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Reprinted from Zone Newsletter
If You Want to Grow, You Have To Reach Out and ASK

By Chris Jones and Terry Weaver

Like all membership organizations, Rotary has its challenges with maintaining and growing membership. Rotary club leaders, however, are largely unaware of their own clubs' membership performance. Most have no idea how many members they lose in a typical year, and thereby have no idea how many members they'll need to grow their membership. As a result, they underestimate the strategies and energy needed and are disappointed when they end the year with fewer members than they started with.

Studying membership dynamics in 15 Districts and 780 Rotary clubs, the Zone 33 RC team discovered that clubs with net membership losses over a 3-year window typically continued to decline in future years, a syndrome of "Chronic Membership Decline". Likewise, clubs with net gains over a 3-year window typically continued to thrive. In a majority of clubs, the problem was not the loss of members at an extraordinary rate (attrition), but rather the lack of attracting new members at a rate to overcome the rate of attrition. For example, if a club runs a 14% attrition rate and a 9% attraction rate, they will lose 5% of their membership – and this is predictable based on a 3-year historical lookback.

After demonstrating the need for change, the Zone 33 team developed and implemented training for districts on a series of intentional membership strategies designed to address the specific challenges their clubs faced. Attrition, the rate at which a club loses members, identifies whether the club is suffering from retention problems. The club's attrition rate plus its retention rate equals 100%.

An attrition rate of 20% or more is a clear indicator of problems rooted in club leadership performance or the club experience. The surprise to most club leaders is that the average club in Zone 33 loses 14% of its members annually. While that may seem a high number, the average US Trade Association loses 15% of its members every year. In fact, there's a "floor" at somewhere around 10% attrition due to causes completely beyond the club's control. Life happens to people, and some of those happenings cause members to resign from Rotary. Clubs with attrition rates below 10%-12% can improve retention only slightly, regardless of how hard they work at it.

Retention is over-rated as a growth strategy. You can't retain your way from 20 to 25 members. If a club is already doing a great job of retaining members (less than 14% attrition) and still declining, the cause is insufficient effort or ineffective strategies for attracting new members. Clearly, the club's rate of attracting members must exceed its attrition rate. Yet many clubs don't know their historical rates of attrition or attraction.

The Zone 33 team developed specific, actionable, and measurable strategies for identifying and introducing prospective members to Rotary, onboarding new members, and engaging members in a meaningful way to boost retention. These strategies are not concepts, but rather demonstrated and proven methods to improving membership performance. Identifying the correct problem that a club faces with membership, be it low retention (meaning high attrition) or low attraction (attraction must be higher than attrition), our team has a proven strategy that will work to resolve the problem.

Districts that have committed to this approach have seen results. One example is District 7530 which saw a net membership gain of 8% in only 5 months.

Please visit http://www.rizones33-34.org/zone-33-membership-res... or ask Zone 33 Rotary Coordinator Chris Jones or Assistant Rotary Coordinator Terry Weaver if you have questions or want more details.

Posted by Alec Smythe
October 9, 2017

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