How will YOU Make an Impact as a Rotary Leader?

Rotary International, in the booklet Rotary Basics, illustrates how clubs are the hub, the central focus of Rotary International.  On page 3 it states:  “The club is the most important component of Rotary’s organizational structure.  … Rotary clubs are autonomous…” (emphasis mine).  However, as a club leader, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.  Rather, it seems that specific and often conflicting directives are given to clubs by Rotary leadership at all levels, District, Zone and International.  What is a club leader to do?

Most important, I believe, is to FOCUS.  Understand where your club is now, and where you want to take it.  Then develop a strategy that will move you in the right direction, closer to your goal.  I know this seems obvious, but it is very easy to become distracted when you receive an email from your Assistant Governor, or District Governor, or District Committee Chair, to do something that is important to them.  The Rotarian Economist has an interesting perspective on this subject.

First, FOCUS efforts, where you need it most.  Then, see where your goals are compatible with the District, Zone and RI initiatives.  Generally, the initiatives suggested by RI are consistent with the Rotary International Strategic Plan to Support and Strengthen Clubs, Focus and Increase Humanitarian Service, and Enhance Public Image and Awareness.  It just might not be obvious from where you are sitting!


There are many resources available on MyRotary to help you assess where your club is now, including Rotary Club Health Check, Membership Assessment Tools, Be A Vibrant Club and Strengthening Your Membership.


When it is time to develop a strategic plan, the Strategic Planning Guide is available through MyRotary.

Let’s say that after a thorough analysis, you decide that your primary goal is to focus on growing membership, with a goal of having a membership gain of 10% at the end of the Rotary year.  Given that the typical Rotary club loses around 14% of its membership annually, that means you will need to attract around 24% new members to achieve your growth goal of 10%.  For purposes of this exercise, let’s assume you currently have 30 members and you would like to grow to 33 by June 30.  With the inevitable attrition, that means you need to attract around 7-8 new members this year.  For many clubs, that may seem like a daunting task, but we’ll see if we can’t figure out how to hit the number.

Now that you know where you are, and where you are headed, how can you manage the diverse requests from ‘on high’?  Direction may come from RI in the form of the Presidential Citation, from Zone in the form of a Public Image Citation and from the District Governor in the form of various targets, including donations to the Polio Plus fund.  How can you achieve your goal of growing membership, and not get diverted by these other objectives?

Using the 2016-17 Presidential Citation and Zone 33 Public Image Citations as guides, let’s see how these initiatives may all come together into a cohesive program to help grow club membership.  By the way, I’m assuming your District Governor will be delighted if your club grows 10%!

By combining membership initiatives in just two projects, a tree planting and a Polio Plus event, you can achieve both the RI Presidential Citation* (assuming you also pay your dues and report volunteer hours) and the Zone 33 Public Image Citation*.  Along the way you will increase community awareness of your club and likely increase membership by at least one new member, probably more.

RI Presidential Citation

Zone 33 Public Image Citation

Club Initiative

-Update or develop your club’s strategic plan

-Set 10 goals in Rotary Club Central

-Done in your early analysis and goal development
-Engage members in activities outside of regular club meetings.

-Sponsor an Interact club

-Sponsor a Polio Awareness event

-Involve the family of Rotary

-Host a World Polio Day event

-Use Rotary’s brand guidelines

-Update club website

-Have local media cover the event

-Use Rotary’s brand guidelines

-Update club website /social media

-Host community event on World Polio Day

-Have local media cover the event

PolioPlus Event

Raise club awareness, raise money for PolioPlus and support membership growth with a ‘Purple Pinkie’ project on World Polio Day. 

-Rotarians and Interactors work together to have a ‘Purple Pinky’ fundraiser on World Polio Day, at local nail salons and other venues attractive to young professionals.

-Publicize the event using current brand guidelines, both on-line and through print media.

-Invite potential members, especially young women, to participate in the project.

-Later, ask the potential members to join the club!

-Collaborate with other Rotary clubs

-Involve the family of Rotary

-Conduct an environmental project

-Use Rotary’s brand guidelines

-Update club website

-Have local media cover the event

-Use Rotary’s brand guidelines

-Update club website /social media

-Have local media cover the event

Plant Some Trees!

Raise club awareness and support membership growth with a tree-planting project.

Combine with another Rotary club and Interact club to plant trees in a city park.

-Publicize the event using current brand guidelines on-line and through print media.

-Invite potential members, including young women, to participate in the project.

-Later, ask the potential members to join the club!

-Achieve a net gain in membership of +1

– Achieve a net gain in female members by +1

-Achieve a net gain in members under 40 by +1

Net Gain of 3 Members 

-Focus on recruiting female members as part of the overall growth plan

-Focus on recruiting younger members.

If the club has one more, young female member at the end of the year, THREE goals are met for the RI Presidential Citation!

*Read the requirements of the citations carefully.  I have omitted details, including reporting requirements.

With these two, well organized and implemented, projects, you should be well on your way to achieving your goal of growing membership by 10%.  It just takes FOCUS!

Then, if the ‘higher ups’ ask you to focus on a project that is not consistent with your stated objectives and strategic plan, and you feel it will distract you from your goal, feel empowered to politely decline and state that you are focusing on increasing public awareness, growing membership and supporting Polio Plus initiatives.  I think ‘they’ will gladly support your autonomy!

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