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Focus groups shed light on issues affecting membership recruitment

Old. Male. Inflexible. Elitist. Exclusive. Secretive.

These are a few of the responses that non-Rotarians consistently gave in recent Rotary International focus groups when asked what they think of when they hear the words Rotary International or Rotary club. The participants were professional women ages 30 and above and men ages 30-45, prescreened by independent market research firms to include individuals who would satisfy the requirements for Rotary club membership.

The purpose of this research was to learn about attitudes regarding volunteerism and networking among men and women of this age demographic as well as to gain insight into their awareness and perception of Rotary. The results show that while general impressions of Rotary are positive, there is an overwhelming lack of understanding about what Rotary is and what Rotarians do. Most individuals did not view themselves as potential Rotarians even though they maintained the professional requirements for membership. 

Commitment to and interest in giving back to their communities through volunteerism was a common theme among participants. But what do you say to someone who says, “You don’t need to join Rotary to help your community”? Discuss this statement with your club, and come up with a strategy to showcase Rotary club membership as a flexible, unique, and valuable way for younger professionals to get involved in their communities.

Actively addressing the perception of an old, male, inflexible, elite, exclusive, and secretive club — whether any of these words describe your club or not — is an important part of educating the public about Rotary. Think about what this means for your club, and consider the following:

  • Open participation in a particular service project to the public. Post information about the project on local bulletin boards or online forums, and invite community members to come out and help. The exposure and word of mouth about what Rotarians do will boost Rotary’s public presence, and you might even interest someone in club membership.
  • Be proactive about making your club and its members more visible throughout your community. Join your local chamber of commerce. Exhibit at community fairs or open houses. Display your promotional materials in new businesses.
  • Make a commitment as a club to increasing your flexibility. Think again about your response to the statement, “You don’t need to join Rotary to help your community.” How can your club demonstrate that you offer a modern, innovative approach to service?
  • Be creative with your community service projects. Try at least one new project every year, and make sure it is meeting an important local need.  

Find the full Non-Rotarian Focus Groups Comprehensive Report 2008-09 and 2009-10 on the RI website.

Coming soon: Discover how Rotarian opinions compare with the results of these non-Rotarian focus groups in a soon-to-be released report of Rotarian focus groups held at the 2010 RI Convention in Montréal, Québec, Canada.


New resource available for starting a service project

Does your club need help with starting a service project? Complete the How to Start a Service Project e-learning module to learn how to conduct a needs assessment, find resources, and choose your project.

Other helpful modules for club members can be found in the Rotary E-Learning Center.

Editor: Jennifer Frisbie, Senior Coordinator
Membership Development Division
Rotary International



Posted  by PP Shirin Ghadiali


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