Posted on Nov 19, 2021
The focus on growing membership in Rotary is constantly being highlighted.

Let’s not forget why Rotary was formed by Paul Harris in 1905 with business leaders wishing to maximize business opportunities while actively contributing to the well-being of their community.

Today, however, we as Rotarians, seem to shy away from talking business.
Concurrently, while corporate membership has been available as an option for membership in Rotary for many years, most clubs seem reluctant to consider it as part of their membership drive.

One reason or excuse from Rotary members - particularly those who may be retired or close to retirement - is that they are no longer in business, or that they don’t know the terminology or understand current business requirements.

Additionally, many clubs and members no longer feel confident or even at ease talking to business leaders about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or maximizing their networking opportunities.
How to address and resolve this issue such that corporate membership is considered more a viable solution to both clubs and members in the community looking to be of service is the biggest question...but to get things started, let's consider some smaller ones.
So where do we start?

One possible measure is to first compile a (short) list of targeted local companies and see if a CSR plan exists for each company that outlines who is responsible, how charities are chosen and what budgets are allocated. Use this information when liaising with representatives of each company and finding out if corporate membership in Rotary would be advantageous and mutually beneficial to them.

So why would companies want to join
Together with concentrating on the CSR angle, clubs should take note of the difficulties experienced by everyone - individuals and companies alike - during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies have rebuilt or are in the process of rebuilding their business models and corporate philosophies with new staff and fresh ways of working which are more sensitive to helping persons and communities.

So what has Rotary got to offer corporate members?
Foundationally, Rotary clubs and members should think of it as business membership - the potential to increase company performance by networking locally and globally.

In the past, many Rotarians had their membership fees paid by their firms. Companies knew their staff were being recognized in their community as trustworthy, organized, proactive, having a social conscience and, most of all, available for new business conversations.

When companies consider their employees’ personal development plans, the focus shifts to what staff members offer in the local community.

How can corporate members get their hands dirty with a local project which raises the business profile and builds teamwork?

Many firms may prefer this hand-on approach for their employees, especially when the word is under the guidance of an organization such as Rotary, as opposed to simply fund-raising - although the two often go together.

So who should we really target as a corporate member?
Most, if not all businesses are trying to increase their interaction with potential customers. There is a potentially wide range of companies and company-types which can become viable corporate members - banks, hotels, sports clubs, solicitors, restaurants, academies and many more in your community may be looking for CSR opportunities and for a chance for their employees to be of service. 
So what should you remember?
What many of these companies have in common is that all are in competition in some way or another. Therefore, the need to differentiate themselves from their competitors creates opportunities for Rotary clubs and results in a more professional profile with increased business conversations.
For Rotary, corporate members bring new life to clubs. They will probably be younger, more willing to get engaged and whose businesses will have budgets for CSR and personal development.

This fresh blood can introduce new and topical project ideas, add diversity and inject renewed enthusiasm.

Rotary is a membership organization. New members increase income and expand opportunities to make a difference for citizens locally and throughout the world.

So practice your corporate membership sales pitch and the next time you are at a golf day, business expo, school careers event, networking reception, or accept a hospitality invite, consider how Rotary could help others to increase their business performance and confidently approach potential new members knowing that corporate membership in Rotary is mutually beneficial and advantageous for all.