Skip to content

Thoughts of Rotary Leaders: Ian H.S. Riseley

 Trustee, The Rotary Foundation, 2011–2015

All of us love our involvement in Rotary, so why wouldn’t every person leap at the opportunity to join a Rotary club? We know that there are a huge number of quality people who have never been asked to join, and it is the responsibility of us all to rectify that situation.

But when we do ask, what causes people who would make excellent Rotarians to decline the invitation to join? Could it be that most of us are reticent to emphasise the benefits of Rotary club membership to potential Rotarians?

I believe these benefits can be summarised under four principal headings:

1. Friendships: Very few people have all the friends they can handle, and Rotary is a great way to meet lots of outstanding people

2. Personal development: Rotary encourages, even requires, members to speak in public and become involved in management, administration and harmoniouslyworking with others.

3. Business development: Regularly meeting with business and community leaders can be of significant benefit to our vocation.

4. The opportunity to make a real difference: The greatest benefit! The combined efforts of over 1.2 million Rotarians results in huge positive outcomes that are outside the capacity of any individual to deliver.

So why do so many people leave Rotary after a relatively short period of membership? Probably because their actual Rotary experience didn’t meet their expectations. These expectations may have been unrealistic, but in many cases their Rotary club didn’t provide at least one of the four benefits outlined above. All clubs should be continuously alert to the needs of their members.


Thoughts of Rotary Leaders: Kenneth R. Boyd

Director, Rotary International 2011–2013.

Everyone states: “We need more members,” but for some reason, it seems to stop at that point Why?

A quick analysis is that we fail to train our leaders on “How to do this job?” We fail to recognise that everyone’s role is different and we like to put everyone in the same box. We also make it too complex.

Simply put, there are only three (3) things that must be done to have success:

1. We must focus.

2. Everyone has a role.

3. There must be a commitment.

How we go about achieving these three (3) ideas will vary from area to area to have success; however, the roles of “How to do this job” in the three (3) categories and sub-categories below them must be defined to the point that Rotarians, no matter which position they hold (DG, Club President, Membership Chair Member, etc.) will have direction that they can expand on to lead the way and succeed.

Zone 25–26 have been working on such a plan with job descriptions and directives for all three (3) of the above and their many sub-points for over a year. They have developed a plan named “IGNITE” that is available on their website at

Thoughts of Rotary Leaders: John F. Germ

 Trustee, The Rotary Foundation, 2008–2012

Membership is the Life Blood of Rotary. Rotary has unique membership criteria in that the proposed individual must be sponsored by a current Rotarian and meet the classification requirements. While these are unique to Rotary, they do not impose any concerns about recruitment. Each member certainly knows other business and communities leaders who should be members of a Rotary club, but due to a fear of rejection may not propose that individual. Someone gave us the opportunity to become a Rotarian. I think we have an obligation to extend that favour to others. Take the opportunity to ask a colleague, associate or a friend to a meeting. Service is our calling and we need others to strengthen our ability to serve our community and our world. Reach out and touch someone and they will never forget you for giving them the gift of Rotary. We must Ask, Ask, Ask.

While recruitment has not been the major concern, retention has been. We tend to lose too many members within the first two–three years of their joining a Rotary Club. This is due to a lack of an adequate orientation, mentoring and involvement. As the sponsor of a new member, we should insure that we encourage participation in club activities by our participation and inviting the new member to join with us in the activity. If we have relevant club meetings, individual involvement and great fellowship, we will retain those members and build a stronger club, a better community and a more peaceful world.

Thoughts of Rotary Leaders:John Hewko

 General Secretary, Rotary International.

In the early years of Rotary, the growth of our organisation was phenomenal. From one club with just four members, we grew in a matter of decades to an organisation of 1.2 million members in over 34,000 clubs. From the very beginning, Rotary has never had a problem with attracting new members. The problem, right from the start, often has been with keeping them. Of the first four members of the first Rotary club, two left. And even today, Rotary attracts about 1,20,000 new members each year—the same number it loses. If we could find a way to keep all of those new members in Rotary, our growth today would rival our growth in the days of Paul Harris—and our organisation would be capable of so much more.

Identifying the barriers to membership growth is the first step; overcoming them is the second. In order to proceed effectively, we must have information on which to act, and this means talking openly and honestly with our members. Why did each of them come to Rotary, and what were they seeking? Have they found what they came for?

Rotarians decide whether or not to remain in Rotary based on their own equation of value versus cost. What do they get out of Rotary membership, and what does it cost them, in terms of resources, time away from work and family and other responsibilities? Our goal must be ensuring that Rotary always gives its members more than it demands — that the satisfactions of Rotary service always outweigh its costs. If we can achieve this, then our future will be bright indeed.

