Let’s go Younger

Tony Scaife

This post’s Guest Blogger is formerly a librarian and lecturer now retired. Tony Scaife had barely heard of Rotary until 2008. Since joining the organisation he has served as Club Secretary, President and now Executive Secretary. He has also been an active member of the District 1040 Visioning team.

Let’s go Younger

Sadly, the majority of RIBI members are of an age when they can remember what to do with Button B.

Ironically the rotary dial phone itself was being phased out just when Rotary experienced its last membership boom in the 1980s with the polio eradication campaign launch.

Whilst Rotarians appear to have blossomed with the disappearance of the rotary phone they have clearly floundered in the decade of the smart phone.

But  I am pleased to see that this year’s RIBI President Denis Spiller in his Rotary Talks: Rotary 2 challenges us to regenerate and sets us the task of increasing membership – especially from the thirty to sixty years old. But he argues “life style and social expectation changes” present us with major hurdles.

Now one way to evade the challenge is to argue that Rotary can survive and, to some extent, thrive by largely recruiting new members from the nearly or recently retired cohort.  Given the present make up of Rotary it is inevitable and indeed desirable that we do recruit from those most willing to join us. But there are two existential dangers for us if we continue to evade Denis Spiller’s challenge of recruiting from the prime working age population.

Firstly, like so many I was recruited into Rotary from the nearly retired cohort and whilst my fellow recruits have many excellent qualities we cannot offer the decades of service previous generations of Rotarians did. Neither are we perhaps as ‘on the ball ‘and responsive as we once were. For example, whilst our membership has declined in the last thirty years all business organisations and the professions have changed dramatically. Maybe if we had recruited more prime working age people earlier  we would have had a vigorous and experienced cohort of Rotarians   spurring us on to regenerate and revise our arcane rules much sooner than 2016?

Secondly   over these last thirty years mass public support for disasters and crises have increasingly been ‘fronted’ by younger people and driven by social media. I’m thinking of bucket challenges, flash mobs and crowd funding events. These efforts are laudable but older eyes may see them as often   quite arbitrary and superficial. Ignoring the established long-term work of Rotary with Shelter Box, Aqua Box, Polio Plus and Stroke Awareness etc. But Canute like we cannot turn back this tide of public misperception.