Spouse membership is low hanging fruit

Club member and spouse
Carole Romp, left, and her partner, Dale Liebenthal, one of the club’s first spouse members. The Rotary Club of Sandusky’s spouse/partner plan has made it easy for spouses and partners to join.

By Maris Brenner, Rotary Club of Sandusky, Ohio, USA

As a career Sales/Marketing professional, it was always easier to “close the sale” when our potential client had familiarity with our product. And, in many cases, already liked it. In sales, we call this the “low hanging fruit.”

Most Rotary clubs already have potential members close by.

Members and spouses shop for kids.
Bill Monaghan volunteered at the Clothes Kids project with his wife, Judy, even before becoming a member of the club.

In my Rotary Club of Sandusky, Ohio, we were blessed with members who recruited spouses to volunteer at our fundraiser each year. The Pizza Challenge needed many hands to work side-by-side with members. On Saturdays in September through November, these same spouses are always eager to volunteer for our annual “Clothes Kids” project where they are matched with a child to go clothes shopping. I know this because on each of the five Saturdays at 7:30 am these spouses are waiting anxiously to find out which child they will shop with.

Also, all our members’ spouses attended the annual holiday luncheon enjoying the sounds of our high school’s bell choir. They help with the annual picnic as well. Our membership chair invited her husband to most events. Bill was nearing retirement from public office and Judy started to discuss the possibility of him becoming a full member.

The problem was cost. As a club of 100 members, we must guarantee the number of meals to our Yacht Club to insure there is enough staff and food. Semi-annual dues, RI dues, district dues, a nominal scholarship donation, and 25 prepaid weekly meals. For many families, adding that addition $800 expense a year was just too expensive.

Thankfully, Judy kept working with our membership committee on options. At the same time, Rotary International began promoting stories of alternative membership formats and looking at these helped. Our committee spent months speaking to members and spouses who were the most visible at our events and service projects.

As a result, we introduced a spouse membership option that was a good value: waiving the requirement to pre-pay meals. We learned in our interviews that spouses would not come to every lunch. That was not their primary motivation.

In the Spouse/Partner Plan, meals are paid based on actual attendance and billed in the next Semi-Annual Statement, not in advance. RI Dues and District Dues were kept in the plan pricing.

We introduced the new plan in September 2019. That October, the first new spouse members were Bill, our membership chair’s husband, and Dale, the longtime partner of Rotarian Carole Romp. They were all smiles as was the club.

It was contagious after that. In January 2020, four more spouse members were welcomed. The pending list was five more. We needed these enthusiastic new members as COVID-19 hit. We have lost members to death and job relocation this year. By next month, six more will officially join our club.

But it’s not just about numbers. 

These new members are active and retired teachers and nurses, a retired county commissioner, and leaders from small businesses. They may not attend every meeting, but they are our hardest workers. In November, our “Clothes Kids” Shopping did not miss a child because we had even more volunteers on tap this year.

I am convinced that Each One Bring One may be as easy for clubs as asking those special friends who already feel like members to join the family of Rotary.

Take the Strategies for Attracting New Members online course to help draw prospective members, update your club’s experience, and better highlight what your club does well.

2 thoughts on “Spouse membership is low hanging fruit

  1. Re-thinking our policies for Rotary Membership acceptance, for actively involved Spouses/Partners, and adjusting fees as necessary has been long overdue but thankfully a much needed progression. Good to hear such good news!
    Thank you for sharing.

    Dave Claggett

    Like

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