fit for young working people. So it became a strategic goal for our club (and also for RIBI) to attract younger members and also more women.

We decided to establish a Satellite Club, although we now prefer not to call it that. Past President Gilly Rushton took it on as a personal project, and identified a handful of people, two or three, who would meet in the evening, joined by a few members from our lunchtime group (but not too many, so as not to dominate the group.) They would meet informally over a drink in a pub, at an agreed upon time and date. The only structure was to fix a date for the next meeting.

Welcoming the new members

Eventually, this “evening group,” as we refer to it, developed into a meeting over dinner, and committee chairs would join them to discuss what was up in their committee. Our club president and an assistant district governor would check in to make sure Rotary guidelines were being followed. We encouraged our evening members to attend lunch whenever they could. Establishing this group as a satellite became part of our strategic plan.

When it was clear that they wanted to join Rotary, we sent out induction letters for each individually, and they were welcomed in front of the whole club at one of our evening meetings (we do have an occasional evening meeting already, mostly on fifth Mondays.) One of the evening members was selected to sit on our council as a full voting member, and in addition the newly-elected honorary treasurer is from the evening group.

The evening group is less formal than our lunchtime meeting, meets twice a month, once for business and once social, in different places. The group is nine members strong, soon to be 10. They are full members of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Rotary Club, pay the same dues, and receive the same emails and notices.

Yellow ducks race down the Avon

They set up their own project, a very successful Duck Race on the Avon, which has already been repeated. And they also join some of our other club projects such as a marathon, our biggest fundraiser of the year.

I saw a comment recently about the value of starting an evening group with shared experience, shared administration. It doesn’t have to be intended to become a separate club, as long as it works. The average age of the group is younger, which is not only good for future growth but brings new insights into things like using social media.

We currently have 70 members, nine of which are in the evening group. Of our 11 women members, five are in the evening group. So that says something. It’s been quite a journey for us, and the journey continues.

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.

4 thoughts on “How we added younger members with an evening group

  1. Our club in Morisset Australia encouraged under 25 ‘ s to join. Older members can opt to pay more in their fees to subsidize younger members. We ensure a younger member is always on the Board on a rotational basis so we get a young person perspective on everything we do. It’s working well for us and they started a whole business selling tee shirts they designed, they even have their own football team. http://www.joinrotary.com.au

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  2. This is exactly the experience we had in our lunch time club. We started an evening 2nd venue meeting at the local Community College. We attracted 8 new members, all women, all with advanced degrees. We already had a Rotaract club on campus. The two work flawlessly on projects such as the student food pantry. The increase in female members and their diverse nationalities has brought our gender ratio to almost even, reduced our average member age and greatly expanded the diversity. A very good example for other clubs to try.

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  3. My club is also a lunchtime club with a meeting in the evening for those who wish a less formal meeting and who do not wish to meet at lunchtime. We do not do separate projects and all work together. Those who enjoy meeting at lunch do so and those who wish to meet in the evening – twice a month on Mondays do so. In just over four years our membership has grown from 35 to 52 with an increase in women members from 4 to 18. Inverkeithing& Dalgety Bay Rotary Club.

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