I believe Rotary membership is about to dramatically increase in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and across the rest of Rotary District 7620 in Maryland, the United States and around the world. An increase in Rotary membership would be welcome news for the local and international community, because Rotarians have been consistently improving the quality of life in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and in the state of Maryland, since 1905.
Why am I so sure that membership is going to increase? There are a number of forces at work that are going to make Rotary membership extremely attractive to individuals looking for an opportunity to serve.
One reason to be optimistic about the growth of Rotary in Maryland is an increasing awareness that the unique value proposition of Rotary is still highly valuable for many concerned citizens. Rotarians seek to do community service both locally and around the world. While helping others, Rotarians develop strong relationships that help them to develop their business and community interests over time.
Finally, because Rotary clubs meet on a systematic basis, the clubs are wonderful venues to form special and long-lasting friendships. This combination of service, networking and fellowship has been the “secret sauce” of Rotary since the organization was founded.
So what is different today?
For the first time in years, Rotarians are recognizing that Rotary clubs have an opportunity to effect extraordinary positive change in their local communities by working together. Howard County currently has seven very active Rotary clubs. Anne Arundel County currently has nine active clubs.
Traditionally, each club independently approaches community service through a variety of projects. In the case of Howard and Anne Arundel, I estimate that there are a collective total of more than 50 small and important service projects completed each year.
As these clubs begin to better coordinate their efforts, their work is going to be more visible to their neighbors. The scale of the projects they do is going to increase, the impact on local community problems will be dramatic, and Rotary’s efforts will consequently be more newsworthy.
In short, communities are going to be reminded that Rotary is a powerful force for good, and interested parties will want to participate.
Rotary itself is recognizing that without a more proactive approach to promoting itself and the work we do, as well as a new approach to scaling the service work we do through partnerships, the organization is in danger of losing its brand as one of the world’s preeminent service organizations.
With an urgent new focus on promoting change in Rotary clubs worldwide, Rotary International is asking Rotary clubs to be more creative and innovative in meeting the needs of a new generation of members. With clubs finding ways to significantly reduce membership costs while at the same time increasing the flexibility of attendance requirements, Rotary membership will once again have to be considered by anyone who is serious about making a positive difference in his or her hometown and around the world.
At the same time Rotary is recognizing a need to change, other forces that are positive for Rotary are emerging. Baby Boomers are now becoming “empty nesters” and for the first time are considering how they can “give back” to the community.
For many, an accident of history has meant that they weren’t called to serve in the armed forces. And for many, our secular society has not offered them an obvious way to serve others while they were focused on family and career. For this group, Rotary represents an important opportunity to “give back” in terms of time, expertise and treasure. They will find that Rotary’s core value proposition uniquely fits their need to serve, to network and to meet new and interesting like-minded people.
While baby boomers are finding themselves with time on their hands, echo boomers and millennials are faced with a time crunch. Careers for both parents, along with the demands of parenting itself, make time management a precious commodity. Many are hiring career and/or life coaches who counsel time-crunched young professionals to join leads clubs and other networking organizations to maximize their time and form important relationships.
This group is about to find out that Rotary is the best dollar-for-dollar networking opportunity in town. In fact, Rotary has been called the “original social network.” Rotarians have been influencers in their town and business community for years, and doing community service side by side with a Rotarian is the best way to develop real and rewarding relationships. In addition, many young professionals will benefit from real-world opportunities to practice leadership skills afforded to Rotary club members.
Finally, Rotary International is on the brink of pulling off what is perhaps the single most important achievement in public health in history: the eradication of the wild polio virus. After 30 years of diligent work, the partnership of Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is getting very close to achieving its goal. As this achievement becomes recognized, Rotary will receive an unprecedented amount of well-deserved public recognition, again spurring service-minded people to learn more about the organization.
All of the above is providing a powerful cocktail for membership growth in Rotary. If you would like to learn more about Rotary, visit www.Rotary.org. You will find a Rotary club that meets either in the morning, at lunch or in the evening, in a location near you. Visit one soon. You will like the people that you are going to meet.
Ken Solow, District Governor
Rotary District 7620