In a January address to incoming district governors before the International Assembly, Jennifer Jones, then RI’s president-elect, told the story of a 30-year Rotarian who fully understood what Rotary was all about only after participating in a project that delivered coats to children in his community. "Imagine," said Jones, "more than 1,500 club meetings before he finally got Rotary." The fault, suggested Jones, wasn’t entirely his. "We must engage our members," she insisted. Ask members what they want out of the experience and provide them meaningful responsibilities. "It’s our offer of hands-on service, personal growth, leadership development, and lifelong friendships that create purpose and passion. These are our responsibilities. If we don’t serve our members, we don’t serve our communities. And if we don’t provide comfort and care for our members, they may never truly get the power of Rotary."

With Jones’ remarks in mind, we checked in with three clubs to learn the secrets of their success. Turns out, the key is exactly what Jones prescribed: Pay attention to the comfort and care of members. Here are six tips on how to do that.....

1 Match members’ personal passions

Nancy Prochaska is president of the Rotary Club of North Cobb County, Georgia, which has grown in just over six years from 33 members to more than 70. Prochaska attributes much of the club’s success to its structured process to bring new members on board: The club interviews prospective members, learns what projects and causes they’re passionate about, and assigns them roles that match their interests.

Victoria Ewert didn’t connect with any of the Rotary clubs she visited near her home in Edmonton, Alberta. No one asked about her interests or followed up to see if she had any questions. So, at the suggestion of a friend, she helped charter the Rotary Club of Edmonton Southeast. After 14 years, Ewert has fine-tuned her recruitment pitch. "People want something from the heart," she advises. "I ask them about their life and family and what kind of service they are interested in." With that information, the club ensures that local projects engage all members — and that, Ewert adds, is what keeps a club strong.

Sarah Lynn Groves, the membership chair of the Rotary Club of Colville, Washington, recalls being somewhat intimidated by Rotary procedures and lingo when she joined five years ago. "Since then, we’ve developed a few programs to engage and care for our members," she says. In its Rotary Rookies program, new members are paired with a mentor who helps guide them through their first year. Accumulating points while working from a game-board checklist, new members encounter different aspects of the club and are ultimately led to a committee or project board they might want to join — a process that engages both new and existing members.

2 Be flexible

Take advantage of Rotary’s relaxed rules regarding attendance and club structure. The Colville club holds weekly lunch meetings, but it also stages monthly service projects and social events, usually in the morning or evening. "For some of us, especially younger members, life is too busy to make it every single week, but we still want to do good," Groves says. "I think a hybrid is the way to go. That’s part of being inclusive to a younger generation."

The North Cobb County club takes attendance at its weekly morning meeting, says Prochaska. "But we also allow participation in a service project to substitute for attending a meeting," which ensures members stay engaged. And taking attendance is another way to provide comfort and care. "If someone is absent, we are able to check up on them to make sure they are OK," Prochaska explains.

3 Embrace technology

Even as in-person meetings resumed when concerns about COVID-19 diminished, the Colville, Edmonton Southeast, and North Cobb County clubs continued to offer video call-in options. "We do have members who are technologically challenged," says Prochaska, "but we also have members who can assist them." Ewert notes that the virtual option opens opportunities for a wider selection of speakers. "We can have bigger, better, cooler things to talk about," adds Groves. And clubs that use technology have greater appeal for prospective younger members. "Young people expect information to come cleanly and quickly and in a specific way," Prochaska says. "If they don’t get that, it’s off-putting."

In addition to having an attractive and regularly updated club website, an active presence on at least one social media platform is also a must. Many members of the Edmonton Southeast and North Cobb County clubs are also on WhatsApp, a platform that allows people to share messages with a group instantly. "If I need more help with a project," explains Prochaska, "I can put the word out and get volunteers quickly."



remember to have fun members of the rotary club of edmonton southeast in alberta

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Remember to have fun: Members of the Rotary Club of Edmonton Southeast in Alberta gather for their 2021 Christmas party. Photograph: Courtesy of Victoria Ewert

4 Encourage Rotary training

During her year as club president-elect, Prochaska attended Rotary Leadership Institute sessions to learn about logistics and procedures. "Those who take part in training sessions really sparkle," she learned, which is why she encouraged institute organizers to hold training sessions closer to her club’s base so more members could take part. Adds Ewert: "I always tell the district to make sure incoming club presidents and secretaries are well trained so they can communicate with all of their club members. It makes them feel like they matter."

"When I became membership chair, our club president supported sending me to the zone institute for training," Groves says. "For me, that was a life-changing Rotary experience. I got to connect to a bigger Rotary purpose and know why we do what we do. It was an investment in me so I can develop our programs. That is super important!"

5 Community projects polish the club’s public image

The North Cobb County club maintains a high level of public visibility by partnering with local organizations and holding frequent and varied service projects, from food distribution to support for health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Colville club garners public attention through its annual Tree of Sharing holiday program. Partnering with local agencies, the club sets up Christmas trees at numerous retail locations throughout town with tags that specify gift requests from people in need. The Edmonton Southeast club is especially proud of its Thanksgiving dinner, which each year provides meals to as many as 1,000 people who need them. (The program continued during the pandemic, moving to curbside pickup.) "Our club has become famous for that, because I always make sure to invite the media," says Ewert. "Everywhere I go, people say, ‘That’s the Thanksgiving lady!’"

6 Don’t forget friendship

Groves recalls that when she moved to Colville in 2015, she wanted to meet people and learn more about the community. Joining Rotary checked that box. "I stay in Rotary because of the work we do," she says, "but I started because of fellowship."

Prochaska concurs. "In the past year we’ve had 50 different service events and 15 social events," she says, and the club encourages members to invite their families and friends to take part in those projects. "Our secret sauce?" she says. "It’s fun!" —PAUL ENGLEMAN

Visit for more ways to engage members.