Posted on Feb 15, 2021
In my working life I worked in large corporates in Human Resources and one of the areas I worked in involved developing Onboarding programmes. When my own club recently decided to relook at how we attract and engage new members, I was reminded that there are some key principles that we can all apply. The most important? Make it personal.
Like any organisation, when someone joins Rotary, we want them to feel part of our organisation, our Rotary family. Getting the right “fit” comes from shared values, and like any relationship, we want to feel that we will get something from the relationship as well as give to it.
So, some thoughts, which apply whether you are meeting online, an e-club or meeting in person ...
  • Engaging a new member involves heart as well as mind – how they feel about early experiences with Rotary as an organisation or Rotarians as people will influence their decision whether or not they want to get involved, and stay.
  • The experience of Rotary starts before they actually make the decision to join – perception and first impressions are important.
  • We need to understand each other’s expectations – is what they signed up for what they get? Did we ask why they want to get involved and explain what we offer? Is the member experience your club is offering one you feel comfortable inviting someone else to come into?
  • First impressions count - when a prospective member comes to visit a meeting or participate in a project how are they welcomed? Are they invited to participate or left to their own devices?
  • Be mindful of the language you use, especially to be inclusive and avoid Rotary acronyms.
  • Listen to what they say – a new perspective and fresh ideas can be very revealing and helpful. I know from personal experience that nothing will disengage more quickly than “we have always done it that way”.
Whenever we join a group, whether the golf club, garden society or Rotary, we form a psychological and unwritten contract in our own head and heart. As an organisation we are more likely to keep that new member beyond the critical first two to three years if we plan how to help individuals develop that connection and then work to keep it.
And now for some practical ideas for engaging new members.
  • Make sure you have a good conversation with the individual about what they are looking for, what you do, and be clear about what it means to be a member of Rotary, emphasising opportunities. Listen as well as tell.
  • Design a structured orientation or onboarding programme that can be customised for the individual and will work for your club. There are many ideas in the Rotary International publication “Introducing New Members to Rotary, An Orientation Guide”, like assigning a mentor or buddy, learning more about Rotary (the Why, What, Who, When and How), and supporting them to attend Rotary Leadership Institute within the first six months.
  • If you like to have a formal induction, make it a special event and invite their family if they would like that. Making individuals feel special creates engagement.
  • Check in on a regular basis.
There are many practical things you can do to help a new Rotarian feel part of Rotary, all of which will help build that important emotional and psychological connection.
I will finish with a quote from Simon Sinek, one of my favourite speakers:
“When people are financially invested, they want a return.
When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”
Article by ARC PDG Ingrid Waugh