Posted by Chuck Chase on Jun 22, 2019
PDG Sue Goldsen officially introduced our speaker today, Steve Ahles, who is past president of the Southgate Rotary Club and will be District 6400’s Membership Chair in 2019-20. The committee exists, Steve said, to “help strengthen Rotary”.
Steve spoke about membership flexibility – “the most important aspect of everything we do”, he said. Finding and engaging members makes everything we do easier. Talk to people about the things we do as a club. Always talk Rotary, he said. Do it at family gatherings, parties, meeting, etc. “You never know where you’re going to get your next member”. “You just need to ask”. Keep a list of who potential members are via their contact info, Steve said. And, be sure and follow up with them once you make the initial contact. Don’t overlook obvious people like spouses, former members and past Youth Exchange participants either.
Also, make a list of the most important things (i.e. FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions) about your club, Steve said, so you can talk to potential members about what is important to us. List things like our dues structure, our expectations for new members like meeting attendance and program participation, how many members we have, members who stand out, etc. This is information that will enhance the prospect of people joining our club, he said, because they really don’t know what we do. This could even be emailed to them, Steve suggested. “It gives prospects a factual base from which to work from”. An example, Steve said, is available from a fellow Rotarian who originally formulated it that he would be happy to share.
Steve said he originally joined Rotary because he “wanted to make a difference in peoples’ lives.” Remind prospects that in Rotary we Join Leaders, Exchange Ideas, Take Action – it is our motto, he said. Know your strengths. If prospects that have want something you can’t offer, he said, direct them to another club in the area. “This has paybacks”.
When you get a new member, he said, be sure and celebrate it. Make sure that person feels welcome in our club and is appreciated. At his club’s meeting, he said, we periods during the meeting called MOM’s presentations – Meet Our Members – that give new members an opportunity to tell others about themselves. He said that in a past issue of The Rotarian Magazine he saw the idea to post new member pictures on a poster board along with a bit of info on each person.
Be persistent, Steve said. One or two times when you ask a prospect isn’t really enough, Steve said. Your club might not be a priority to them at that time because everyone is busy so keep asking when you think the time is right. “But, don’t let them fall through the cracks”. Think outside the box. Steve said that he asked a friend who was not a Rotarian to attend a District Convention with him and after that he joined! Whatever works for you.
Clubs lose members, it’s inevitable, he said. So, be constantly recruiting. “You’re either growing or dying as a club”, he said. There is no other way to think about it. Steve said that he keeps a “Friends of Rotary” list that he constantly refers to in order to identify prospects who might want to join. Steve said he asks them on occasion to help out with various club projects in an effort to get them to join. “Stay connected”.
Steve said that when we talk about “vibrant clubs”, we need to reflect on what clubs actually do. It important to do a club health check, he said. “Sit down at the start of your new Rotary year and do a club health check with your members at the next Club Assembly. Assess all aspects of what you do from your meeting room to all your projects. ”If you want to be a vibrant club make sure you know how you appear to new members. Think of all members as your customers”. “Make things comfortable and exciting for them. Get their feedback”.
Offer different types of membership if you can”, Steve said – business memberships, family memberships, senior memberships, etc. They allow others to help clubs out, he said.  Steve said that his club belongs to the local Chamber of Commerce. It allows club members to interact with Chamber members.
One of the questions Steve was asked was about retention and the fact that members in North America were leaving at a faster rate than new members coming in! It’s critical, Steve said, that we do what we have to as a club to keep the members we have.
Thanks, Steve, for your time and some great suggestions.