It seems that one of the easiest things to do as a Rotarian is to recruit new club members. After all, what could be simpler than inviting someone to your club's next meeting? But sometimes it's not that easy. So for inspiration and motivation, here are some winning tips, including real-life examples of what has worked and what some clubs are hoping will work, as well as one report of a secret poker game somewhere in New Hampshire.

By Tiffany Woods

August 2007

Rekindle old relationships

Remember that spunky 16-year-old your club sent to Ireland 14 years ago as a Rotary Youth Exchange student? You know, the one who now runs her own business organizing tours to the Emerald Isle? But wait - you don't know that, because your club lost touch with her. Look her up, and ask if she'd like to become a Rotarian. Who knows, she might bring a little luck o' the Irish to your recruiting efforts. But don't stop there. Contact alumni your club or district has sponsored or nominated for Rotary International and Rotary Foundation programs, including former Group Study Exchange participants, Interactors, Rotaractors, Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholars, and Rotary World Peace Fellows. Angela Forthun knows what happens when Rotary clubs remember their alumni. She studied Japanese in Osaka, Japan, on a Cultural Ambassadorial Scholarship from the Foundation, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Glen Waverley, Australia. "I was 31 years old at the time," she says, "and on my return was approached by two Rotary clubs to become a member but in June 1999 was inducted as a member of the Rotary Club of Glen Waverley."

Put new members to work

Encourage new Rotarians to nominate another new club member within their first year of joining. Loren Kuehne's club, the Rotary Club of Las Cruces (Rio Grande), N.M., USA, tried and still uses this approach. "After holding a membership development drive, we had all new members sign a pledge to propose a new member within three to six months of joining the club," he says. "We followed up with the new members and reminded them of their promise. As a result, we doubled our membership from 33 to 67 between 2002 and 2006."

Get carded

When Joe Dino was governor of District 7490 (New Jersey, USA) in 2004-05, he asked clubs in his district to hand out cards at fundraisers to invite people to attend one of their weekly meetings at the club's expense. He also encouraged Rotarians to keep a couple of the cards in their pockets in case they ran across a potential recruit. The cards, which his district's clubs still hand out, say Be My Guest and include the day, time, and location of club meetings, as well as a blank line to write the host club member's name. "That's the best way to bring them in," says Dino, a regional RI membership coordinator and a member of the Rotary Club of Paterson, N.J., USA. He estimates that since 2004, about 150 people in his district have become Rotarians as a result of receiving these cards.

Wear your Rotary pins

"Hey, Bob, what's that on your lapel?" "I'm glad you asked, Paul. It's a Rotary pin. Are you familiar with Rotary?" OK, so it sounds like a scripted dialogue with B-list actors in a corporate training video, but you get the point: Wearing your pin affords you more opportunities to pitch Rotary. Just ask Mark Flegel, of the Rotary Club of Menlo Park, Calif., USA. He was wearing his Rotary pin at an awards dinner hosted by a local hotel and chamber of commerce when he struck up a conversation with Jonathan Farrington, who noticed the pin. He told Farrington about Rotary and later called him up to invite him to visit his club. In December 2005, Farrington was inducted into the Menlo Park club. Now, Farrington says, he proudly wears his own pin.

Headhunt new MBAs

There's no such thing as a recent business school graduate who isn't interested in networking. Because some will likely travel for work or eventually be transferred to a new location, point out that wherever they go, they're bound to find a Rotary club - and some instant friends. Over the years, Past RI Director Sam Greene, of the Rotary Club of Westlake Village, Calif., has spoken to MBA students on the advantages of Rotary club membership. On one occasion, he was lecturing on long-range planning to students at California Lutheran University. He happened to mention that being a Rotarian could help them get involved in their community and make new friends. A couple of years later, one of the students told Greene he became a Rotarian because of his talk.

Find your competitive spirit

There's nothing like a little friendly competition to motivate people. In 1995-96, clubs in District 6580 (Indiana, USA) used football as an inspiration to increase membership. The clubs divided their members into teams of 10, and each team was charged with nominating potential members. Teams received one point for nominating a candidate and six points if the candidate was inducted. Just like in the National Football League, teams with the most points advanced through a playoff cycle until one was named champion. The district ended the year with a net gain of nearly 150 new club members. And the winning team? Peggy's Panthers from the Rotary Club of New Albany.

Honk if you love Rotary

Marty Peters, a 2006-07 RI membership zone coordinator, has a bumper sticker on his convertible that reads, Good-bye Polio - Thanks Rotary. Here's what inevitably happens when he's at a gas station or a parking lot: "Someone asks about the bumper sticker," he explains, "and I say, 'I don't have time now, but here's my business card. Give me your card. How about lunch next Thursday? I'd like to introduce you to some of my crazy friends.' And then what I do is, I follow up with a simple phone call. I'll say something like, 'I hated to be rude to you at the gas station. Let's meet next Thursday. I'll pick you up.'" Peters, a member of the Rotary Club of Del Mar, Calif., estimates that in the last seven years, at least 30 people have become Rotarians in his club or clubs in his area as a result of seeing his bumper sticker.

