Fly on the wall – Guest Blogger

Ron Duxbury was named as a Paul Harris Fellow at his club’s charter in 2007 and went on to become a District Governor in the Rotary year 2011-12

Ron is retired having spent a lifetime in financial services with NatWest, Britannic Assurance, Abbey National and Standard Life.

He joined the Rotary Club of Barrow-in-Furness in 1992 and took part in a variety of club activities and eventually became club secretary, a post he really enjoyed.

Ron became District Governor of D1190 (Cumbria and Lancashire) in 2011-12, a roll he threw himself into with enthusiasm. “Even though I was DG I was no different to any other Rotarian” says Ron “we all do great work in our own way to help others.”Asked what he gets out of Rotary he says it’s the fun, fellowship and banter at his club. “Unfortunately there are fewer of us now, and it’s a situation we have to acknowledge and resolve if we can, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Take a look at Ron’s hypothetical ‘water-cooler’ chat following a modern-day businessman’s visit to give a presentation to his local Rotary Club. Or, as he asks…is it hypothetical?

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it

Picture the scene: – it’s 2.30 in the afternoon and Jim has just returned to his office. He bumps into Alan.

“Hey Jim – what’s with the tie?  Bit overdressed aren’t you?”

“Hi Alan – just got back from making a presentation to the Rotary club and they all wear collars and ties.”

“That’s a bit much in these days ​isn’t it Jim? Even our MD doesn’t wear a tie any more unless he’s meeting the big wigs of course.”

“Well Alan it seems to be a bit of a tradition in some of the clubs according to the president. He was telling me that some of the members had tried to change the dress code to something a little bit more relaxed but still smart but it was voted down.”

“So how did the presentation go?”

“Pretty well I think  Alan – only two of them fell asleep.”

“That’s pretty good for you Jim, It’s normally more than that.”

“Hey​ watch it you​.”

“So did you manage to get any of the younger ones fired up to join our company?”

“There weren’t any Alan – according to the president the average age is 74.”

​”Thought they’d have some younger ones – Rotary clubs always used to be a good mix of ages.”

“They do have younger people along from time to time as guests and some as speakers but none of them seem to want to join. They did have a possible member along recently and before he came he seemed keen but afterwards he said he was too busy.” ​

“Perhaps one of the problems is that they meet at lunchtime – it would be difficult for us to get along if we were asked to join.”

“Yeah – that’s something they discuss from time to time as well, but according to the president if they switch to an evening some of the older ones would leave as they don’t go out at night and they don’t want to lose any more members because of the contribution they make.

“I know they do a great job locally and further afield – I’ve seen some of the publicity they get, although I haven’t seen much in the local paper lately.”

“Yeah that’s another problem they have as they say they send stuff in all the time but there’s not much of it gets published. It’s not just them but the other two clubs in town are finding it the same since the new editor took over.”

“Oh there’s a couple of other clubs in town then is there?”

“Yeah and they meet in the evening but even they are having trouble attracting new members.”

“Could be an image thing perhaps. I think some people think Rotary clubs are a bit dull and stuffy.”

“It’s a shame really as the guys who were there were certainly were very friendly and there seemed to be a great craic at the tables as well.

Could this really be how conversations go when a speaker at a Rotary Club returns to the office and chats with colleagues?

One of them was telling me about something they did recently where they brought together a load of local school kids and some teachers to take part in something they call a Technology Tournament, where the kids have to make a working model from materials they are given.” Apparently there was a great atmosphere amongst the kids and teachers, and there were a good number from the club there. One said it’s one of the highlights of the year.”

“You said ‘guys’ Jim – are there no women in the club? Doesn’t quite sound quite right that but you know what I mean.”

“I asked the president about that Alan and he said they had no objections to women joining but they haven’t found one who wants to yet. They have quite a few women along to give presentations and they always ask them if they’re interested but most of them say they’re too busy.”

“Seems like they’re between a rock and a hard place Jim, and the club may die out in the course of time.”

“Yeah apparently a lot of clubs up and down the country are having similar problems Alan, although the president said there might be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel if they establish a satellite club.”

“What’s that Jim?”

“They’re aimed at everyone, but particularly younger people who can’t get to the club meetings now, or find them a bit stuffy and formal. The people who join them are members of Rotary, but they have the freedom to meet wherever they want, and perhaps only twice a month instead of each week. Some meet in coffee shops and others in pubs – it’s really up to the members themselves.”

“Sounds interesting that Jim – perhaps we could look into it a bit further. You only have to read the papers or watch T.V. to see that a lot of people still need help from groups like Rotary.”

“That’s right Alan – I thought the same myself when I was told about all the great work they’re doing now, so I told the president we might get back to him to see how we could help.”

“Sounds like a plan that, and you said they could meet in a pub?”

“Thought you’d like that Alan, especially with that new boozer in town.”

“Well you must be one of the oldest boozers in town now Jim – well into your thirties now!”

“Watch it pal. Anyway are you up for it?”

“Yeah – let’s have a chat with that president feller you keep talking about. You up for a pint or two tonight and we can talk about it a bit more?”

“I’ll drink to that Alan!”

