I visited the Columbia Town Center Rotary Club last week and saw a bunch of Rotary friends here in Columbia. The Town Center Club is one of those stories that is, unfortunately, not unique in Rotary. This club used to be a “Who’s Who” of the most renown community leaders in town. Over the years membership has dwindled but it looks to me like there is a determined move afoot under the leadership of Club President, Alvin Thompson, to come clawing back. When I made-up there they were doing a Club Assembly about their upcoming Valentine’s Gala, a dinner, dance, and auction on February 8th projected to raise more than $10,000. I got in on the 50-50 but that’s only because they put up with me at lunch.
What caught my interest was this club’s focus on corporate memberships. This is kind of a tricky subject in Rotary right now as I found out when discussing the matter with Jennifer Deters, RI’s Manager of Membership Development in Evanston. (That’s the Rotary “Mothership” for those who don’t know.) Jennifer explained that Rotary is taking up the matter of having companies be members of Rotary clubs, and there is currently a Pilot of 200 clubs experimenting with the notion. But for now, clubs can’t enroll a business as a member of their club. The Council of Legislation will take up this matter again in their next session in 2016, which means if you are interested in this subject you should contact Pat Kasuda, our representative to the Council, or Peter Kyle, our DG, and let then know.
Here’s the interesting part. According to both Jennifer and District Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin, there is a lot of room for creativity here and clubs can implement a corporate membership program with similar benefits to having an official corporate member. Here’s how: 1) Approach a business about having their top executives be better represented in the community by joining your club, 2) identify three or four executives to participate in the program, 3) have the company pay a premium for dues considering you are allowing the executives to “rotate” in terms of showing up to meetings and counting for attendance, 4) remember that any executive that wants to be an official member has to at least pay RI dues and receive the Rotarian Magazine. THE COMPANY CAN’T BE THE MEMBER. Nevin applauds Town Center’s efforts and says clubs have a lot of latitude in being creative with how to structure their own deal with a business. For example, a company membership might include an agreement that the company has to be a sponsor for your club’s fundraiser. It sounds like a good deal for “all concerned.”
I dunno. I think the Town Center Club is on to something here. And if you felt the energy and enthusiasm in the room last week you would agree that a comeback is definitely in the making! As I am prone to say, “Too much fun!”