It is a widely-held assumption that Rotary’s future rests on its ability to attract and engage younger members. Rotary training events, from district to zone, offer tips and insights on how to engage with Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials) and beyond. I have led some of those sessions myself. There are some meaningful differences between generations, what they care about, how they engage and what they look for in how they serve. But do we need to focus on what is different in order to attract new members?
In September, 2013 Rotary convened a Young Professionals Summit. They invited thirty, sub-40-year-old Rotarians to Chicago for a two-day event to explore how Rotary can better attract young professionals.
Here are four themes that one participant distilled from the event. Young professionals want:
- Diversity: Clubs with a range of members
- Impact: Engage in projects that make a real difference in the lives of others
- Business connections
- Fun and flexibility, minus stuffy traditions, rituals, and internal politics
Can you picture what this event must have been like? Can you get a sense of the energy of the group, discussing desires and interests, writing on flipcharts and sharing their insights? Can you hear the laughter and see the smiles? Now imagine everyone in the room is age 55 and older.
Don’t we all want to meet with a diverse group of professionals? Don’t we all want to roll up our sleeves on projects that create measurable, meaningful impact? Don’t we all want to make new business connections? How about more fun minus the politics?
When I think of the strongest clubs I know of, whether new or well-established, they have one thing in common: they are improving. They are dynamic. They are refreshing their projects, updating their vision and are willing to take risks to get better.
Take a look at the four themes above and start improving!
- Focus: What can you do in the second half of your Rotary year to improve in each area?
- Take quick action: What can you accomplish by the end of this month?
- Share the story: What will you do to better promote what you are doing and how you are in motion?
Yes, each generation wants something slightly different out of their Rotary experience. But there is a lot more that we have in common. Let’s improve at the basics and see if it becomes easier to attract and retain members of any age.
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