Please note any similarity to a Rotary Club is purely coincidental.

Or is it?

 

Images in order of appearance by Dukas Ju by CC

60 thoughts on “Fly on the wall – Guest Blogger

  1. says:

    I tuned into the on line Annual Business Meeting at Manchester as a voting delegate. Two participants made me sit up.
    The chap presenting the new Strategy said “only Clubs can increase membership”..if true ,do we need a top heavy group of RIBI and RI offices to help us…?
    The second related to the Conference itself when a woman Rotarian working as a Conference Steward told the audience that she had witnessed…. 1.attendees walking out of speeches before they were over …and 2. many were on their mobile phones while the speeches were being delivered
    Not only disrespectful but showing a sign that these “expensive” must change…but how ???

    1. Thanks for your comments Mike.

      I think the comment about Rotarians being on mobile phones is probably one of the issues that shows we are not keeping up with the times. Unless the Rotarian means they were talking on the mobile phones (which I doubt) then I presume she means they had them ‘in hand’ and therefore likely posting on social media about the conference – you know, spreading the word about Rotary.

      Check out this blog I posted over two years ago about this very issue – and it seems we’ve not moved on from those traditionalists who see it as ‘bad manners’ to be using what is now for all intents-and-purposes a handheld computer.

    2. Jenny Glover says:

      That was me (the woman Rotarian working as a Conference Steward)! Don’t worry, the Rotarian audience members weren’t talking, they were just checking emails.The Manchester organisers had put aside a block of seats for people arriving late and at first, I thought that this wasn’t really necessary, as Rotarians are always on time – aren’t they? Well, no. There was a constant stream of late arrivals and early leavers, enough to keep the stewards quite busy opening and closing doors for them.

      I have a certain amount of sympathy, because the structure is that people come into the auditorium and are stuck there, listening to a series of inspirational speeches. When there is coffee scheduled, the entire hall goes together, leading to long queues, and don’t even get me started on the queues at the toilets in the auditorium!

      One point, which was made at the Business Meeting, was that there are approximately 59,000 Rotarians in the UK, but a mere 1,500(ish) came to the conference, and that the conference is going to make a loss. However, after sitting through 2.5 hours of the Business Meeting, I will think very seriously about going to next year’s conference in Torquay, even if they are going to have an indoor beach party.

      1. says:

        Hi Jenny

        As the person who did this guest blog to which only one person has replied by keeping on subject I thought I might as well chip in my sixpennorth on the basis of ‘if you can’t beat ’em join ’em’.

        I think the whole subject of conferences at national and district level has to be looked at. Although nobody will come out and say it one of the factors contributing to lower numbers is cost. For the price of going to a conference one can fly out and sit in the sun for a few days. Which would you rather do?

        It always puzzles me that for such a large organisation we allocate around just three hours a year to talk about our future, which many think has already reached tipping point. Having said that and after watching the afternoon floorshow on t’internet perhaps that’s a blessing! Seriously though the organisation must embrace modern methods of communication better than it does.

        Oh by the way I think your figure of 59,000 Rotarians in these isles is a little bit out. I stand to be corrected but I understand the figure is now around 46,000.

        I wonder why!

      2. Hi Jenny and Ron
        Interesting scenario … and so near the truth

        Note that, as Ron said, the membership is nearer 46000 than 59K

        I like your point about only 1500 attending and making a loss which of course the rest of us pay for! … and of course the resolution to change the conference was lost … How surprising when the vote was mainly made by those who enjoy attending and only a few of us not attending but voting online … It would be interesting to see the split between the two groups.

        The final point about checking emails and not talking on mobiles is questionable … In this day and age there is an increasing number of Rotarians using social media. … It is more likey they were posting so that is a good thing surely? …. I personally was online voting hut at the same time monitoring the posts too, and there were many.

        So the activity on mobile is less worrying than people leaving the meeting … Mind you I nearly lost the will to live after the first two hours with proposers taking up the time speaking rather than letting a debate ensue!

    3. You make a most powerful point Mike when you highlight that the incoming President’s point pushing the blame for membership decline to the clubs … Why do we need a very expensive machine that is not financially well controlled to exist?

      I think “shooting in the foot” comes to mind … All the “restructure” he talked about (for far too long) is merely moving deckchairs on the Titanic !

      Also, the Treasurer, Niall Blair, displayed a total lack of authenticity (speaking far too long) at the mismanagement of our money, budget and costs. Forgetting to mention the other 200K loss that is his resonsibility, and after taking account of currency fluctuations that were not hedged well

      Were was the RI Director? The chair seemed unaware that he was not there until infirmed he was making a presentaion elswhere … Later social media suggested he might be unwell and if so then best wishes fir a healthy recovery buy we should have known that in the meeting.

  2. A Nonny Mouse AG says:

    coincidental ?

    no, worryingly accurate.

    Of the Clubs I cover, one refuses to have female members – they don’t invite any potential female members and make it very clear to any women who visit that their presence is unwelcome. Their incoming President wants to change this but faces two or three staunchly misogynistic members he would happily lose, but also a couple more who in all other respects are good Rotarians that he’d like to keep. His comment was “one battle at a time”. I wait for the outcome when a female Rotarian moves into their town and wants to join. She will get all my support.

