Will the last one to leave…

It’s been a while…

But I’ve been prompted to get back to the RotaryBlogger keyboard on the basis of the increasing numbers of conversations I am having with fellow Regular Rots that are giving serious consideration to making a quiet backdoor exit from what they once believed was a wonderful organisation.

Now, to put this in perspective, I’m not speaking to hundreds of Rotarians around the world who are thinking of leaving – but I am in direct or indirect contact with quite a few who are giving some serious consideration as to whether Rotary International is giving them any of the satisfaction or fulfilment it once did.

Despite the best efforts of many initiatives and the way in which the figures are presented, it seems from those in the know that net membership figures across the organisation are effectively dropping year on year.


Is it really moving towards a position of “Could the last one to leave please turn off the lights” for Rotary International?

Are we now getting to a position where the age profile of the organisation has reached the ‘tipping point‘ many people spoke of a few years ago? This tipping point being the position whereby the demographic direction of the organisation gets to a position whereby it is non-recoverable, i.e. destined to continue on the same trajectory on which it has travelled for the last number of years and nothing is going to stop it.

Take the issue of age; I happened to stumble across a photograph posted on Facebook by a Rotarian currently attending Governor Elect Training this weekend in Madrid. In a line up of eleven posers in the photo – I would have put the average of those in the gallery in their mid-sixties – and even then, admittedly I may have been a little kind in reaching my conclusions. But without equivocation there is no doubt their age profile lay within the 65-75 year old age bracket.

On a personal basis, I have slowly come to the conclusion, perhaps even realisation that Rotary is not modern enough for today’s society. And despite all efforts previously been made, only a matter of weeks ago a work colleague confirmed she still had the perception that Rotary was a retired, male-only organisation affiliate to the Freemasons!

After all this time – why haven’t we got it right?

In terms of the other equalities issues we are still way off the mark as well and it would seem that Rotary is nowhere near as diverse at it would paint itself to be or it would have the outside world believe.

Based on the UK Census Data of 2011 – 51% of the population was female (yes, you read that right – females actually held the balance in the most recent census), 87% of the UK was white and 18% deemed themselves to a long-term health problem or disability. In addition, an Office for National Statistics survey in 2013 assessed that 93.5% of the population classed themselves as ‘heterosexual’ or ‘straight’ with 1.5% being Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB) and the remaining 5% preferring not to say.

Therefore if we are talking about RotaryGBI and reflecting the 2011 census – then based on a membership of 50,000 Regular Rots we should therefore have:

  • 6,500 non-white Rotarians;
  • 9,000 with a long-term health issue or disability;
  • 750 Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual Rotarian (with the potential to be 3,250)
  • 25,500 female Rotarians

I am sure these figures would be reflective in many of the countries where Rotary is prevalent.

So as we look at the demographics of age, gender, sexuality, disability and race – it seems that Rotary International (certainly in UK and Ireland) doesn’t seem to be reflective of the changing face of the society to which it claims to be very much a part.

However, during my travels around Rotary Clubs, I have heard of potentially racist jokes being printed in Club and even District magazines; I have heard of homophobic behaviour and what I believe has recently been referred to as ‘locker-room’ chat taking place at meetings, I have even printed blog posts regarding female members being ‘encouraged’ to join other Clubs and yet little – if anything is ever done about these things [“Rotary’s Ticking Time Bomb” – May 2015].

So is it any wonder that modern, equality-savvy, feminists like myself are becoming increasingly disillusioned with what is clearly developing into a more and more out of date organisation – and therefore taking a personal decision to disengage as a member?

Only this week I read on social media a post from a positive, forward thinking and young Rotarian from Down Under who is probably one of the most enthusiastic Rotarians I have had the pleasure to come across over recent years – that they had been given a hard time by another Rotarian for apparently using Rotary for ‘self-promotion’. Reading ‘enthusiastic’s’ response you could hear that he was royally p*ssed off – but still offered a far-more, sensible and balanced comeback that the prompting comment.

But why would anyone do this? Jealousy? Envy? Keeping the youngsters down? Stop the rising stars? To be honest, I don’t know – I have no idea. But what I do know is that – such an example of this is yet another ‘tipping point‘ moment – one of those fragments in time where thoughts like ‘why do I do this?’ comes into your mind and having the potential to make an undecided Rotarian press the big red button and slip out the backdoor.

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it – in 2016 there are so many ways to do ‘Rotary’ and many of those in posts and positions delegated to be making and taking decision on behalf of the Regular Rots would be well placed to remember:

  • I don’t need to endure weekly ‘corporate chicken’ to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need to pay a subscription to an organisation to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need to attend regional or national meetings to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need to be bound by outdated rules and regulations to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need a top-heavy hierarchical structure to govern me to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need to be connected to an old-fashioned and out of date organisation to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need a Rotary Club to connect with similar minds to do good in my local community.

