5-year plan to increase membership

Rotary and Rotaract members in Taipei, Taiwan, take part in an after-hours service project. Creating a separate after-hour meeting can be an effective strategy to attract members your main group isn’t reaching.

By Galen Engel, Rotary Club of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, USA

When I first became a member, I was interested in membership. I was new and didn’t know many people in the club and the incoming president asked me to be Sergeant at Arms. It’s a good way to get to know everybody and it’s fun.

In the club of 65 members, the same 10 people seemed to be the ones that were involved in everything. I thought it would be an easy job to engage the whole group and get the rest of them involved. After eight months, I had some success, but not as much as I had thought. It became apparent that it would be easier to build a new group to attract a younger and more vibrant membership base.

Why can’t the same club serve more people by having different meeting times in separate places? Why should we expect people from all parts of town to drive 20 minutes to get to our Monday meeting? Is it necessary to come together once a week in the same place when each group will have separate needs and community concerns?  What if we had liaisons from each of several separate meeting locations that would get together once a month with the club board? And then all members would get together once a quarter for training and fellowship. This would keep us all on the same page.

After hours format

All meetings could have the same objective of service and growth. The separate groups could compete with each other for fundraising goals and membership. They could come together for combined service projects and to support smaller clubs in the area to help expand their vision and membership.

What I envision is starting with one After Hours meeting, an alternative meeting time every other week. Everyone would have a voice in service projects, membership, fundraising, and future direction. It is important this new group feels in control of where the funds they raise are directed. Half of everything that is raised could go into the general club fund, and the other half to areas this group decides.

If this can be done once, why not do it three or four times in different parts of town not being served or represented by our club? The goal would be to have three or four After Hours groups with 25-30 new members meeting at different times and places, paying dues, raising money, helping serve their local communities and bringing in young excited members. Members who step up to run the smaller meeting groups would gain experience before being put into the five-year rotation of club president. Now we would have a young vibrant leadership team to help engage the older members.

New meeting a year

Meeting areas should be far enough away from each other as to cover all areas of the city, increasing diversity. Even in small towns, different areas have different needs. Nobody understands these needs more than the people who live in these areas. The key to making this, or any other membership model, work is finding the right person to chair the membership committee in each club, district, and zone.

If you created one new meeting time each year, and each new meeting attracted 15 new members every year, by the end of the fifth year, you would have brought in 225 new members. The first new meeting time could split off into its own new club. It would look like this:

Meeting 1 Meeting 2 Meeting 3 Meeting 4 Meeting 5
15 15
15 15 15
15 15 15 15
New Club 15 15 15 15

Share your thoughts and ideas below.

13 thoughts on “5-year plan to increase membership

  1. Sounds like a great initiative. In my 20s, i was a member of a club where most members were retired. I struggled leaving work early enough to get to 6:00 meetings, found it frustrating to pay $25 for dinner (I would have preferred to donate it). I wanted to volunteer asnd ‘do good’ rather than eat and chat.
    The members were all great people, and the club was welcoming – but I didnt fit in and my attendance petered out.


  2. So here is the update to the After Hours idea –
    We have implemented a lot of these ideas already in our After Hours group. We personally reach out to our members and prospects prior to each meeting with a personal phone call or e-mail.
    Ten of 11 new members we got this last Rotary year came through the After Hours meeting. We regularly have 18-24 members in attendance in After Hours. The average age is 35-40 and approximately 45% female.
    We have raised money for our local food bank through rib sales. The ribs were provided by our lunch caterer for the Monday group. We also got a team together and stood outside Walmart asking people to buy specific school supplies, and we donated backpacks and supplies to the local food bank as well. We volunteered for Medical Supplies Network, our Rotary District owned warehouse full of donated medical supplies, that are given away locally and shipped all over the world. These projects were all completed very quickly, with very little notice, group texting, and almost a flash mob type of thing between the members.
    The After Hours supports the main club in their projects as well, such as Shop with a Rotarian, Salvation Army Bell Ringing, etc. We sent After Hours members to the District Conference and raised our own funds to pay for their expenses.


    • BRAVO! I’m currently a Membership Ambassador for 10 clubs in Solano County, California (45 minutes from San Francisco) and am always looking for ideas to share with our clubs and district. LOVE your success! One question: what are the various reasons satellite members choose the AFTER HOURS groups versus main Rotary Club? Hands on service seems key. Is it the time of the meeting? Are membership dues cheaper for Satellite members than the main Club? Do members ever attend the regular Club’s more traditional meetings focused on socializing, guest speakers, rotary minutes, etc.?


  3. I love this idea. I am in the process of setting up a satellite club which I never intend to charter in its own right. The. reasons for this are that the main club is very financial and could therefore be supportive in the early stages, I also want the. satellite club members to show the main club members that there is an alternative. way of doing things. The satellite club will get together fortnightly at a local pub where there are child facilities. One hour for business and then those members that want to stay for a meal can do so.


  4. Galen, My club, like most Rotary clubs, is looking to expand membership.
    I like your passion and your ideas. I see the theory and would like for you to share the results. We are totally open to trying things that have proven successful in other clubs.


  5. Bravo to you for helping to create a new way of doing things. Having an alternative meeting time and place is sure to bring in different population of volunteers. I applaud you for your new ideas and putting them into action.


  6. Interesting…you have created new clubs within a club. Why not just build new independent clubs? I think they face many challenges in this type of hierarchical organization.


    • I have heard about clubs in the area struggle with finances and leadership. We have the best of both. We have the financial strength and we have the leadership to keep us pointed in the right direction.
      All the members are less than a year old . We now can teach them and get them to start leading a small group. When comfortable with their role we start to put them into the large club meetings and the five year progression to club president.
      This changes the whole culture of the club.


  7. I love the innovation here. Anything that engages younger members (and potential members) is good. Your spreadsheet should include some attrition. People move, get new jobs, have kids and other life events happen. Also, you might look for initiatives that get older and younger volunteers engaged. Make random matches between members for “coffee dates” (before or after a meeting is convenient) to allow them to get to know each other. Experience and new ideas/energy can work together productively.


  8. Change can bring more fabulous output, not always but many a time, can. For an eClub which is meeting on the web, this kind of meets can be very good. especially for those who are working and have different time possible as per their work schedule. and Zoom can add a fabulous twist for them. you have a fabulous idea and hope more clubs can bring similar kind of changes to keep the members active and going ahead


  9. Wow. Awesome. This a great strategy! I think other clubs might use it to help all their members involved in the clubs activities.


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