Recycle The Rotarian

You've read the most recent issue of The Rotarian, and now it's under a pile of magazines on your coffee table. Gasp! Worse yet, when you tidy up, some of you may even consider tossing the magazine into the trash. Stop. Think about recycling. No, not in the bin. Recycle your old magazines by passing them out to friends, or keep them on hand to give to club visitors, speakers, and prospective members. Attach a letter from your club's president that lists projects and activities along with contact information. Also, ask club members to place back issues of The Rotarian in their office waiting rooms or lobbies. Or be like the Rotary Club of Exeter, N.H., USA, and leave a copy at your library.

Go door to door

"By going outside your comfort zone, you can discover many men and women who would make good Rotarians," says Bob Kelley, an RI membership zone coordinator and member of the Rotary Club of Selma, Ala., USA. "Just before becoming club president, I realized how many businesses I had never stopped into because I might not have needed to wallpaper a room or practice martial arts." For months, Kelley made a point of going into every store in town that he'd never visited, and as a result, seven new members joined his club.

Keep a poker face

We called around and couldn't find anyone who would ante up exact details, but somewhere in New Hampshire, USA, there's reportedly a membership poker game. Or at least someone posted this suggestion on RI's Membership Development Best Practices Exchange ( and credited it to a New Hampshire club in District 7780 (Maine; Massachusetts; New Hampshire). Here's how they said it worked: The club divided its members into groups, and for five weeks, each group sat at its own table during club meetings. Each club member anted $2. When people nominated a new member, they got to draw a card. At the end of the five weeks, the club member holding the best hand won the pot.

Invite, inform, induct

The Rotary Club of Driffield, England, invited 40 prospective club members to a dinner and informational meeting. More than a third of the invitees attended, and eight joined the club. In South Africa, the Rotary Club of Pretoria-Hatfield organized a  "get to know Rotary" evening that featured talks and videos about community, vocational, and international projects. As a result, four people joined.


Using a $3,388 PR grant from Rotary, the Rotary clubs of Edina and Edina/Morningside, Minn., USA, paid a local theater to run a 15-second ad before the start of every movie in each of its 16 auditoriums for five weeks in January and February 2006. The ad displayed the Rotary emblem and said, This year, make a difference. JOIN ROTARY. It also included contact information for both clubs. The clubs also used the grant to publish ads in a newspaper and two local magazines in 2006. It's hard to say whether anyone joined the clubs because of the advertising, but the Edina club did add 14 new members in 2005-06.

Reward club members

Recognize and reward club members who nominate candidates. Reward systems can be as simple as placing a gold star on Rotarians' name badges. District 4160 (Mexico) adopted a plan to offer Paul Harris Fellow Recognition to anyone who brought in five new club members. RI President Wilf Wilkinson also has created a new member sponsor pin, pictured on the preceding pages. The pin and tabs, which indicate the number of members sponsored, can be ordered from any Rotary-licensed vendor.

Set up a task force

Membership in the Rotary Club of Loughborough, England, was falling. So the club created a special team of six Rotarians charged with recruiting club members. The team started a database of 140 potential candidates and invited 25 to lunch. Eleven ended up joining.

Remember former Rotarians

For some ex-members, circumstances change. Reasons for leaving the club, such as a lack of time, may no longer be valid, and they may be keen on rejoining. Check in with them. Charles Grant is glad his Rotary club did. Grant joined the Rotary Club of North Shore (Houston), Texas, USA, in 1980, when he was selling fire and safety equipment. But in 1983, he had to leave the club because his job classification changed when he went to work at a local community college. At the time, clubs were supposed to have only one person in each job classification. In 1987, though, he was invited to rejoin the club under a rule that said if a club member held a job classification for 15 years, the club could invite someone else to join with the same classification. And if he hadn't been asked to rejoin? "I guess I wouldn't have been a Rotarian," says Grant, who chaired Rotary International's Rotaract Committee in 2005-06.

Involve your Rotaract club

Giving Rotaractors a chance to get to know Rotary club members makes it easier to recruit them as Rotarians when they're ready. Jonathan Nish was a Rotaractor for 11 years and was so eager to become a Rotarian that he asked to be invited into his local club, the Rotary Club of Putney, England. "The club was very welcoming, and recognizing my solid background in the Rotary family, my membership was fast-tracked," he says.

And finally, just ask

Ed Hedeen of the Rotary Club of West Chicago, Ill., USA, got Rich Steinbrecher's name from a club member who's one of Steinbrecher's clients. Hedeen placed a cold call to Steinbrecher to set up an appointment to talk about Rotary. Steinbrecher became president of the club in 2006-07. The bottom line: People won't join if they're not invited!


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