In the “good old days” of Rotary, if you started a business in town one of the first things you did was to join the local Rotary club. Business owners knew Rotary was a place to network with other businesses in the community. It was THE place to be seen. Business leaders vied to be Rotary Club president, which implied that you were at the very top of the business pyramid in your city. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, Rotary membership is far from the prized possession it was decades ago in the business community. Maybe its time to refocus on the business market for new members.
With that in mind, here is a blog I just posted on the Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent website. Maybe you can steal a few of these ideas and share them with the business owners in your town. Rotary has a fantastic story to share with local business owners. It’s time we believed enough in ourselves to ask the business leaders in our community to join Rotary.
Back in the day Rotary membership was a prized position for business owners in most communities in the United States. Membership was so competitive that Rotary rules limited the number of members from any one industry or profession (Rotary calls them “classifications”) in order to ensure that Rotary club membership included a broad and diversified exposure to the business community. To be a Rotary club president was to be at the very top of the business pyramid, both socially and economically, and only the true leaders of the business community were awarded the position. Business owners fully understood the value of Rotary membership in terms of prestige, public image, and networking. Perhaps more importantly, it allowed them to be a meaningful part of the solution to many issues and concerns in their local community.
Today things are different. Both Rotary International and business leaders face some serious challenges with public image. Rotary is often lumped together with all of the other “old fashioned” fraternal organizations where the image of community service is somehow linked to wearing the lodge hat of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes last seen in the Flintstones. Business owners wrongly believe that the time commitment required for Rotary membership is inflexible, onerous, and consequently not feasible for busy executives. They don’t understand the value proposition that was so important to previous generations of business owners.
Of course over the past several years business leaders have had to struggle with their own image challenge. In a world of ever increasing income inequality, and where the public perception of “one percenters” is becoming more negative on a daily basis, being a business owner is often lumped in with ugly connotations of being disinterested and disconnected with the local community. The “old fashioned” notion of corporate responsibility to local citizens is being replaced by the perception that businesses only care about shareholder value and are not nearly as interested in “Main Street.” It has never been more important for business leaders to connect with their local community and be seen as part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.
It’s time that Rotary and business reconnect for all the right reasons which, ironically, are the same reasons membership was so popular with businesses years ago.
This post is brought to you by MOVIE NIGHT.
There is still time for your Rotary Club to celebrate World Polio Day by having a MOVIE NIGHT. The Movie Night event is simple, fun, and effective in helping you introduce Rotary to your community. Show the new polio documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, and raise funds for polio eradication, recruit new members, and promote your Rotary club. Go to daretodreamfilm.com to learn more about it.
The Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent is offering Howard County businesses a new opportunity for corporate membership. The goal is to make membership affordable, flexible, and valuable to a Howard County business that wants to make a positive impact locally and Internationally by serving others in need. For many businesses, the CEO and other top executives will want to add Rotary membership to their resume for the simple reason that they need to know the needs of the community if they are to serve it well, and because Rotary is the traditional organization to build business networks while doing community service. Since 1905 this recipe of service and networking has been a proven method of growing a business as well as enjoying the personal benefits of serving others.
Another way to take advantage of Rotary membership is to offer it to up and coming young professionals. Rotary provides invaluable opportunities for taking on leadership roles for ambitious young executives while also providing networking opportunities to learn how other businesses are solving a variety of common business issues. Young professionals can find a variety of role models and mentors in the local Rotary club, a particularly valuable benefit for Next-Gen business leaders. Offering young professionals Rotary membership is a great value for business owners looking to develop the next generation of company leadership. And offering the “perk” of Rotary membership shows young executives that a business cares about their personal and professional growth.
The secret to our corporate membership is this: up to four members of a local business or other organization can join as full members of Rotary but three of the four members pay significantly discounted dues of only $150 per year. (NOTE to RFA readers, this is our RI dues plus our District dues.) Technically, the business entity does not become a Rotary member. However, the business typically pays the dues for Rotary membership and gets a tax deduction. The arrangement works well for our Rotary club as we get to meet four members of a local business and consider them full members of our club. We are eagerly looking for the leadership these new members will contribute. And the arrangement is terrific for a local business in Howard County because:
1) Any of the four members can attend a meeting or all four are welcome at the same meeting, adding tremendous flexibility and reducing the time commitment of any one member. (Note to RFA readers: At the Col Pax club meal costs are included in dues. If more than one corporate representative attends the meeting they pay for meals as they go.)
2) The price of membership is a fraction of the cost compared to all four executives paying full membership dues.
3) The business is well represented in the community and can participate in projects that they help design if they choose.
4) Executives get to meet and befriend other business leaders in the club, expanding their understanding of community needs and wants, as well as getting an insight into how businesses are addressing common concerns.
5) The networking opportunities in Rotary lead to important business contacts that can result in profitable business ventures in the future.
6) Employees of the business recognize and appreciate the business’s commitment to serving others. Even if employees don’t join the club, service becomes part of the corporate culture.
7) Rotary is a productive use of an executive’s time. It is “one stop shopping” where membership can give executives exposure to many of the social issues and concerns in the local community, as opposed to joining a number of different boards in town, each with their own time and dollar commitment, where each board is only interested in a specific non-profit or one specific social issue.
8) There is the personal benefit of knowing that you are helping others who may not have the means to help themselves.
Why not learn more about today’s Rotary? The Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent meets on Friday mornings at 7:30AM at the Interfaith Center across from Wilde Lake HS. Be our guest for breakfast. Or, feel free to contact Membership Chair, Sandy Harriman, at 301-775-2853 or email at email@example.com.”
Feel free to steal this prose, create your own flier, and by all means figure out how to get this message out to the businesses in your town. Ask your club’s board to come up with your own corporate membership program, or feel free to use this structure. It’s time for Rotary to get BACK TO BUSINESS!
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