What value does your club have for young professionals?

Michael Walstrom

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of blog posts celebrating Membership Month.

By Michael Walstrom, president of the Rotary Club of Downtown Boca Raton, Florida  

Rotary, like any business, has customers. For us, those customers are our members and we must provide value to assure satisfied customers. The key to attracting and retaining young professional “customers” is presenting a Value Proposition that is attractive.

In a previous post, I discussed the Young Professional (YP) Membership Development project I took on in District 6930. 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 challenges they face. From this, we learned that young professionals are looking for networking and mentorship, but have concerns about time, money, and family commitments. Fortunately, Rotary has considerable value to offer in all of those areas.

  • Networking: Many young professionals are looking for business, and that’s OK. People do business with those they know, like, and trust. Rotary can help there, as long as expectations are set from the beginning.
  • Leadership: Through Rotary, young professionals are able to establish themselves as leaders in the community. Their values can be made clear; they give back, and learn to work with others. “Come, join us, be a leader.” This is a strong value proposition for the young professional.
  • Mentorship: Many of our young professionals are also interested in working with current community leaders and in being mentored. How many of your club members could provide this value?
  • Time & money: Clubs have increasing flexibility to address the time and money issue in ways they see fit, ways that are adapted to their unique communities and challenges. Some examples include corporate memberships, and “Rule of 35” memberships which allow members under the age of 35 to pay a reduced rate that just covers dues to RI and the meals they attend.
  • Family Commitments: Family is important, and there may be no better place for a young professional to spend quality time with their family, while teaching kids valuable life lessons in service. We say, families welcome!

Once we have identified the value our clubs have, the key is to get that message out. Again, like any business, we need to develop a coordinated marketing plan to “sell” our club to young professionals in the community. A Young Professionals Committee is a good start, but I’ll save more on that topic for a future blog post.

Check out Rotary International’s Engaging Younger Professionals, a new online toolkit that 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.

15 thoughts on “What value does your club have for young professionals?

  1. Pro tip: have meetings outside office hours, being 8am to 5pm, which includes the lunch hour. To emphasize, I mean completely outside, not just partly, such as 7:30-8:30am.

    We young professionals are earning our stripes and don’t always have the flexibility of coming in “just an hour late” once a week (don’t forget we need to get to work after).

    We’re less inclined to join a Rotary Club if it means sticking our necks out to ask for a favour from our employer.

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  2. Martin, I love your video! What a great piece to get clubs thinking about retention. My piece addresses the “Family Commitments” and “Economic Hardship” with regard to YP members. RI has allowed clubs considerable latitude to manage these issues at the club level. As for “Passed Away”, that’s a large and inevitable issue for Rotary, which makes Young Professional Membership Development all the more crucial.

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  3. If you delve deeper, you’ll find that the common denominator is that helping others adds meaning to our lives. If your club isn’t adding meaning, then you’ll eventually lose members, no matter what the age.

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    • Ray you couldn’t be more correct! Thank you. Call it meaning, call it value – whatever you like. But I want to do more than hold onto the members we have, I want to grow our clubs by adding NEW members. Rotary’s global membership numbers are frighteningly stagnant, North American and European numbers are in decline. We need to excite a new generation of folks to get through the door and find that “meaning” or “value” so we don’t fade away! The under 40 demographic is just one area we can focus on to grow. It doesn’t have to be the only one, but let’s try to build those anemic numbers and inspire that next generation of Rotarians!

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      • I agree with growth Michael & Ray but holding on to the ones you have is a precursor to a good, stable and vibrant club that will then attract others … you cannot ignore retention because Rotary has been gaining members every year BUT they lose at least the same amount too!

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    • Is Rotary really a business? I think not! … We are a membership organisatin and have members not customers. We distort our thinking if we use an inappropriate model to evolve. We do not have a “product or a “service” to sell … We have outcomes from fellowship together and those outcome unify our organisational thinking and what we do.

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  4. Is Rotary really a business? I think not! … We are a membership organisatin and have members not customers. We distort our thinking if we use an inappropriate model to evolve. We do not have a “product or a “service” to sell … We have outcomes from fellowship together and those outcome unify our organisational thinking and what we do.

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    • Martin, one thing I love about Rotary is the breadth of our membership in every measure. This includes our backgrounds, professions, goals, skills, and opinions. They all are additive and enriching to our fellowship.

      Rotary as an organization values our professions, as is stated in our Second Object of Rotary: “High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society.”

      The reality is, our global membership numbers have been stagnant for a decade, and membership age 39 and under sits at about 6%. I am happy to explore any methods of expanding our attraction to new energetic members.

      My effort is to reach some of our members, those thriving worthy professionals, with a message in terms they can relate to and grasp. They may then take that out to their community and recruit new young members who can be attracted to an “opportunity to serve” though Rotary.

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      • Membership numbers have not really been stagnant but leavers equal or outweigh the new Rotarians … stabilise this at the same time as brining new and diverse members and we will grow vibrantly

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