    And the Club with an average age of 78, meet at lunchtime, are a nice group of men (again, just men, but not because of a misogynistic attitude, just no women want to join them) A cosy lunch group, with a bit of “Rotary” thrown in. New young members ? Not a hope.

    Why do we have Grace (I’m atheist so it means absolutely nothing to me, but is Rotary a religious organisation?) The “Loyal Toast” ? we aren’t a Services organisation. A “Closing Toast” ? A bell? The President wearing what looks like a mayor’s chain of office? A suit and tie?

    I have nothing against tradition, but in the right place – a formal occasion like Charter Night (if you have one, you don’t have to !) – not at every Club meeting !

    From the AG perspective, we have to make it abundantly clear we are in our job to help Clubs in whatever way THEY want. Some Clubs don’t want our help, others do. Being “on District” isn’t an ego trip, or shouldn’t be. The same goes for RIBI. But that doesn’t stop a lot of members thinking that’s exactly what District and RIBI mean. Pity there are some on District or RIBI who reinforce the idea !

    Thanks to the recent CoL, Clubs officially have far more flexibility in how they operate, so let’s use that flexibility and get into the 21st Century. We will only get new members into our Clubs when we make Rotary something people really want to be part of. Do some exciting projects, be flexible, make an obvious contribution to your community, publicise the good stuff, and make it obvious you have FUN ! Then open the doors…

    1. Thanks AG – I think it is still such a shame to read about Clubs who blatantly refuse females access to the Club – despite there be legislation to prevent this happening. It smacks once again of how Rotarians actually see themselves above the law! As I have said before in this blog (many times) the way in which gender is handled by certain Clubs is the ‘ticking time bomb’ for the organisation.

      As for the female moving into town – to be honest, why on earth would she want to join such a misogynistic Club anyway? In fact, for that matter why would any modern day thinking male want to join such a Club?

      You cover so many points that have previously been covered by RotaryBlogger.co.uk – and yet here we are years and years down the line still talking about ties, regalia, bells, toasts and graces?!?!

      Is it any wonder that membership in these islands (despite what many will try and say) is spiralling downwards to a point of no-return?

    2. says:

      Thanks AG for those comments about my guest blog.

      In some ways it’s unfortunate that this blog was published as the RIBI Conference was in its final day and people have gone ‘off topic’, as, not surprisingly it was Conference that was on their minds.

      I’m sure that Rotary Blogger welcomes any sort of comments about Rotary. Might I suggest that someone who was at Conference do a guest blog?

      I was unable to be there in person, but managed to see some of the ABM on t’internet, but I for one would welcome reading a guest blog at a future date as I think conferences National and District would make a great blog.

    3. Martin Brocklebank says:

      WOW A Nonny Mouse … come and be an AG in our district please …. as for clubs not accepting women they should be made aware that a club has had its charter removed because they flatly refused to accept women … THIS SHOULD HAPPEN MORE … and name and shame them!

      I did have a business woman in a town of three clubs enquire about joining and one of the clubs is very “masonic” and also misogynistic lunchtime gathering so when I asked an incoming DG [whose club it was] his reply was to ask me to send her to the other two clubs!!! When I changed this he told me to “F Off and he is not getting into this” and he moved tables. Having been on district for over 14 years he does not want me in a role anymore – what a surprise!! – we have no hope really

      Unfortunately due to personal circunstances not related to Rotary she withdrew so I could not push it further but remain dismayed at the appaling attitude of an incoming DG.

      Sadly, it does make me wonder why I remain a Rotarian.

  3. Jim Thomson says:

    Nothing wrong with quietly leaving the conference hall during an item. It’s big enough to do unobtrusively. We all have paid to register, travel and book accommodation and are perfectly entitled to judge whether individual items in a two day programme add value for us. We often profit more from chatting, looking at the exhibition, having a breath of fresh air, rather than being obliged to keep sitting. Suspect those watching the streamed (and free) version have no compunction about leaving their screens.

    1. Nothing wrong with it all Jim…

      Watch our Parliamentarians – they wander in and out of the ‘conference hall’ all day – and nobody bats and eyelid.

      Again, and interesting point of view from what appears to be the traditionalist that would have you believe you need to sit tight light good little school kids and pay attention to the master….beggars belief!

  4. says:

    It seems that we might start to construct a new type of Conference.
    Lets start with the word itself. A Conference means “To Confer” That is about people talking with each other.
    Skip the formalities-the Mayor,The RIBI /RI Presidents..just start with satellite sessions which offer attendees to roam over different presentations like fringe meetings to which one can “come and go” like Jim says…these sessions enable the audience to engage with the speakers and exchange views..I understand after 40 years of Rotary that people like me are happy to miss conferences now because “seen one ” “seen them all” -they are all formulaic ….and they have little of the essence of “conferring” At least the ABM was conferring and btw-I watched every session despite the Grand National !

    1. Great comments Mike – I think many share the view of ‘seen one seen them all’ and therefore don’t engage.

      Even in the business-world of today, conferences are becoming passé with alternatives being considered that are quicker, easier and more cost-effective.

