Today’s Rotarians are beginning to pay attention to ways to attract the next generation of Rotarians. Rotary offers an interesting value proposition for prospective members, including opportunities for local and international service, leadership, personal and professional growth, networking, mentoring (and finding mentors), building a social network and having fun. The challenge for Rotarians is how to get the news about Rotary out to a crowded marketplace where folks are busy and overwhelmed by the demands on their time.

To help clubs develop a strategy to build membership, Rotary District 7620 recently held a seminar called “The Next Generation Summit.” Representatives from 38 Rotary clubs attended a half-day session held on Sept. 12 at Howard Community College, where the theme for the day was growth.

Interestingly the original name for the session was the Young Professionals Summit, but the name was changed to accommodate the idea that Rotary needs to attract new members of all ages.

Summit Facilitators

The facilitators for the workshop were a team of some of the best trainers in Rotary, not only in District 7620, but also in the United States. Chris Davidson, Clarissa Harris and Justin Saltzman are all graduates of Rotary International’s (RI) Young Professional Summit held in Evanston, Ill., Rotary’s headquarters.

RI’s workshop pulled together young professionals from all over the country to discuss tools and techniques for attracting younger members to Rotary. They were joined by Bea Carson, past president of the Annapolis Rotary club and current area governor; Jennifer Hara, past president of the Washington, D.C., Rotary club and current district Rotaract representative; and Rich Glover, current District 7620 membership chair.

Summit Agenda

The day’s agenda split attendees into three different groups, where teams of facilitators led participants in discussions about the value of Rotary and various strategies for communicating Rotary value to prospective members. All of the discussions were framed in a “future positive” light so questions were asked in the context of “what can we do?” and “what should we do?”

Participants volunteered their stories about why they joined Rotary. They also discussed their most impactful Rotary moment. There were spirited discussions regarding what Rotary clubs were doing well and what were the things that they could do better in the future that represented opportunities for their club. Participants also were asked to think about what they can control or influence in their club, the Rotary District and Rotary International.

One of the interesting activities of the day came towards the end of the workshop where Rotarians “pinned” what they were committing to do as a follow-up to the workshop on a bull’s eye chart in the front of the room. Participants also filled out postcards with their commitments that will be mailed back to them in six months as a reminder of what they are trying to accomplish.

The day ended with a hilarious set of skits where each club had from 30 seconds to one minute to perform a Rotary commercial. The “winning” skit was “The twelve days of Rotary,” performed by the Rotary Club of Annapolis. The consensus was that they could use a little more rehearsal time, but the judges awarded them first place anyway.

New, and Young, Blood

Rotary is an organization that needs to get younger. The average age of Rotarians continues to increase, and events like the Next Generation Summit help to focus Rotary clubs on the need to sharpen their value proposition for potential younger members.

Additionally, baby boomers are also experiencing a renewed interest in Rotary, as they are first-time empty nesters, they are advanced in their careers and they are looking for new social networks as friends and neighbors move in retirement to chase their children and grandchildren.

Rotary District 7620 extends its thanks to the facilitators who put on the meeting, the Charter Deli, Howard Community College for donating the space for the event, and District Secretary Sherry Whitworth.