I recently conducted a membership survey across D9520. 32 of 50 clubs responded. This chart shows our current age breakdown.
The average age of the first four Rotarians was 38
This seminar identifies 6 major challenges Rotary needs to overcome in order to become more attractive to young professionals
I asked survey respondents to give me some information about the last 3 members to join their club. The group best represented in current recruiting is in their 50s. Rotary at present is more attractive to people in their 50s than any other age group. So the easy option would be to continue targeting this group, but since when do Rotarians take the easy option?
Change is hard to implement, because the over 50s group represents 88% of our membership, and this group is comfortable.
The magic happens outside of your comfort zone.
At one end of the social progress index we have the developing countries. Rotary represents a symbol of progress to this group, and as such, membership is attractive.
At the other end of the social progress index, the developed world has undergone massive societal change, and Rotary has not kept pace. As a result membership is in decline.
We need to offer a different version of Rotary, one that will appeal to a new generation. Massive change is required, not incremental change.
We don’t have to make all these changes immediately, but we need to start the journey.
These are examples of our old and dying mindset. On the left, the back of Rotary Down Under magazine. Lots of reference to the words “Over 50” and “senior”. On the right, a funeral advert on the rear of our district directory.
Whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right. The way we think begins to manifest as the way we operate and appear.
Rotary is a SERVICE organisation, yet despite the rhetoric, we do not demand SERVICE of our members… We demand that they attend MEETINGS. If they can’t attend OUR meetings, we expect them to attend SOMEONE ELSE’s meeting to attend.
As a last resort, if they cannot find a MEETING to attend, we’re prepared to let it fly if they can actually do some SERVICE. .. and we call that a MAKEUP.
Am I alone in thinking that in our Rotary universe we have our priorities a little out of whack?
A survey of young professional non-Rotarians conducted by RI found that survey was that Rotary has an image problem, and it’s hurting our ability to attract the next generation of Rotarians. Younger professionals were not interested in traditional ways of organizing as a group… they were turned off by weekly meetings, plated meals, and ceremonial songs.
They are time poor – so the time they give must be effective. They did not identify themselves with the Rotary members that they knew.
But so much of our identity lies with our meetings. If we can only manage to somehow put less reliance on meetings, and more emphasis on the work we do, we can perhaps begin to challenge some of those perceptions.
I think if you asked 100 Rotarians about their best experience in Rotary, not many would suggest something that happened at a meeting.
First impressions are everything, and if you want a prospective member to see Rotary at its best, make sure they see you out and about in the community. Make sure you get them involved in service.
For some reason as recruiters, we tend to get particularly excited if we finally get a prospect to attend a meeting. We feel that we’ve got to first base, because they’ve now seen our club at its very best. Now let’s be clear, I have attended some fabulous meetings.
But there are meetings, and there are meetings
We tend to use a lot of rhetoric about Rotary being “family friendly”. But the reality for a young professional with small children is that it is anything but. The RI survey I mentioned earlier uncovered a common theme amongst responses from young professionals with younger families. It was frequently said that they enjoyed volunteering with sporting & church groups and at school, because they could volunteer with their children. One respondent commented that “Volunteering in front of her child was one of the best examples she could give as a parent”.
We need to find more family friendly activities in Rotary, and I don’t see a lot of them in meetings?
If our communication strategy was a newspaper, what would our headline be? What is the most important thing we try to convey to a prospective member?
Our stories of our infrastructure, water and sanitation, education and health care are important, but sometimes struggle to gain traction in our privileged society. Many younger people have never heard of polio.
This poster has been very popular and digital copies have been requested from Rotarians in many countries.
I wonder if we alienate a considerable demographic when we talk about classification. The average millennial (born between 1977 and 1997, now aged between 18 & 38) is expected to have 15 – 20 jobs over their working life. Can you comprehend how absurd our classification system must appear to our next generation of Rotarians?
Our system that tries to pigeon hole us into a box based on our career. In today’s heavily casualised workforce, many of us simply don’t fit into one of these boxes.
One of the myths we happily peddle is that Rotary is an organisation of CEOs and powerful business people. That can make Rotary appear quite daunting and lend weight to the belief in younger people that “Rotary isn’t for me”. The statistics uncovered by our recent survey would suggest in fact that we are not an organisation of powerful business people, but an organisation of retirees, although it’s reasonable to assume that some of those retirees were once from big business.
Our classification system is like a horizontal plane of careers, but we should also be looking at a vertical ladder of one’s career stage to reflect true vocational diversity.
D9520 Young Professionals Forum - Attracting Young Professionals Part 1
Welcome to the
Young Professionals Forum
50% of the world’s
population is under 50
12% of our district’s
membership is under 50
Young Professionals Forum
August 8, 2013
Attracting Young Professionals
Part 1 – Identifying our Challenges
• 6 Major Challenges Rotary
needs to overcome
You might need to
So, why is change so hard to implement?
Because this group
You can be comfortable
now or later,
but not both.
We need to offer a
version of Rotary.
Poor access to:
Low empowerment of women
Non-existent welfare system
These people see
Rotary as a symbol
(Scientific & Technological Advancement, Economic Maturity)
Good access to:
Hot & Cold Water
Equality for women
Some of these
people see Rotary
as a symbol of
MASSIVE SOCIETAL CHANGE
If Rotary is to grow in the Developed world, we need to
offer a different version of Rotary …
… a version that
will appeal to a
The first change
must be our mindset.
a set of beliefs or a way of
thinking that determines
one’s behaviour, outlook and