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.
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…