Rotary Membership Part IV: 10 Reasons Why Rotary Shouldn’t Advertise for New Members.

In Part III of our discussion about Rotary membership, Implementing a Comprehensive Rotary Marketing Campaign,  we explored a comprehensive marketing campaign that coordinated traditional advertising, digital advertising, social media, event marketing, and local Rotary club sales in a gigantic, paradigm-shifting attempt to turn-around Rotary’s falling membership.  For all of you who are skeptics, naysayers, non-believers, and generally resistant to change, or perhaps you are realistic and practical, here are ten reasons why an advertising campaign wouldn’t work in Rotary.  (The rejoinders to each objection are found below)

1. It costs too much:  Our traditional method of growing membership by asking our friends, family, and associates to join our club is free.  It doesn’t cost a dime.  In that context, ANY amount you spend on advertising is EXPENSIVE.

2.  We’ve never done it before:  If advertising worked we would have done it years ago.  Since we haven’t done it before it must not be effective in helping to attract new members.

3.  It requires committed leadership:  This requires at least two years of planning, consulting, design, coordination, training, and fundraising at the highest levels of Rotary leadership.  Good luck with that.

4.  It requires specific expertise:  We don’t know how to do this.  Who will create the content, design the back-end of the landing pages, and make the media buys?  If Rotary volunteers can’t do it then we would have to spend money on it.

5.  Rotary International won’t participate:  The last time Rotary International did something so inspiring to help Rotary clubs was …..well……I can’t remember.   We don’t have a far-sighted leader who is willing to passionately sell this program to the RI Board.

6.  It isn’t fair to every Rotary club around the world:  This program only benefits certain clubs.  What about clubs in the developing world?  Why should Rotary spend money on a campaign that doesn’t directly benefit them?

7.  The public won’t respond to digital advertising about Rotary:  You could put a zillion popup ads on the internet.  No one really responds to those things.

8.  Rotarians won’t want to buy into the campaign:  Asking Rotarians to pay a one-time fee of $10 – $15 to pay for an ad campaign is ridiculous.  They will quit Rotary and we will lose more members than we gain with the campaign.

9.  Large clubs in urban areas will disproportionately benefit from the campaign:  Large clubs have the money to contribute to the campaign and urban areas will likely get more targeted ads than clubs in rural areas.  It just isn’t fair to all concerned.

10.  Rotary clubs won’t care about the campaign:  Rotarians in many clubs simply don’t care about growing their Rotary clubs anymore and won’t participate in the campaign in terms of holding membership events, posting to their websites, and using social media.

Answers: 1) The membership campaign is extremely inexpensive compared to another twenty-five years of watching our organization stagnate.  To put this in perspective, Rotary just spent $1 million on a polio documentary called, Drop To Zero, that I doubt anyone will ever see.  2) This is one of my favorite excuses for Rotarians not to do anything different.  It doesn’t dignify an answer.  3) I recently produced a documentary where three RI Presidents basically decided it would be a good idea to eradicate polio from the face of the earth.  I’m guessing we could find a few leaders that would OK a small advertising campaign. 4) Yes, we would have to invest money in experts to design the campaign.  Next question. 5) See question #3.  At some point Rotary leaders will realize that how much we contribute to our Foundation and how much good we do in the world is directly proportional to the number of members in our organization.   6) As proposed the money for ad buys would come primarily from Rotary districts.  RI would only pay for creating the ads.  They could produce content that was useable for every district in the world at $20,000 for the basic ad plus whatever it costs to modify it for each market.  It’s very doable.  7) Digital advertising is one of the fastest growing ad techniques in the world used by just about everyone.  Rotary won’t know it doesn’t work until we try it.  8)  Once Rotarians understand the scope of this program they will give Rotary leaders a standing ovation and gladly contribute. 9) Digital ads and streaming TV allow for ads to be distributed to the entire internet-using audience, 10) Rotarians care deeply about growing their clubs.  They simply want some help in getting the message out to their community.

So there you go.  Everything you need to know about how to cure Rotary’s membership ills.  I have no idea what my next post will be about, but I guarantee it will contain the definitive solution to some other important Rotary challenge.  The Rotary fun never stops!

If you like the idea of a Rotary ad campaign, why not forward a link to last week’s blog post to Rotary leaders in your area?

This post was brought to you by the one of the best Rotary membership opportunities you’ve ever seen, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became The Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  This one-hour documentary will inspire viewers to learn more about Rotary and better appreciate what we do to Do Good in the World.  See it now at  

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