By Steve Solbrack –District 5950 New Club Development Chair and a member of the Twin Cities Rotary EcoClub, Minnesota, USA
We chartered our new Rotary club in February 2019 with 25 members and a focus on the environment. The EcoClub is a non-traditional format designed to attract a segment of the population not currently served by traditional clubs. We began with 48 percent of our members as women, 44 percent under the age of 40, and an average age of 42. In North America, those demographics are unheard of in a service organization of any kind.
EcoClub membership is an opportunity to build new relationships, develop leadership skills and be part of the larger Rotary world, all with a focus on environmental sustainability. Charter members of the club are establishing their own unique culture and norms that fit the interests of the members. The club engages members in service, fellowship and networking. We meet two weekday evenings a month. Meals and beverages are optional, so the cost of membership is significantly less than that of a traditional club format.
As membership chair of District 5950 for three years through last June, I know the importance of forming new clubs with nontraditional formats to attract more women and people under the age of 40 to join Rotary. Forming the new club began in earnest in April 2018 with an information meeting held at The Nature Conservancy office in Minneapolis. Over 50 people attended, including 15 supporting Rotarians, and nine of the attendees eventually joined the new club. The 35 prospective members included 25 young adults under age 40. Even with this exciting start, it took another 10 months to grow membership and charter the club.
Social media was an important tool in the growth and success of the club. Jordann Hartzheim and Austin Campbell, both under the age of 30, created and managed the Facebook page and a Meetup group. The Facebook page has over 170 followers and the Meetup group has over 170 members. At least nine of the charter members came directly from the social media efforts, and 14 members have previous Rotary connections.
Beyond promotion and recruitment efforts, relationship-building has been essential in our success. I initiated over 15 one-to-one meetings with prospective members as the club was being developed. These conversations were important for recruiting members, identifying club leaders, and understanding what new members wanted out of their Rotary experience. Many of the young adults told me they were excited about the leadership development opportunities and were very interested in learning from and being in relationship with club members over age 40. The members over age 40 were excited about the opportunity to be mentors for the young adults. The initial club leadership team of six charter members was elected in September and includes five women and five individuals under age 40.
The club has consistently had fun social and recreational activities and meaningful service projects including tree planting along the Mississippi River, snow-shoeing on a cold Minnesota winter day, a sunny gathering on an apartment building rooftop terrace, and more. It really is a fun, energetic group that I thoroughly enjoy being with. In fact, the group was so vibrant, that after 27 years in a traditional Rotary club, I joined the new EcoClub.
Find out more about the club on our Facebook page. I would be eager to talk to others interested in pursuing a non-traditional club.
Editor’s note: The Twin Cities Rotary EcoClub joins other environmentally-focused clubs such as The Duluth Superior Eco Rotary Club also in Minnesota, USA. Learn more about innovative and flexible clubs