Posted by Charlie Wasser on Jul 02, 2017


By Julie Aubry, Regional Membership Officer at Rotary International

What is Rotary?

“I have no idea.”

“That’s a type of phone, right?”

“Oh, I’ve heard of Rotary. I don’t know what they do though.”

The statements above aren’t uncommon when we ask non-members if they know what Rotary is. We know there’s a lack of awareness in our communities; some parts of the world have been seeing a decline in membership. How can we expect clubs to grow if people don’t know who we are?

    I’ve been volunteering since I was a child. I thank my parents and local church for fostering my commitment to service. And yet, having an interest in service from a young age, I never knowingly encountered Rotary throughout middle school, high school, university, and all the way into my late twenties. How did I make it that far without knowing anything about Rotary? While we didn’t have local Interact or Rotaract clubs, we did have nearby Rotary clubs. The problem was, we were never made aware of volunteer opportunities with clubs within my communities.

    In the past, a Rotary club may have avoided speaking openly about the community service they provide for fear of appearing braggart. But there’s a missed opportunity in not sharing. Turn your talk of service into an opportunity to raise awareness, make a greater impact, and inspire potential members.

    As part of the Regional Membership Officer team at Rotary International, we see this issue affecting clubs and districts all over the world. To help broaden your next service project, I’ve created a checklist of things to consider to bring awareness (and, therefore, more support) to your club and engage prospective members:

    • How will this project build awareness of the service needed in the community and of my club?
    • How visible is my club in this project? Is it clear that my club is Rotary (shirts, aprons, hats, etc.)? Is there an opportunity to leave our club’s mark (signage, club logo)?
    • Is my club extending volunteer opportunities to non-members including families, students, businesses, and local leaders we’d like to engage?
    • Are we utilizing traditional or social media? It’s important to share volunteer opportunities through these platforms beforehand and after to share project photos and end results.
    • What do new members or non-Rotarian volunteers experience when they join us for a project? Do volunteers understand the project? Do they understand my club’s role? Do they feel welcomed, included, and engaged?
    • Is there an opportunity to share the benefits of becoming a Rotarian and the opportunities my club offers? For example, other ways to give back may include supporting new or existing projects, fellowship, networking, professional development, etc.
    • What’s the take-away? Do our non-Rotarian volunteers know how to get in touch with our club after the project? Do they know about other upcoming events?
    • When my club thanks our members for their service, do we also thank non-member volunteers? Are we able to collect contact information for non-members, and follow up to thank them as a nice personal touch and to open the line of continued communication?