      PS – hope you picked the winner for the National.

  5. Jim Thomson says:

    Me again! Actually the Lord Mayor of Manchester was very good value and reading his bio a day after his visit I realise he has an extremely fascinating history as well. It does Rotary no harm at all, indeed it is a positive plus, to gave people like him along and get Rotary into their consciousness. I actually like formal markers in the proceedings like kick off introductions…. they add a sense of cohesiveness; but then let participants get into those things which progress their own agendas. For me, one part of the agenda is finding out what other people and clubs do, picking up ideas, winnowing them and pursuing maybe one or two.

    I’ve just turned 10 years in Rotary, have done my turn as President and have been an infrequent conference attender. From these limited observations I have formed the view, like Mike, that District Conferences are definitely NOT for conferring – just a series of presentations of varying degrees of worthiness. At the other end, the RI Conventions, both at Birmingham and Seoul, I found the breakout sessions really did allow you to kick around ideas on how Rotary works and where it should go – even if in the end these discussions have no immediate effect. At least you can dig below the ‘party line’ and discover alternative views, for example on Foundation. And it’s especially nice to find US Rotarians often view RI’s operations with a jaundiced eye.

    The RIBI conference? Jury is out for me. But good there was to and fro debate on subscriptions.

  6. Melodie Kevan says:

    Fun to read, but sad to know that this still is the case at too many Rotary Clubs. However I’m thrilled to know that this is not the case at my Rotary Club of Applecross D9465, southern Western Australia. Our Club is growing well and the majority of new members are in the 30’s. We have well supported programs that are relevant to our community at home and OS. Come and visit us soon! Find us on Facebook, Twitter and web.

    1. Brilliant Melodie …. That is quite heartening to hear … interestingly we have a speaker at our club on the 19th April from SW Australia talking about Rotary Down Under … he is Bob Aitken and is getting up at 04.30 your time to participate with us in the UK eclub of East Anglia. Find out the detail, if you are an early bird at and feel free to join us. This shows the fellowship, connection and collaboration in modern eRotary and an exciting way forward.

  7. Well done Ron … As you say it is unfortunate that the responses are off topic due to the business meeting at the conference. I have also fallen into that trap in replying to others … However back to the plot.

    I am membership chair for Rotary in East Anglia (D1080) and i have to say i can recognise your scenario all to scarily!

    Lip service is paid to attracting women members and the power that be, whether district ir RIBI, should graps this nettle with vigour.

    The generation gap is worrying and there is little signe of anything being doen … One quick and easy way to bridge this gap is to take the CoL16 change in Rotaract ability to become a Rotarian … However why would anyone pay twice ! .. We should find a way to engage with Rotaractors and offer the first year free and for their own Rotaract club to be a dual club if they wish (to overcome the unattractiveness of them joining an existing club). This is a ready made like minded group of young people who want the same goals but do it differently.

    It is also a sad fact that many Rotarians leave due to a falling out in their ckub where one ar two dominate … I can say this with knowledge as I speak to all leavers as I get notified by the DMS system.

    Finally, we should encourage older members of our communities to join clubs and not just focuus upon younger people entirely.

    1. says:

      “However why would anyone pay twice ! .”
      we do pay twice RI and RIBI…why ? whats the rationale ?

      Incidentally one quote for the magical RIBI insurance which RI dont pay is £20 per member…we can negotiate better than this…cant we ? how much of a start on Insurance did the UK get on the USA ??

  8. As part of my activities in promoting Rotary in Western Australia, I have presented this financial year to over 400 members of various business networking groups.

    Without exception, unless their parents were involved in Rotary, these business people are of the impression that Rotary is a bunch of old blokes meeting for dinner every week and all kicking in a few dollars for fundraising.

    Once I have finished my 15 minute presentation, they have a much better idea of what Rotary represents.

    Occasionally we work with the local councils to present at their business networking evenings, which Rotary District sponsors for nibbles and drinks as part of our PR budget. The last one we ran was attended by 107 small business people and we have 4 new members and 7 we are following up as a result of this.

    I make sure that I have representatives from selected local clubs. I make sure that these Rotarians aren’t afraid to network and will invite people to a Rotary get together.

    I bet that 80% of Rotarians joined because another Rotarian invited them to a get together.

  9. says:

    Ron, a well thought out and correct depiction of a club of many years standing. It’s great in one way that clubs like this exist in this day and age and although not thriving and attracting new members are still doing good work in their local and international community. However, in time their legacy long term projects will fade as the club fades not attracting new members. One must wonder how many good years they have left. They wonder why ladies will not join them and new members of a younger age are not interested but in their heart of hearts know the reason why but fail to admit it to themselves and anyone outside. In a nutshell they know what they need and are advised to do but are somehow very comfortable with the status quo.

    There is a light that shines through, well a couple actually. Satellite clubs are one answer for a different type of prospective Rotarian and I’ve been to a couple and found them to be like a breathe of fresh air. No formalities, business is done right from the start and people can decide if they eat with their friends or leave early with no pressure. The parent club guides and informs but does not interfere. They let the satellite club do Rotary things their way.

