Article – Creating a great club experience

By Tom Gump, aide to 2024-25 RI President Stephanie Urchick and a member of Rotary International’s Membership Growth Committee

My favorite month of the year is August because that is when Rotary focuses on membership. As a membership organization, we recognize that our members are our biggest asset. When Rotary membership is strong, our clubs are thriving, we are more visible, and our members have more resources to help their communities.

That is why growing our membership is one of our top priorities. How do we grow membership? Luckily, we don’t have to approach this question in a vacuum. A number of Rotary International surveys have confirmed that the single most important factor in member satisfaction is the club experience.

So how do we intentionally create a great club experience?

1) Gather feedback – If we offer a great club experience, our members are more likely to remain active and introduce others to the Rotary family. If we offer a poor club experience, our members leave. Either way, they tell others about their experience. We need to give members the value they want. To know what they want, we need to conduct regular surveys. The Member Satisfaction Survey helps gather feedback that can be used to shape a rewarding club experience.

2) Continuously improve – Surveys are good, because we give our members an opportunity to be heard and make them feel like they belong. However, if we do not act on some of the suggested changes it has the opposite effect. At a presidents-elect training seminar, I once asked all the presidents-elect to tell us the one change they were going to make to create a great club experience. Troy said he was going to have pie for dessert! The room burst into laughter. I ran into “Troy the Pie Guy” a few years later and I asked him if he “got his pie.” He did; but a strange thing happened. Club members happy with that change started suggesting other changes. His club slowly transformed from a club resistant to change to one that sought ways to improve. It is now the second largest club in its district. Rotary has a Leading Change course that discusses how to plan for change while nurturing those members resistant to change.

3) Be welcoming and caring – Sometimes, the little things we do count the most. Standing at the front door and greeting participants (members and guests alike) with a smile and kind words will make them feel special and like they belong. Showing appreciation and saying  “thank you” can turn potential members into members and volunteers into committed Rotary members. Recognition, either for monetary contributions or “sweat equity,” can have the same impact.

Membership strategies vary by region and should be culturally sensitive. We want to hear from you. Post your examples in the comments section below.

Watch 2024-25 RI President Stephanie Urchick and Gump talk about Transforming Your Club’s Culture.

Editors Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts for Membership Month. We’ve invited 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.