This list could go on and on and I am sure you the reader could add your own “I don’t need to’s….” to the list as well.

So, as RotaryBlogger returns for one of the now infrequent posts – please do what this blog was created to do – and think!

Think about this decline in membership we are witnessing and perhaps at the same time as trying to attract new members – maybe think about why new members are not looking to join our organisation? And always remember it’s easier to retain a member than recruit a member – trust me, this is a very well documented fact in business.

Remember when Coca-cola unilaterally changed the formula of their soft drink. They could have done all the promotion and advertising they wanted to get their customers back – but the consumer no longer liked the product and therefore stopped buying it. It wasn’t until they undertook a bit of soul-searching and effectively admitted they didn’t know best and hadn’t necessarily got it right that things started changing for the better.

Maybe…just maybe there’s a lesson for our Rotary King and [infrequently] Queen-makers in there somewhere…

Images in order of appearance by Alexander Synaptic by CC

Not such a boob of a recruitment idea…

This week’s Guest Blogger Sue Wilson poses the question: Could charity projects help in Rotary Recruitment?

As the Equality and Diversity lead for my District I was asked to be part of our Membership Committee.  Following my appointment I started to give a lot of thought as to how the general public find out about Rotary and what would make them want to be a part of our great organisation.

Of course I am interested in anyone becoming a member but in particular I feel we have issues in attracting women to join so I gave some real thought to this particular area.

I have always been on the look-out for charity projects since becoming a member of Rotary and one project I have become involved with has turned out to be an excellent way of engaging our local female community. And I through that through RotaryBlogger.co.uk I could tell you about it with a view to you to consider adopting something similar in your own Club!


The Rotary Club of Ormskirk Clocktower has come up with an ingenious scheme that is clearly engaging all sectors of their local community

So what is this great initiative you ask?

Well, our Club – the Rotary Club of Ormskirk Clocktower in West Lancashire has been working with “Against Breast Cancer” to recycle bra’s to raise much needed funds as well as supporting ladies international communities.

In something similar to a dark art, most men are entirely oblivious to the fact that these items of used clothing are very often not taken to charity shops for “ordinary” recycling but are disposed of in a less eco-friendly way by simply being put in the regular bin (that’s trashcan for our US readers). On the basis a bra is classed as ‘underwear’ it is unlikely any charity shop would accept them regardless.

However – undeterred, our Club has been strategically placing donation boxes and asking ladies to donate their bras to to charity instead of just putting them straight to landfill.

So how does it work? Well, the recycling scheme has a double-benefit.

You see in the first instance, the bras are weighed and “Against Breast Cancer” receives £1 for every kilo of bra’s donated in order to carry out their cancer research projects.

However, the second benefit to this scheme is that the bras are then transported by a global textile company to under privileged countries to be sold to women who would otherwise not be able to own a bra. The benefits in these countries is supporting “cottage” industry but also there is often a reduction in sexual assaults in places where the bras are available

The local logistical organisation of our bra collections has meant community engagement on a wide scale as the collections don’t happen without lots and lots of networking and advertising.

Our members have involved the pubic to help us by talking about the project when going about their daily lives. One great example of this is where one of our members, who is a solicitor in a large practice has placed recycling bins at their workplace badged with the Rotary logo.

There have been collections at churches, slimming groups, golf clubs, schools, libraries and many other local venues and each time a bra bin is sited there has to be a conversation about the project in order that agreement to help is reached!

Every single time one of these conversations take place then non Rotarians find out about Rotary and what we do.


Member shows off the Club’s “Bra Banks”

In explaining the project we have to talk about our concern for the environment by explaining the recycling will reduce land fill; we have to talk about our work raising money for charities by explaining that £1 is raised for “Against Breast Cancer” for every kilo of bra’s we collect; we have to explain that the bra’s are sent to under privileged countries where there is no availablity for these items of clothing and this helps create cottage industries in foreign communities thereby improving the quality of life for others.

It goes without saying that these conversations ultimately show that Rotary improves lives across various communities throughout the world.

When we explain what is behind the project we really show ourselves in a good light.

Our image as Rotarians is relevant to our community which surely must help to improve what people think of our organisations?

We need to do everything we can to make people think…”I didnt know did this sort of thing…” and remove the perception, “I thought Rotary was those old guys who meet in the hotel for lunch.”

The public need to assiociate us with more “female” related charity work, we need a way of appealing to prospective members in our community and I wonder if this just could be it?


Sue Wilson has previous guest blogged on RotaryBlogger.co.uk – see her previous posts by clicking here: “Thanks…I can find my own table” and “We’ve got a lady member – let’s celebrate