    Then there are eClubs and these are lifting off in a measured way dispelling myths perpetrated by ‘dyed in the wool’ old style Rotarians. I’ve really no wish to fall into the age old Rotarian trap of promoting my own turf but I belong to the eClub of East Anglia. The big myth concerning fellowship has been thrown out of the window since there is good fellowship on line and of course no reservations when members meet physically. There are members who come on line from all over the world to speak about themselves, a good cause they support or just relate their worldly experiences. Generally an eClub can attract almost any speaker they have the imagination to invite since the speaker never leaves their office or home and spends as little time or as much time as they can manage on line. Speakers from the States, India, Africa and even one very shortly from Australia. A few of the members take part in projects and the whole ethos and culture of Rotary is building through the club.

    These are new ways of doing Rotary that are different. It doesn’t take a business meeting to introduce them or a big plan, that laid out in peoples minds deep down they know will never be fully implemented. However, they have tried to make a very very small dimple in the world of Rotary. It’s really big gestures, ideas and actions we need now.

    1. says:

      Many thanks Allan for taking the time and trouble to give a considered opinion.
      I have looked at e-clubs but like a lot of people I suspect, don’t really know how they operate and I should acquaint myself with their modus operandi.
      As I mentioned in the blog clubs are doing a fantastic amount of work and it’s the fellowship that drives most clubs to achieve what they do. However, given that the average age of Rotarians is now 75 I do fear for the future of many clubs.

  10. David Ellis says:

    Great article Ron, pity it has been hijacked by comments about the RIBI conference.
    I feel the scenario in your piece is replicated around the country, the reason we don’t attract in great numbers is because we are hell bent on having meetings about meetings. Today’s younger professionals are cash rich and time poor, a young Rotarian has just applied to join our club, she is 29, however she does not want to eat a meal, no problem she arrives as we are having coffee and joins the meeting. We have to offer today’s Rotarians a choice and be flexible. I won’t get into the age argument as age is just a number, it’s attitude that’s important.

  11. Lindsay Pearson says:

    Personally, I am not convinced Rotractors are a source of members – the age gap is simply too wide, and the age gap morphs into a technology gap. Young people live on the internet, FaceBook, WhatsApp, Twitter and so on – they don’t generally use emails and snail-mail just doesn’t enter the field. So regular attendance at a Club is not going to be high on their list.

    Young professionals, as mentioned by David Ellis, do not have the time for regular meetings, particularly meetings about meetings. My daughter and Son-in-Law would make ideal Rotarians, both 40, she’s a Professor of Neuroscience, he’s a Consultant at a big hospital. BUT they have three girls aged 4-9, both have considerable travel commitments, both getting to work and also giving lectures and attending conferences world-wide. Give them another ten years and they might have settled into a less hectic lifestyle.

    A while ago we had a GSE group come to one of our meetings. Charming, intelligent and very positive about Rotary. Would they join ? No, not one. Why not ? because of the reasons above.

    Which is why I think our target age group is 50-60. By then most have achieved what they wanted in terms of profession and financial and domestic stability, or at least have accepted major change is unlikely. These are the people with time and skills and are likely to be looking to their future, with their enjoyment at the centre. Giving back to society is more likely to be a choice for spending time.

    We still have to make Rotary attractive, get rid of the formality, the hierarchy, the “rules”, the “we’ve always done it this way”. Use social media and web pages, support satellite Clubs but most importantly, get out into your local community and be visible, not just shaking the tin but actually doing things that can be seen to benefit the community. You might just get a few new members. We have.

    1. You miss my point Lindsay … I do not see these young people joining an existing club (unless they wish too) thry simply make their club a dual Rotaract/Rotary club and carry on. This will mean that over time they will be engaged in Rotary as well as Rotaract stuff …

      That is not to say that other things like member beget member and the development of young professional satellites etc

      We move from worrying about processes and more about fun and activity under the Rotary banner

        1. I agree Mike however if you have tried to get a Rotaractor to join Rotary then you would know they resist it … At one time I thought satellites would replace Rotaract but I tried and ended up opening three new Rotoract clubs instead!

    2. Interesting comments Lindsay – thanks for picking up the blog.

      If the target market is in fact 50-60 then surely that must then change the way in which we promote ourselves as an organisation?

      One question – if we are targeting the ‘near-retirees’ then doesn’t that further exacerbate the public’s view that we are a bunch of old-blokes who meet to eat lunch and throw a few quid at charity?

      I also think you’d be surprised at how many younger people are giving back to society with their time – but as you say, their voluntary services directly benefit their own community.

  12. says:

    If I recollect correctly, but if I don’t I’m sure someone will respectfully correct me, we have been talking about membership for some 5 years plus now. Let’s face it we are not recruiting in the numbers required even for the organisation to remain with the same number of members let alone grow membership. Membership is therefore not growing and as each year passes the situation gets worse and more urgent. We need a lot of action fast to make the organisation much more viable. One or two members each year in acquisition is not going to counter the departures. As a result the organisation’s revenue falls and the subs increase and more members leave. It is the scenario of an organisation in decline. If nothing is done quickly and drasically the fall in members will reach an exponential figure and the organisation will exist in name only. Clear, transparent inspired leadership is required to stem the rot. Getting members is an essential part of the recovery and RIBI should be leading from the front.
    Some of us really care about Rotary and what it brings to the lives of other people and of course it gives us a certain amount of pleasure as well. We are vocal about what we see happening around us with the organisation in this country but get sidelined because we don’t always toe the party line. Listen to us because at times we make an awful lot of sense.

