How our club attracts and retains alumni as members

Members of the Dupont Circle Rotary Club at a tree planting event.

By Mandy Warfield, president, and Emma Satzger, membership coordinator, Rotary Club of Dupont Circle, Washington D.C., USA

The Rotary Club of Dupont Circle was started six years ago by a group of Rotary alumni, and since then, the club has grown to include many other facets of the community, including individuals who have not had any previous experience with Rotary.

Over the last few years, our club has continued to attract and retain alumni members. Sometimes RI finds the alumni and introduces them to our club, and sometimes the alumni find us. We are lucky to have naturally open and social members, and everyone makes a concerted effort to make any visitor feel welcome. One of our Rotary alumni members, Molly, recounts, “When I started attending meetings, no one treated me like a joke or a second-tier Rotarian because I was so young. Fellow members treated me as an equal who had ideas and skills to contribute to the club.”

Our club meets at a neighborhood bar and we meet in the evening. This rather informal environment also allows us to keep dues at a minimum, which is often a swaying factor for younger members. Because we are a small club, we’ve adopted an “all hands on deck” approach in order to execute on our club’s goals; new members frequently become active members of our committees, and even volunteer to step up into the committee chair role. Their fresh insights and perspectives have helped our club grow and have shaped our club over time.

Our service opportunities also reflect this “all hands on deck” approach. Another of Molly’s reasons for joining our club were “the hands-on service opportunities the club offers.” She says, “I like getting to get my hands dirty planting a tree or digging out invasive plant species in a wetlands. Almost all the service events Rotary Club of Dupont Circle does involve that level of activity and commitment.”

What are some tips we have for attracting and retaining Rotary alumni or other young professionals?

  • Get people involved immediately. New members are interested in your club because they want to make a difference. Ask your prospective member to help plan a service project or take a leading role on a committee.
  • Explore financing options. If paying dues is the only thing standing in the way of a member joining your club, it is worth sitting down to have a candid discussion to explore other options. Perhaps another existing member would be willing to support a portion of the dues.
  • Be curious. Ask them questions about their work life and previous experiences with Rotary. Connect them with someone in the club who might have a similar previous experience.
  • Most importantly– Have fun!

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.

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