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.