      1. says:

        The treatment is simple. Define the target market, define the product you wish to sell to the target market, work out a strategy that is clear and concise and above all can be implemented, sell it to the sales force who can then go out and sell it to the customers. It’s not rocket science, however we have a leadership that seem to be inexperienced or incapable of setting down these simple parameters and then seeing it through. Instead they come up with mad cap ideas that last but a few months because everything needs to go through General Council and we all know that lasts but 9 months and the challenges and issues are not taken head on but passed to the next group to solve. I keep saying that with the set up we have in Great Britain and Ireland we should be the flag bearers leading the way with innovation, motivation and as a result membership but sadly almost the opposite is true. The committee system in RIBI is not working properly since if it was the motivation to the members would be inspiring, it’s not. I joined Rotary when there was a crisis in my life and the organisation helped me a lot. As a result I wanted to give something back but if you stick your head above the parapet and disagree in any way shape or form with the leadership you are knocked down.

        I was in Evanston last year for a meeting and without prompting someone senior in RI came up to me and said, “We are very worried about RIBI” a discussion then ensued predominantly on the state of membership. I could tell they were genuinely concerned as myself. I’ve considered not renewing my membership this year but have decided to stay and see what I can offer, if allowed to offer anything. Speaking to a few colleagues they are in the exact position as myself we want to help can see the challenges and can do something and have no wish to be viewed as sniping from the side lines we have no intention really of doing that but if we see something that is grossly wrong we do say so for the sake of the organisation and not our own sake as can be the case at times.

  13. Lindsay Pearson says:

    Perhaps a story (true!) from another organisation showing the way to go ?

    The Womens’ Institute was also declining in numbers. Too much “jam and Jerusalem” stuffy image. Then came the nude calendar, helped by the film “Calendar Girls”, the formation of WI’s with thoroughly unconventional names and constitution (there’s a Goth WI)

    Locally, a lady from Cambridge arrived in Ipswich and thought there could be another WI in her locality. The equivalent of “District” were immediately supportive. Exclusively via FaceBook, a meeting was arranged for anyone interested. 180, yes 180 women arrived, and over 100 signed up on the spot.

    WIs are thriving, new ones opening, existing ones changing their format and approach to suit the way women’s lives have changed, and their membership is rising along with the changing image.

    Perhaps Rotary could learn something from them ?

    1. Interesting comment Lindsay – I hope you have read this weekend’s blog, which coincidentally picks up some of the points you have made, albeit that it is about individual’s not signing up to organisations that require commitments etc.

      Take a look – hope you enjoy it.

  14. Paul Hickson says:

    Allan It is too early to say whether we will have inspired leadership at RIBI for the next three years but the proposals outlined at the Business meeting certainly sounded like ‘a plan’
    Whether creating new Rotary Clubs to fix the membership problem will prove to be easy as it sounded I am not so sure but having picked up the mantle of District extension officer I will find out soon !
    The President of WI will be speaking at next years conference so we can learn from them and that shows a refreshing attitude that we know we need help.
    I completely agree with Lindsay that our main target audience must be the soon to be /early retirees for both existing clubs and new clubs and the sooner we have a structured presentation from RIBI to deliver to retirement agencies counselling our target market the better.
    In terms of clubs not attracting /accepting women the best solution would be to create a new club sponsored by District adjacent to them with a predominant female membership to show what can be achieved
    However alongside balancing the gender inequality we must ensure we reflect the full diversity of our communities. I am certainly going to try and achieve that objective in the new role.
    Finally we must stop reinventing the ‘Rotary’ wheel and learn from each other as we move forward. Sharing best practice as to what has worked why and how picking up on what Tony Cotton has done in his District and Martin has achieved with his ( E) Club. Look forward to seeing you at District 1145 membership seminar Martin

    1. says:

      I don’t think it is too early to say that the presentations we saw on Saturday at the ABM were not inspiring since they were not. The delivery was lack lustre and the slides were amateur to say the least. I have always said and will say it again if you are in a leadership position you set the standard and it should never be mediocrity.

      1. I didn’t view the AGM last weekend Allan – but I agree with your points. Take a look at what Steve Jobs did at Apple in terms of ‘presenting the plan and the vision’ – presentation was key to everything he did. We could learn a lot from the way Apple present their strategies.

        1. says:

          I have read the Steve Jobs biography and one of the things I learned was that he took the product introductions very seriously. He rehearsed and rehearsed his presentations made sure the slides were spot on. Some would say he was paranoid about it. Of course a lot was in the balance should he get anything wrong but I don’t think he ever did. His philosophy was right and his presentations were of utmost importance as with a strategy presentation concerning RIBI. Present mediocrity and mediocrity will result, in a nutshell you get out what you put in.

