Posted on Oct 20, 2021
If you’re a cook, you know that a great dish is made up of individual ingredients that come together to produce something special. A great Rotary club is like that, in that it is made up of a unique mix of ingredients. Here are the five that in most, if not all, successful Rotary clubs.

1. A unique club identity
Sometimes there are several clubs in a small geographic area like a community or city or country – just like there may be several restaurants serving similar cuisines. And just like restaurants, while they may be only a short proximity from each other, every club should have its own identity. One may be a dinner club of 30 members which has been together for years. They are generous in their donations to the Rotary Foundation and our district. Another may be a breakfast club with an even balance of older and younger members. They are very supportive and heavily involved with Rotaract and Interact clubs. A third may be a lunch club that is proud of its traditions and is committed to domestic and international projects. And a fourth may be a breakfast club celebrating its 15th year, with members who speak multiple languages and originally come from several different countries. In each case and for each club, a unique identity helps distinguish who they are and what they do and, thus, mitigates against the possible overlapping of proximity by emphasizing an individual club image and brand. 

2: Engaging club meetings
First thing to remember is that there isn’t a single correct format. The pandemic has taught us all the need for flexibility and creativity. We can have virtual meetings, as well as, in-person ones where possible, and even a combination of both. But no matter what the forum, there is always a need for meetings to be engaging. Great clubs offer a reason for members to attend. They achieve this by spending effort to find inspiring speakers from a variety of relevant and timely topics every week, fortnight or month (depending on your club's meeting schedule). One week, you may learn about marine biology, the next about training service dogs for the blind. They keep announcements and club business short, and make their meetings personable by opening their doors and welcoming newer people and ensuring that those people feel welcome. They spend time recognizing special dates, like member birthdays or anniversaries or specially recognized days of the year. Most importantly, like many great restaurants, while the food is the highlight, the ambience, the service and the decor all play a part in the overall experience. Thus, great clubs should provide a place and an atmosphere for all members to participate within the meeting format and feel engaged.

3. A robust, member-driven service program
Service is at the heart of Rotary and it’s at the core of a great club. Members want opportunities to make a difference in their community and the world. But there are many ways to do that. Do members want more focus on domestic or international service projects? Do they want to emphasize one area of focus over another? A club survey can determine this. And the answers may change over time, so make it an annual practice. Much like a restaurant which conducts customer surveys on its food and changes its menu over time to meet changing tastes of customers and availability of produce, great clubs should evaluate and offer service opportunities that match member expectations and that sometimes match a cause more than any one organizations or group.

4. A desire to socialize with others
Like customers in a great restaurant, in a great club, members genuinely like to socialize with one another. They create multiple opportunities to socialize, whether this be at a club meeting, during a service program, at a fundraiser, at a fun event like a “day at the beach,” or at some other group event, including online ones. In great clubs, members frequently socialize outside of Rotary because they genuinely like to spend time together. Prospective members feel the camaraderie between club members, and this creates a welcoming, fun, and vibrant atmosphere. So even in unusual times like during the pandemic, where typical social activities may be limited or not possible, a great clubs innovates and creates new and different opportunities for members to socialize.

5: Strong leadership
Behind the success of a five-star restaurant is the head chef, management and staff. In the same way, a great club is the result of a dynamic leadership team. You need a committed and visionary president who has carefully chosen their leadership team. This team meets regularly to discuss new ideas, resolve outstanding issues, and chart a course for service and social activities. These leaders set the direction, they serve the club, and they stay attuned to the wants and needs of their members. They also work hard to identify and nurture future club leaders.

As you work hard to create a great club, consider how you will leverage these five ingredients. Famous chefs will tell you they are always tweaking the ingredients and trying new combinations to figure out what works best for their customers. So too, a great Rotary club learns how best to use these five ingredients and modify them to pursue excellence and balance.