Thoughts of Rotary Leaders: Shekhar Mehta

 Director, Rotary International 2011–2013

When Paul Harris started Rotary in 1905 little did he realise that one day the membership would grow upto 1.2 million across the world. Looking back he would be an extremely happy man. So are all the Rotarians about the tremendous growth that we achieved in our organisation.

But this euphoria of growth was until 1996 when we touched 1.2 million mark. It has now been more than 16 years that we are hovering at 1.2 million Rotarians. So why are we not growing? What are the challenges faced by the Rotary world in its stagnated membership base?

The reasons are manifold and action needs to be taken for each of them today rather than later.

• The membership growth seems to have come to a saturation in many countries where the people in general no longer find Rotary very attractive. We need to revitalise our brand to attract more people and in fact more younger people.

The story of Rotary needs to be told in a better way. No other organsiations in the world can boast of the success that we are about to achieve by eradicating polio from the face of earth. In the history of mankind this will be done for the second time only. This one single story is good enough for membership to grow. But we have not been able to take benefit of this achievement. Our public relation needs to be far more aggressive.

• We are unable to tell the story of Rotary to the world also because we do not ourselves know the whole story. The Board of Directors has no clue of the total value of the work of Rotary’s projects around the globe. If we do not know our story well how do we expect the world to tell our story? And unless the story is told well how will people get attracted to Rotary?

• The emulation of success story — India has been an amazing story of membership growth. Agreed their retention has not been a story to write him about but had it not been for India and other such fast growth countries our membership would have gone down even below one million mark. The success story of such countries should be understood and used suitably in other countries where membership is falling.

14 Membership Matters

• With so many new entertainment avenues available to people at their finger tips through computers, smart phones, social media and the like, people quench their appetite for social interaction on the internet itself. They hardly miss the pleasure of meeting face to face at a place like Rotary meetings. Rotary probably needs to be more on the internet, more e-clubs and very soon e-districts too.

• While year after year there has been a focus on membership, I would say it has been more of lip service than an aggressive approach. We need to stretch targets for membership, ones that will whet the appetite for challenge in every Rotarian. The Calgary challenge or the Global Quest are events that should not be looked down upon. Failure of retention cannot be an excuse for not increasing rapidly. We should focus equally on retention.

• Aggressive focus on membership growth, recognitions and citations etc all should be geared towards membership growth. It is strange that while we have recognition pins for anyone who contributes to the Foundation, we have no recognition pins for the person who proposes a member. I am happy that the Board of Directors have recently corrected that. Let each Rotarian feel pride in bringing new person as Rotarian and let this pride be recognised and rewarded.

Lastly it is important that membership growth becomes everyone’s business. All of us who are members of Rotary are very happy that someone proposed us as a member of Rotary. Have we in turn made somebody happy by proposing him or her to the amazing world of Service Above Self? If not, today is the day. Membership growth is possible. All that it needs is our aggressive focus.

Thoughts of Rotary Leaders:Y.P. Das

Director, Rotary International 2011–2013

Membership development and retention has been the focus of the leadership of Rotary International for the past several years. It is essential since numbers translate into increased revenues from per capita contributions and more hands to carry on doing the good in this world.

Unfortunately our global figures for growth have remained stagnant over the past decade. But regional figures tell a different story. There are several regions that have been growing and others that have been declining in numbers. Statistic data shows that most of the growth is coming from Asia while North America is declining.

The earlier policy of one size fits all was obviously not able to address the declining or stagnant global membership issue. The most recent policy of the board to develop regional membership plans for development and growth will definitely yield results. Regions will need to develop plans within sub regions to address regional and sub-regional issues.

India leads in membership growth. Over the past five years membership has grown by leaps and bounds. In India we need to stress on the quality of members that are being inducted and lay greater emphasis on the orientation and induction process. Most of the membership decline is a result of the poor or nil orientation and lack of involvement for the newly inducted member.

Out of the 3,000 or more clubs in India, over 600 have a membership of below 20 and the percentage of female members is only 6 percent as compared to the global figure of 15 percent.

In summarising I would say regionalisation is the answer in addressing the issue of membership development as well as ensuring strong and healthy clubs.

Thoughts of Rotary Leaders: Kalyan Banerjee

President, Rotary International 2011–12

   Rotary is like a classroom. Only those who are willing learners will move up. Membership in Rotary helps you to accept yourself, boost your confidence and change your life in a short time.

  We can promote membership by telling people that they can see a few things, or many things, that can change their life. They might have tried various other methods to find a meaning to life. Rotary gives a readymade formula.

When no other way of reaching within worked, Rotary helps a person to effortlessly connect within themselves and find a new dimension of life. This is our unique selling point.

Membership in Rotary has worked wonders for thousands. It’s methods for a successful life are proven for the past one hundred years. It will work now for any adult willing to be an useful volunteer for uplifting the people who need help the most.

Rotary has helped people to accept the truth about themselves. Membership in Rotary changes life by helping the individual to concentrate on becoming who he or she really wants to be.