          1. says:

            Hi Allan
            Yes I always look at Apple product launches and admired Steve Jobs’ presentational skills. His successor Tim Cook is also good, and they also have other senior staff who are able to put across the message.

            I take your point Allan but I think however you are comparing eggs with sausages with the resources available to Apple and to Rotary, even at RI level.

            As has been said many times the perception of Rotary within the local community is down to the local clubs. The three clubs in Barrow are working much closer together than ever they have in the past, and put across a positive message.

            Unfortunately there is still a silo mentality in some parts of the country. In many others the message of working together is coming through which is good because it should be all about ROTARY not necessarily the Rotary CLUB.

  15. says:

    The most telling comment from the 3 year strategy is “ONLY CLUBS CAN INCREASE MEMBERSHIP”
    ok … the Hierachy might help but only with suggestions…or just keep telling us our dues are going up because of falling numbers…..that isnt helpful is it ??

    1. Lindsay Pearson says:

      When you have a hierarchy that bases the budget on a 10% increase in membership over the next three years, when the graph over several years shows a continuing decline, you have to wonder which planet they are living on.

      To put a positive slant on all this, WE know Rotary is an exceptional organisation with a massive opportunity to build our contribution to our communities, so let’s get on with that and ignore the hierarchy.

  16. Lindsay Pearson says:

    Oh, I forgot…

    the turkeys didn’t vote for Christmas

    we will continue to have a loss-making Annual Conference

    works out at about £1 per member based on last year/this year/next year ?

    but included in the budget…

    1. That resolution was flawed from the start … How do we expect people attending a conference to vote for not having a loss making conference .. Duh!! The silent majority loses out

      It will be interesting to see the split between those 174 people voting online versus those in the actual conference.

      So, we now have 45,000 Rotarians paying for the 1500 that attend !!!!

      … and what was the test vote all about “do we want the conference to be held in Spain” disrespecting the resolution ?

  17. Paul Hickson says:

    Allan I completely understand where you are coming from when you refer to the need for continuity but that has now been addressed. The proposals that were discussed at the business meeting are agreed between the incoming Presidents of RIBI so we do have a three year strategy at least. I am sure the committee system will be resolved. one way or another. I do have a concern however that putting the terms ‘sales force’ and ‘Rotary members’ in the same sentence is optimistic. It would be very helpful for President Elect Denis to post a response on this blog in the same way President Eve has contributed in the past so there is engagement.

  18. says:

    I think one of the biggest problems is the clubs have an age gap. In my opinion this is due to the classification system that we used to have.
    I remember when I first enquired about Rotary I was told “you won’t get in because I’ve taken the classification” so it seems that the clubs were turning away prospective members.
    We missed out on a couple of generations and now it’s coming home to roost.

    1. John Stockbridge says:

      Hmmm I seem to recall that in our club we have three real estate agents – all with different classifications, and some of the country clubs here in Western Australia must have had at least a dozen ways to describe “Farmer” 🙂

  19. says:

    Getting back to the subject of the cost of being in Rotary which can be in excess of £500 per year if you have a meal on top of annual subscriptions. This has deterred two potential members that I have asked to join recently.
    I suggested to them coming at the end of the meal but when they found out that RI, RIBI, (rolled into one I know), District and Club fees came to £125 they again declined saying they would rather give that money direct to charity. You and I know that they miss the point of the fellowship that we all enjoy, which is the driving force that helps us to achieve what we do, but I think we also have to acknowledge that it is a problem.
    The subscription we pay to RIBI includes our subs to RI. Does anyone know the breakdown of the forthcoming £60 between RI and RIBI?
    Just thinking about those subscriptions it has been argued that if we didn’t have RIBI we would have to pay direct to RI and also pay to have a compulsory copy of their magazine.
    Is it not time that our leaders in RI and RIBI produced ONLY a digital copy of their respective magazines, which would surely save money and contribute to the planet as well? Using sites like YUMPU can also produce a free page-turning copy if needed.
    It is argued that not everyone has a computer. True – but I know that I and a number of other members in our club would gladly print a copy for those that didn’t have the facility to view on line – it’s part of Rotary fellowship.
    Our club and many others in our District have gone over to digital copies of their magazines. Producing in this way also has the advantage that they can be exchanged between clubs. We now receive magazines from 6 other clubs, and we have benefitted with fresh ideas for fund raising and venues for social events. Clubs working together to spread the message of Rotary.
    Digital copies can also be sent to non-Rotarians to give them a feel for a club which they might go on to join – if the fees don’t put them off that is!

    1. RI Board Jan17 – Agreed in concept with testing a global membership model that is not club-based, in accordance with the findings from Rotary’s strategic planning effort

      I wonder what the subs will be?
      What will happen to RIBI?
      Wnat will happen to districts?

      What will it mean for the Rotary future as we are build as an association of clubs ?

      1. says:

        RI Board Jan17 – Agreed in concept with testing a global membership model that is not club-based, in accordance with the findings from Rotary’s strategic planning effort

        What will it mean for the Rotary future as we are build as an association of clubs ?

        Sorry Martin – but how can it be an association of clubs if it’s not going to be club based?

