Over the last few decades, membership has always been a concern, as our worldwide figure has never seen a quantum jump beyond 1.2 million. After several deliberations by the RI Board on the subject of Membership Growth, retention and diversity in age/gender have been highlighted. Our country has in last couple of years shown some major changes in this area. Although retention has been a major concern, we have still managed to retain over 60 percent, an improvement over the earlier years.
India has been one of the fastest growing regions in the RI world and in the last few years we have been ranking No 1 as a country and even Zone-wise, 4, 5 & 6A have been constantly doing very well, continuing to hold the place of pride in overall membership growth.
The strategy and focus in our Zones consists of the following:
Diversity in Gender
We have grown very well in women members. We have around 14 per cent women members, compared to 5–7 per cent just a few years ago. Besides, in some parts of our country, women joining Rotary is a paradigm shift and to get over this, we have encouraged all-women-member clubs and are also encouraging clubs to induct at least 4–5 women members together in all-male-member clubs.
Despite this, only 67 per cent clubs in Zone 4, and 77 per cent of clubs in Zone 6 have women members.
Diversity in Age
- Younger members have in past stayed away from Rotary for two reasons; one, they felt a little out of place in a club that predominantly had members over 60. We encouraged club members to induct at least 4–5 new young members at a time to get the club average down.
- We requested existing members to encourage/motivate their children to join Rotary.
- All past Rotaract member clubs have now been formed in some Districts.
- We have also seen some clubs with all the members below 40 years being chartered in a few Districts. This has given a major boost to the growth in younger members becoming Rotarians; they currently form 11 per cent of our total membership.
- We have been promoting the concept of a vibrant club which distinguishes itself by the projects they do, such as watershed projects, running high quality educational institutions, good hospitals, providing clean drinking water to a large section of the community. Such projects have brought tremendous visibility and create great public image.
Vibrant clubs have no difficulty in getting members. They are defined by the quality of the meetings they conduct, distinguished speakers they get, good venue, good time management, high fiscal discipline, high quality club service, etc. The memberships of such vibrant clubs also go through very rigid steps of induction prescribed by MOP and thus ensure retention. There are several such clubs in every District across the country and these become an example for others to emulate.
Goal setting by DGs along with DMCs before the Rotary year begins, has been paying rich dividends.
— Vijay Jalan
We have also encouraged Districts to hold new members-seminars under RI’s Regional membership programme. These seminars, which showcase Rotary’s good work to new members, and bring some distinguished persons from the community who are Rotarians, to share their Rotary experience, motivates new members.
Goal setting by DGs along with DMCs before the Rotary year begins, has been paying rich dividends. Two Districts — 3132 and 3292 — have already crossed the targets and three other districts show negative growth.
I am happy to say my experience as a Rotary Co-ordinator since 2014 has been enriching and given me lot of insight into the working of Rotary clubs across India and Nepal.
When RID Manoj Desai entrusted me with the responsibility of Rotary Coordinator of Zone 5, I knew I was stepping into the big shoes of RIDE C Basker, who as RC, had taken the Zone to the top of the world in Membership growth in 2014–15.
Well before the Rotary year commenced we had a goal setting meeting in Hyderabad in April with the Governors-elect setting an ambitious target for introduction of around 9,000 new members including 1,455 women, followed by a Zonal Membership Seminar at Bengaluru in June where we involved the District Membership Chairs (DMCs) to reinforce the goals the DGEs had set for themselves.
As an RC, I have so far had the opportunity to participate in the membership seminars and New Member orientation programmes of nine districts. There is a growing realisation amongst Rotarians that we need more hands to work, more young minds to innovate new project ideas, more resources to deploy and more woman members to infuse variety and greater diversity for Rotary to provide meaningful service to our communities.
As of February 1, the net membership growth for Zone 5 has seen an increase of 3,648 new members despite the fact that nearly eight clubs (mostly the newly formed clubs of the previous years) were de-chartered for nonpayment of Semi Annual dues within the stipulated time. We also had a healthy increase of around 490 women members in the first seven months of this Rotary year.
RI District 3230, under DG Natarajan Nagoji, has done remarkably well with a net increase of 900 members followed by D 3000 led by DG Muruganandam with a net increase of 568 members. Newly formed Districts, ID 3181 and 3182, culled out of D 3180 have together added around 749 members, which is indeed noteworthy.
As the Zone’s performance is only around a third of the goals set by the Governors, much needs to be done in the second half. We need to scale up our efforts to ensure growth both, in numbers and quality. The DGs have been asked to identify localities/communities where there are no Rotary clubs and motivate them to start new Rotary clubs. Gated communities, condominiums and large apartment blocks in the cities and bigger towns are other potential areas to be focused on.
There is a growing realisation among Rotarians that we need more hands to work, more young minds to innovate new project ideas, more resources to deploy and more woman members to infuse variety and greater diversity…
— Rajendra Rai
To communicate with the DGs and the District membership chairs effectively, I have brought out three quarterly issues of my newsletter — Rotary+ — covering articles on topics such as Rotary Alumni, Women in Rotary, the use of online tools to attract members, Regional Membership Plan, Model clubs etc, and featured messages from world leaders including RI President John Germ, TRF Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee, IPRIP K R Ravindran, PRIPs Rajendra Saboo and Gary Huang.
I am confident that the ‘Smiling Sheriffs’, the DGs in our Zone will not disappoint our Director Manoj Desai. Having come back immensely charged by the spirit of the Dubai Institute and its tagline “Nothing is Impossible”, I am sure they will bounce back not only to achieve but exceed the goals set for themselves.