Recently associate member, Frank Garrelts, brought to the attention of Geoff Moore an interesting little book called: Double Your Club Membership in 6 Months – 10 lessons from a Rotary Club Pilot. The full text can be downloaded as a PDF from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/703889
However, amongst the several good ideas presented, one in lesson two caught my eye. I reproduce it here for everybody’s consideration. If you have any views you’d like to express, please add them in the comments section at the bottom of this webpage. Thank you.
REDUCE MEETINGS, INCREASE SERVICE
Since its creation, the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill has met weekly. The meetings were held every Tuesday morning for breakfast for one hour, from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM. A major change adopted under the strategic plan and six-month pilot was to reduce the number of regular meetings to two per month, to be held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. Agreement to move in that direction was not unanimous. Several members feared that such a move could weaken the club, as members would see each other less often.
Given that many members travel for their work, shifting to two meetings a month could mean that in some cases, some members may not be able to meet with other members for many weeks. There were also concerns that fellowship in the club could be weakened with fewer meetings.
At the same time, there were also arguments in favour of reducing the number of meetings. The main argument was that reducing meetings could free time for more service activities and the organization of public events that would help the club be better known in the community. Another argument was that due to the decline in membership, only five or six members were present at many meetings during the previous year. This made the meetings less attractive, and also made it more difficult to provide a fulfilling experience for speakers (regular meetings in Rotary clubs typically include a speaker who shares her expertise for 20 minutes followed by questions and answers).
It was hoped that members might make more of an effort to come to biweekly meetings than to weekly meetings in order to achieve critical mass. In addition, shifting to two meetings per month would make it easier to recruit good speakers, as speakers would need to be invited only biweekly.
Finally, fewer meetings was probably a positive change in order to attract new members, many of whom would not have the time to attend a meeting each week. Some clubs may decide to reduce the number of regular meetings in part to decrease the cost of membership. These clubs typically include a meal in their quarterly dues, so that reducing the number of meetings also reduces the cost of the meals being provided.
For the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, this was not a major consideration because quarterly dues do not include breakfast. Members pay for their own breakfast when they attend, and they are free to order breakfast or not. Given the pros and cons of shifting to two regular club meetings per month, the decision made by the club board and next by the club membership was to try the new schedule of two meetings per month for a trial period of six months, after which the pilot would be assessed. In addition, it was decided to shift monthly club board meetings to the first Tuesday of the month and encourage members to attend. In essence, this would be almost like a third meeting per month, albeit without a speaker and with a focus on club business.
Finally, it was agreed that the club would organize more service opportunities, including on Tuesdays, and more public events as other occasions to meet. The shift to two regular meetings per month did help in freeing time for more service activities as well as public events, as had been envisioned under the strategic plan. In the six months from July to December 2016, on top of launching a new pro bono initiative discussed in the next chapter, the club essentially organized twice as many service opportunities as it had done for the full previous year.
In addition, during the six-month pilot, the club organized two public events (a launch meeting for the pro bono initiative at the main community centre for the club’s location and a seminar on education for peace and social change at the World Bank followed by a reception). It also participated in two other public events (a stand at the Barracks Row Festival and a reception for grantees at the Capitol Hill Community Foundation).
And it started planning for another set of public events focused on providing training to staff from local nonprofits. Over the same period during the previous Rotary year, the club only participated in one public event (the Barracks Row Festival) and it did not organize any events itself.
These various changes helped in recruiting new members. As a result attendance in terms of the number of members present at club meetings increased as well. Overall, the shift to two meetings per month appears to have been positive so far. It enabled the club to devote more energy to service activities and gaining visibility in the community, resulting in gains in membership.
In December 2016, the club board approved the new schedule of two regular meetings per month on a permanent basis. As the club is further strengthened in the future, it may at some point decide to go back to weekly meetings. But the shift to two meetings per month during the six months pilot served its purpose in helping to focus the energy of the membership on activities – especially service activities – that helped for membership growth.