        1. With regard to the Board decision to look at non club Rotarian membership you have made my very point.

          As Rotarians we sign up to a club and NOT Rotary International or RIBI the club does as you say.

          This will have serious implications all round … as it will be dismantilng the very basis on the structure.

          I guess you can be a member of Unicef and still take partin a local activity but it will be questioanble about what the clubs wwill be like. I raised it in the context of your BLOG as it seemed to be fundamental to some of what you are saying

          Not sure at all what it means

    2. says:

      Good morning Ron and it looks as if this will run and run. Talking of the magazine of which I know a little but not all is a bit of a red herring. The national magazine is supposed to pay for itself in terms of advertising revenue. I was asked just a couple of days ago if the advertising pages had increased in the present issue April/May. I don’t look at it I’m afraid but it should be 60/40 Editorial to Advertising so the 52 page edition should have 21/2 pages of advertising to pay for it. The way the mag is produced in this country is different from all other parts of the world. There are 33 mags across the world and the cost is added to members subscriptions for instance in Germany and France each member has 30 Euros added to their subscription for the mag. As part of membership the mag is mandatory. If the magazine here was stopped the default is The Rotarian at a cost of $24 delivered or $12 on line. The total cost of the national mag is meant to be covered by advertising that is production and distribution. The model used by most organisations using advertising does not include the cost of distribution but we do in this instance.
      Please do not run away with the idea that going ‘on line’ is the silver bullet that gets readership and reduces costs it does not on both counts if it is done properly. The intention when I took ver the Editorship of the mag was to make it ‘outward facing’ and of such a professional finish it would stand scrutiny along with other journals in the same arena. The audience was always the club Rotarian and anyone remotely interested in the organisation. It should have cost around £12k per year to the organisation dn hence the members if the advertising targets were met that cost should have decreased. An additional cost was added by improving the binding. As you know I have nothing to do with it now but with advertising revenue set against production it should be revenue neutral. Distribution costs are another matter.

      1. says:

        Many thanks for the explanation Allan.
        We go round the tables and give each member attending a copy and I always find it strange that there are invariably some that don’t go home with the member!
        I’ve always found it a good read and whilst I don’t read it cover to cover you can dip in and out at your leisure.
        Best wishes and thanks for all the time and effort you put in when you were Editor.

      2. says:

        Just another thought Allan. Presumably the RI magazine also covers its cost with adverts. In that case why does everybody have to buy a copy and pay for it? Presumably some of this is due to the distribution costs but one has to wonder.

        1. says:

          Looking at The Rotarian I can’t see how it covers cost with Ads. there are not many paid Ads in it and the other pages are filled with ‘fillers’ that look like Ads but are in house.Rotary Ads and at times they were used in the UK mag. when the Ad agent had not sold all the Ad pages. The Rotarian has a circulation when I last looked and recall correctly of 140k plus which at $24 a copy gives a very good amount of around $3million per annum to spend on production and distribution. Unlike in the UK here they can pay photographers and journalists which at times they do. they also have a very capable staff count in Evanston who work full-time on the mag. Here we have an Editor who gives of his time pro bono and just a few star working on the mag part time not costed to the mag. The Rotarians staff I was told are around 30 but I think that is a bit OTT. Here we have 1.5 but don’t forget we publish bi monthly and the Rotarian is published monthly. I had a long chat with the Rotarian designer recently…very interesting.

          1. says:

            So do you think Allan there would be any cost saving by switching to digital only rather than print? Surely there must be both for RI and RIBI magazines.

          2. says:

            To be totally honest I don’t know enough about it to make a comment. I am one of those people who truly believe that print copy will never die and reaches the parts that others cannot reach. If we produce a digital version then we will need to up our game in terms of design and content marketing which very few in RIBI have grasped let alone understand. An on line copy needs to grab the reader almost immediately and that takes a lot of design and content input. According to the people in the know you have just 7 seconds to grab someones attention on line. It’s a very specialised market in terms of content. There is also a cost to an online version of a mag since they need to be designed to be read from a smartphone and scrolled. In Rotary we are still in the world of clicking not scrolling. I never see any communication from RIBI so once again cannot comment. Their remit is to add value for members and their audience are primarily the members. How they are addressed should be a strategy worked out in a communications plan but I don’t see anyone in RIBI at present who are properly versed in communications and know who to use it and use it. We hear nothing from them at all probably because they are not communicators and therefore just don’t know how to communicate.

    3. I think you have really nailed it Ron.

      When I’ve spoken to people about joining Rotary (which if I’m honest hasn’t been of late) they have replied that they could potentially just hand over the £400-£500 they would spend to one charity or a selection of charities; four or five £100 donations to small charities can go a very long way.

      The problem is that the fees are remote and people can’t really see what they are for.

      Another organisation I am in charges a £25 per annum subscription – but that goes directly into running the Charity and it can be very easily seen where the subscription money is used.

      In Rotary – we just pay our subs and for all intents and purposes, it just disappears. Although to be fair, if Regular Rots were interested in where it goes – they can easily find out. (Not sure many of them would support paying for various people to attend a conference though.)

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