Rotary’s leadership has clearly asked us (begged us?) to be creative in structuring the Rotary experience so it will be relevant to a new generation of Rotarians. Since creativity isn’t necessarily one of our organization’s strongest points, I thought I would pass along a few ideas about this subject. NOTE: I want to give a special shout-out to Rotarian Clarissa Harris and the District 7620 Young Professional team. Many of the ideas below are theirs, although I am admittedly going to take things to another level. It’s OK. They think I’m a lunatic anyway. Since they have already completed steps One through Seven below, I KNOW you can do it too.
Step One: Agree that this new, vibrant club is to populated by members of all ages, sexes, religions, etc., etc. However, we are going to build the club from the bottom up to be attractive to young professionals. Agree that your target market of young professionals is age 25 – 40, time constrained, obsessed with their careers, don’t have a lot of discretionary money, possibly new parents, possibly new home owners, highly educated, interested in community service, globally oriented.
Step Two: Go to the local four-year university and meet with the alumni director. Offer to do a joint project where they offer their alumni a chance to be involved with a great networking event that features the university as co-host, held on campus, with a service project to improve the neighboring community, in exchange for Rotary picking up any cost for the event (other than space), co-promoting, organizing, and managing the event. HINT: Canvas local Rotary clubs near the college or university to find Rotarians with contacts at the school. This is pretty easy. Even if you don’t have an “in,” alumni staff are typically young(ish) and looking for these kind of events. Another HINT: The key is the mailing list. If you can’t do this with an alumni association, find another group with an interesting list to partner with.
Step Three: Find three or four sponsors that want to promote their business as being community-oriented, focused on young people and community service, where the sponsor gets to be a speaker about service-issues on an education panel about careers and service. Figure each sponsor is asked for $1,000 to $2,500 so you have a budget of $5,000 to $10,000 for the event. Once the local college or university is on board, finding sponsors will be relatively easy. “In-kind” donations will also be available if you put together a good event plan.
Step Four: Create an agenda for your event that includes a panel discussion about why community service will help your career. Have the speakers focus on that subject, both as community servants themselves, and potentially as employers (if your sponsor is a business owner.) Have the University President, or perhaps the Alumni Director, be a speaker. The panel discussion is a great way to invite questions from the audience. YP’s want to be engaged while learning. Then, after box lunches purchased at a big discount with sponsor money, create a service event that allows young folks to get busy with a hands-on project. Finally, the day ends with drinks at the bar….er….paid for again by sponsor money.
Step Five: Market the event through the alumni association. Use their mailing list to create an edgy ad that reads something like this:
LOOKING FOR TIME CONSTRAINED, CAREER-ORIENTED, COMMUNITY-SERVICE MINDED, YOUNG PROFESSIONALS, WHO WANT TO GROW THEIR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK WITHOUT WASTING MONEY ON EXPENSIVE LEADS GROUPS. (Find an image on Google or elsewhere that show a harried looking young professional in need of help.)
Join us for a spirited discussion about how to build networks, find mentors, and serve your community at the same time. And help to clean up the “XYZ Park”, and have a few drinks on us, while your at it. Followed by link to web site landing page.
OR – just let the Alumni Association come up with the ad.
Step Six: Figure on having 50 – 150 responses to your mail if the mailing list has 2,000 or more contacts. Ask the DG to distribute this ad to local clubs to distribute to their networks. Have your local young professional committee put the ad on social media. Figure 6 or 7 out of 10 people who RSVP’d will actually show up at your event.
Step Seven: Have a great event. Make sure to have excellent handouts about Rotary and make sure to get the contact information of the guests who post for the event. Let them know you will be following up.
Step Eight: IMMEDIATELY follow up after the event with all attendees and with the other prospects who didn’t attend. Have your committee preschedule a second service project within eight weeks of the first project. Also schedule a purely social “networking event” within four weeks of the first event held on campus. Announce these upcoming events at the first event. At subsequent networking events, meet at any local bar or restaurant that has parking to accommodate a large crowd of YP’s who are used to sharing business cards while having a few cocktails. BE SURE to ask everyone on the list to share these event announcements on their social networks.
Step Nine: After three months you will have shared the experience of at least two service projects and one networking event. Now its back to a venue for another (your second) networking event, AND a pitch to join Rotary. Here are a few key structural points for the new club.
A. The new club does NOT have meetings. The new club has networking events. Specifically, you meet twice a month for networking events. No bell. No pledge. At some point the members have to figure out how to have a short business meeting take place in a bar setting. They will figure it out. Committee work will be done elsewhere.
B. The new club does as many service projects as the members want to do. They are unlimited in terms of how often they do these projects and how they can help the local and international community. “Hands on” service is clearly understood to be different from “fundraising events.” Contributions to the Rotary Foundation are funded by fundraising events and members are not expected to fund TRF out of their pocket unless they can afford it. Of course, older members are expected to be leaders in this regard and step up to higher personal levels of giving.
C. Members pay RI dues and District dues. Other than that, maybe they chip in $40 a year to send the club president to training and that kind of stuff. Figure the total annual cost of membership to be about $200 per year. This is probably $300 – $600 LESS than YPs are already paying for unproductive networking groups that their business coach told them to join.
D. Make sure to have the proper membership paperwork available at the meeting and of course, online. Follow up IMMEDIATELY with everyone on the list – PERSONALLY – to ask them to join.
Step Ten: Make sure everyone knows that the objective is to expand the club’s network to include older members who will be able to help mentor YPs and help them build business and non-business networks in the community. Twice a month the networking crowd should be getting OLDER. Members should also be encouraged to visit other local clubs to build their Rotary networks. Will older professionals want to join this networking group and do community service alongside energetic, idealistic, committed, and enthusiastic younger professionals who want to learn about life and business from them? You bet they will!!!
I suspect YPs will grasp the basics of this plan better than I do, because I stole many of the ideas from them in the first place and they know the networking technology like the back of their hand. Remember, Rotary benefits include 1) business development, 2) community service, and 3) fellowship. YP’s are probably most attracted to numbers 1 and 2. Older folks are more attracted to numbers 2 & 3. Target the benefits you offer to the demographic you are targeting.
And there you go. 10 steps to 100 new Rotarians in four months from your first event. They think of Rotary as networking events and community service. Maybe you will screw this up and it will take six months instead of just four. You can do it!