Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of posts for Membership Month inviting experts to share how they reach out to prospective members, keep existing members engaged, and create an environment that allows new clubs to form and thrive.
By Andy Rajapakse, assistant Rotary Coordinator for Zone 8 and a past district governor
Last Rotary year was a year of opportunities for the Rotary Club of Warwick in Queensland, Australia. The club, chartered in 1932, had only seven members when I took office as governor of District 9640 on 1 July 2020. It dropped to three in March 2021. But on 30 April 2021, the club reported 15 members including eight women. It had 11 members under the age of 30 and three were previous members of a Rotaract club. What was Warwick’s magic?
Last July, my first action as governor was to invite the president of Warwick Rotary to a heart-to-heart chat. Joining me was the immediate past district governor Harry Bolton from Tenterfield, and past district governor Neil Maxwell from the nearby Warwick Sunrise Rotary. I put two choices on the table. The easy way out was to terminate the club. Or the road less traveled would be to create a “revolutionary change” and make this grand old club relevant to today’s world by 30 April.
Saving Warwick Rotary
Neil took up my challenge to “Save Warwick Rotary.” He had a passion for this task, as his grandfather Sam Maxwell was the charter president in 1932. In the 1950s the club had 40 members. His father too was a president in 1943-44. Neil was club president in 1978-79.
Neil understood that he was not setting out to recreate the same old club his late grandfather knew, but to rebuild the club around attracting young professionals. He approached Rebecca Lancaster a former district Rotaract representative from Warwick and now an eminent young lawyer, to join the club’s leadership team and reposition it.
A few months later, she introduced 12 other young professionals to the club. Rebecca became president alongside an existing member as treasurer and former Rotaract member as secretary. Following a few evening get-togethers, 11 new members signed up in April to meet over evening cocktails.
How to inspire change
Revolutionary change happens when an outside influence shakes up an organization, presenting a clear and urgent need for overhaul. This strategy worked on other clubs in my district, that collectively added 20 members to Rotary in six months, with 14 members under the age of 35 and 12 who are female. They added 11 members from Rotary alumni.
While creating five new Rotary, two satellite, three Rotaract, one Interact, and one Rotary Youth Exchange alumni club with this new approach, we also mentored and challenged traditional clubs to reinvent and grow. More than half of our 58 clubs grew, with 16 adding more than three members each.
We were able to achieve these results by sharing a common goal, focus, vision, and mindset. But there really wasn’t anything magical about it. Any club or district could do the same with the right determination.
Adapted with permission from the Zone 8 newsletter, Rotary On The Move. Read more about the district’s efforts in Rotary Down Under. Take the Practicing Flexibility and Innovation online course to help you better serve the needs of members and prospective members.