When asked about District 5370 membership numbers, the District membership committee chair responds with just two words: “Extremely volatile!”
“These numbers have gone up and down, from up 20 to down 20, in a period of six weeks,” says Jeff Reynolds (RC of Edmonton Glenora).
“In terms of the long-term trend we are declining, but we have some opportunities to grow,” he says.
District Governor Ingrid Neitsch has set a membership target of 2,080 by the end of her term on June 30—an increase of 60 members from where we were on July 1, 2018.
As of March 20, there were 2,016 Rotarians in the District.
Achieving this membership target can happen in three ways—by retaining current Rotarians, by attracting new members to existing clubs, and by establishing new clubs where none exist or that are structured differently than existing ones.
To assist clubs in their efforts to grow their membership, Jeff recently recorded a webinar for membership chairs, presidents and other Rotarians who understand the importance of maintaining and increasing our numbers.
Edmonton Strathcona is one of the clubs to have increased its membership in 2018-2019
During the webinar, Jeff highlights what membership chair Dr. Ellen Weber has done to attract new Rotarians to her club, Edmonton Strathcona. As of the end of January, it had increased by six members.
“What (members of the Edmonton Strathcona Club) have been doing is focusing on truly authentic engagement with their members,” Jeff says. “It’s been done one-on-one, by asking:
- What things do you really value?
- What do you enjoy about the Rotary club?
- What things do you want to get praise for?
- What do you wonder about?
“There has to be a value proposition in Rotary. It has to be worth their while. There has to be an opportunity for them to contribute in a meaningful way—for them to be heard, felt and appreciated.”
Ellen regularly blogs about what’s working in Edmonton Strathcona.
Other clubs that have led the way in growing members so far in 2018-2019 are the Rotary Clubs of Dawson Creek (+9), Dawson Creek Sunrise (+4) and Edmonton West (+7).
“We are going to look closely at what these clubs are doing,” Jeff says. “What is their secret sauce?”
In addition to efforts to retain current members and grow existing clubs, initiatives are in place to charter new clubs.
Passport club will offer opportunity to serve without weekly meetings
Furthest along toward being chartered is a “passport” club in Edmonton, which is being sponsored by the Rotary Club of Edmonton Whyte Avenue.
In the February issue of INSPIRE, the District’s newsletter, DG Ingrid described a passport club as “a club offering members opportunities to make a difference locally and globally in a way that fits within their time, talents, finances and lifestyle, with fewer meetings but multiple service opportunities, social gatherings, affordable dues and access to Rotary activities and resources.”
Members of passport clubs are full Rotary members, paying membership dues to Rotary International and the District, but without weekly meeting costs, and enjoying the same privileges and rights as Rotarians in traditional clubs.
Area Governor Marilyn Mucha (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue), who is leading this initiative, says that nearly 35 people have expressed interest in this club structure.
“The flexible and affordable format is appealing to former Rotarians,” Marilyn says. “Almost 60 per cent (of the prospective members) are past Rotarians from clubs in the Edmonton area and another 30 per cent are non-Rotarians.” There are also a few current Rotarians who have expressed interest in the passport model.
The provisional club has had two meetings, so far.
“We heard many positive comments from those in attendance like, ‘this is definitely easier for me to afford,” and ‘I can make this work with my busy schedule,’ as well as ‘I missed the friendships that I made in Rotary,’” Marilyn says.
“Many shared stories of their past service projects,” she says. “The buzz is spreading and we are getting past Rotarians reaching out to family and work colleagues (asking them) to consider joining them.”
It is anticipated the club will have monthly meetings, of which only four will be business meetings. Remaining meetings will be social events or for working on service projects. There will minimum expectations in terms of volunteer hours each year.
“Members will have a ‘passport’ to work on service projects and fundraisers with any club in our District, or the globe,” Marilyn says.
Once 20 or more people commit to join the new club, it will be ready to be chartered.
“We anticipate that the club will reach charter strength before the end of this Rotary year,” Marilyn says. “A charter committee will be struck to start the process of leveraging available bylaws from other passport clubs in North America.”
They also hope to learn from the experiences of other passport clubs.
“We reached out to a number of the existing and newly chartered passport clubs in the U.S. and Canada to arrange a gathering while we are attending the Rotary International Convention in Hamburg, this June,” Marilyn says. “Both Markus Muhs and I will be there to learn how these clubs are succeeding and what challenges they overcame.”
She encourages Rotarians to spread the word about the passport clubs. “If you know of members of your club that have left for a variety of reasons, let them know about what the passport club is all about. Perhaps this club model will appeal to them and we will see them inspired to become ‘People of Action’ again.”
Information about the next passport club meeting will be posted on the District’s Facebook page.
Other potential new clubs include a passport club for the Municipal District of Greenview in northwest Alberta, which includes the communities of Valleyview, Fox Creek and Grande Cache, and more traditional clubs in St. Paul and Bonneyville, in northeast Alberta.