One sure way to increase Rotary membership and ensure retention is to induct young families and involve them in service projects. But for that we have to change the club format by adopting flexible meeting time, shifting the location to less-costly venues like parks and restaurants and include weekly sessions with a variety of programmes including picnics to woo young professionals and students: These were the views expressed by the four panellists at a breakout session on ‘Engage your families with service and alternative meetings’ at the RI Virtual Convention.
Speaking on alternative ways to make club meetings and projects appealing to young families, DGE Tom Gump from RC Edina Morningside, RID 5950, US, said, “we need to explore options of holding club meetings at night, and at places like parks or bars for young professionals to attend” without missing their work. Let us consider a less structured meeting to involve families and professionals, he said, calling for instilling in young Rotarians sense of involvement.
Rtn Greg Krauska, RC Chanhassen, RID 5950, Minnesota, US, said clubs should allow “young people to design service projects and that means getting more involved with Interactors and Rotaractors.” Clubs must reach out and “collaborate with communities to attract families whose first conversation with Rotary must be easy and memorable.” He recalled his experience of teaching his daughter the school syllabus and finding that Rotary had made him a better parent. Rotary must become a part of social identity for the communities because “when we belong to a positive, vibrant group, we thrive.”
The five whys
Rotary is a gift that allows members to live their ‘whys of life’, said Krauska, and listed five time-tested values such as tradition – we are part of a great legacy; relevance – what we do has meaning; identity – we are part of distinct group; belonging – we belong to a group upholding high standards; and effectiveness – we are capable of success, all of which can be showcased to woo families and young people.
Clubs must explain the opportunities and benefits of Rotary membership to families looking for social cohesion and identity to create an impact in community service, he said. In her speech, Kim Talbot, Membership Chair, RC Scotia, RID 4943, US, said families bring with them energy and growth, which will enable clubs to expand social connections, mobilise resources and foster generation of novel ideas. “Club meetings and fellowship can be made kid-friendly, and we can partner with nearby clubs” to extend this programme, said Kim.
Whitney Pangburn from RC Scotia, who moderated the session, said clubs must position themselves as platforms for families to have ‘quality time’ and community bonding. Rotary clubs have to mentor Interact and Rotaract clubs in schools and colleges to attract youth.
Rotary in Covid times
During the Q&A session, Krauska said the Covid outbreak has opened up an opportunity for clubs to be more relevant than ever before. “Of course, we have to wear masks and keep social distancing.”
Kim said her club is involving Interactors in service projects. Gump said apart from availing the $25,000 Covid grants for projects, his club is into door delivery of meals and shopping for families who need this service.