Jessica Connors and Club President Michael Della Rocca plant a tree, an example of the kind of  projects that can give new members ownership and responsibility.

By Michael Bucca, membership chair of the Rotary Club of Central Ocean – Toms River, New Jersey, USA

So many Rotary membership events focus on engagement and retention. It makes sense.

Long term engagement and retention are an important part of successfully growing a club for the simple fact that new membership gains can be quickly wiped out by non-engaged members choosing to leave.

The advice being given by membership chairs and leaders is sound: get new members involved right away. Our club has taken this one step further by explaining something important to our new members:

This is your Rotary club!

A Rotary club is chartered by Rotary International, but who ultimately operates it? The membership does! All Rotarians pay the dues that allow the club to function, attend the meetings, and perform the work needed. In a sense, members are partial owners of the club in the way shareholders are of corporations. Rotary club membership can be just like a stock, except the dividends are derived from the active participation of the member!

So now that a new member has joined, how do you help them cash in on their Rotary dividends? They must be given a role that they can take ownership of. Most members of Central Ocean Rotary have a purpose. Many have found their niche that suits their own interests. For example, some are dedicated to an operational function of the club, while others work almost exclusively on community or international service projects.


The best method for implementing this is letting a new member commission a service project or fundraiser for your club. This BYOP (bring your own project) approach gives the new member immediate ownership of something important. Your service projects and fundraising committees may have a few ideas for this new member, or simply let the person bring a project to the table. With this method, our club was able to complete nine service projects just in the first half of this Rotary year.

However, if a new member feels they are not ready for this level of responsibility and would rather sit back and observe, you can find another area of the club that they can contribute to and get their feet wet. Let the new member serve as club greeter or guest sergeant at arms to get them involved at a lower level of responsibility and work their way up via a committee or through mentoring.

Don’t let your new members slip through the cracks. If you show them that the club belongs to every member, they will stick around for many years to collect dividends of fulfillment that Rotary service can provide!

Add your voice to a discussion group on membership best practices.