Posted on Dec 15, 2022
From the opening stage of the international convention, to the newsletters sent by Rotary International, these days you can’t finish a meal at a Rotary event before hearing about Rotaract. But what exactly is it? How did it begin and why should we be talking about it? 

Rotaract was officially inaugurated as a Rotary International (RI) service club programme for young adults aged between 18 and 30 in January 1968 with the first club being chartered in North Carolina, USA, in March the same year.

While this process cemented Rotaract as an official RI programme, Rotarians had been sponsoring similar initiatives for young adults since the early 1920s in the form of 23 clubs.

Rotaract was a natural evolution from Interact for youngsters aged between 12 and 18-years-old, which saw immediate success after being established in 1962. The first of these was the Interact Club of Melbourne High School in Florida, USA, which was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Melbourne.

This even inspired the name of Rotaract which is both a combination of Rotary and Interact. Although the Rotaract age range overlapped with Rotary, many young adults were simply not developed enough in their careers to join a Rotary club at the time.
Rotaract saw huge gains within a few weeks of the first club chartering.
Existing unofficial clubs rushed to apply for their own Rotaract charter, seeing the introduction of Rotaract across the world. This is, in part, due to the awesome networking potential it brought to a time where the world wasn’t as interconnected.
However, there was a problem. Due to the high entry requirements of Rotary, most Rotaractors who passed the age of 30 still did not qualify to join. This reality resulted in an unsustainable drop off, with many leaving the organisation.
Since its inception, Rotaract was considered by RI as a Rotary club community programme. The 1990s marked a turning point in this thought process with the formation of Multidistrict Information Organisations.
Often referred to as MDIOs, these entities were established to unite Rotaractors across multiple districts, facilitate information and provide a leadership pathway to the international level.
As described by Past RI President, Rajendra Saboo, Rotaract became “partners in service”.
It was this transition in language that forged the path to the elevate Rotaract campaign in 2019 which saw Rotaract becoming an official membership type of Rotary.
Rotaract now comprised 11,000 clubs with over 230,000 reported members is on a path to becoming fully integrated into Rotary as a membership type.
Rotaractors can now apply for positions on committees at every level, host a global grant and beginning next year will be paying RI dues.
The organisation is seeing an exponential increase in membership, further reinforcing the relevancy of the organisation in our modern world.
It is often said that Rotaractors are our future, that they’re the leaders of tomorrow.

But in fact, Rotaractors are not future leaders, they are leaders of the present.

Rotary needs Rotaract to enhance its diversity, relevancy and fulfil its commitments to the five avenues of service. 

How To Start A Rotaract Club

Becoming a Rotaractor is often said to be the best decision a young person can make, but there’s no Rotaractor without a Rotaract club! You’re brimming with enthusiasm to spread the Rotaract magic within your local area, but you’re faced with the question of… Where do you begin?

The first stage of any club formation is to gather a nucleus of interested individuals.
Each community is different and as such has different needs. You may be within a bustling city full of youth groups, youth initiatives, or universities.
You may be in a quieter rural area with underserved or simply bored youth.
The approach determines the outcome and make-up of the club, its first projects and its mission statement.
Sourcing the initial group will always be the toughest part. Some methods to identify individuals can be to advertise on social media within local community groups, approach universities / colleges, approach previous Rotary youth participants (RYLA, youth competitions, Interactors) or simply tap into your club’s existing network of people.
The key part around approaching young people is to use the correct language and not operate on a “hard sell basis”. Instead of preaching about what Rotaract represents and what it can offer, start with the simple concept of getting involved in a fun community project and making friends.

You’ve gathered your nucleus, now what?
A group needs a young leader to drive it forward to establish deeper unity across the group, keep the momentum going and be a point of contact for any assistance.
This doesn’t have to be a single person at this stage, but any individuals who are motivated and enthusiastic enough to maintain the solidity of the group.
A Rotarian’s communication with the leader here is vital.
They do not need to understand the ins and outs of being a club president or be overwhelmed by responsibility.
They should be given the freedom to drive it themselves, knowing that support is just around the corner if it is needed.
At this stage, the national Rotaract team or Rotaractors within your district will be available to help support the leader to learn more about what Rotaract is.
After a few successful projects, more members joining and a solid base within the group, the question of officially chartering as a club may be floating around.
It’s important to remember that Rotaract clubs are not Rotary clubs and as such will always operate in a different way.
Attempting to push roles, committees, annual projects onto a group may drive them away or quash enthusiasm.
A group is ready to form into a club when it is at a stage where it can sustain itself with a healthy membership base and strong leadership. If the group doesn’t feel ready to take the leap into becoming a club, that’s perfectly fine.
We recommend Rotaract clubs charter with a membership of 10-15 members and a few projects under their belt.

The national team or your district Rotaract representative is available to assist and guide you through any stage as you embark on your journey to start a new club.
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