Lost Rotarians

Lost Rotarians
 
Andy Vanhook, District Public Image Chair andy@appealproduction.com
 
Ever lost a Rotarian?
 
No, not while out doing a service project or in the buffet line. I'm talking about losing their attention or their presence in our clubs. Let's be honest, we all have.
 
Rewind with me for a minute. My club tried to lose me not once, not twice, but three times within my first 6 months. The first time my club tried to lose me, I had already used my "two visits as a guest." I had submitted my application and thought I could pay to come to the meetings until I was a member. When I showed up, I was asked "what are you doing here?" I said "I've submitted my application for membership. I am happy to pay for my meal." After the greeter went to find someone for an answer, I was told "you've used your two visits. When you are a member we'll call you, then you can come."
I'm sure you could've picked my jaw up off the floor. Luckily, a guy I knew happened to walk in when all this was going on and said "he's my guest today." I was thankful, yet still quite embarrassed and confused by this sequence of events. I was excited about joining the club, but that excitement was quickly dulled by this incident.
 
PUBLIC IMAGE LESSON #1:
 
Be welcoming.
 
Make sure your greeters are welcoming to everyone. Even if they don't know the answer, a warm smile can make a world of difference to a guest. New members also feel better about the club if they are greeted warmly.
 
On to the second time my club tried to lose me. It had been a couple of weeks since my friend saved me from having to walk out with my tail between my legs. I had yet to hear anything about my membership. I emailed my sponsor who forwarded my email to club leadership.
 
I got an email back which explained how all members had to go through the membership committee and the membership committee met every other month. I was also told how my application had been received the week after their membership committee's last meeting so it would be two full months before they would review my application.
 
TWO. WHOLE. MONTHS. I couldn't understand why something I was paying to join had such a lengthy process to get in.
 
PUBLIC IMAGE LESSON #2:
 
The Buying Experience.
 
In a world where pretty much anything we want to buy is a click away, why did I have to wait? Take a look at the "buying experience" in your club. Not only for new members but current members as well. How can it be improved? What can you do to satisfy your customers to increase membership and retention?
 

 
The third time my club tried to lose me, I was partially responsible. I wasn't attending regularly and when I did, it seemed like there was a service project the week prior that I had missed. I would check the club's website and Facebook pages and there was no info on what was going on. I wanted to help my community. I wanted to meet new people. These things weren't happening.
 
I was frustrated. I nearly quit. I decided to make lemonade out of lemons. I told myself I was going to attend more regularly and see if I could help with updating the Facebook page. This would get me involved and see if Rotary was really worth my time. I was going to give it 6 months.
 
PUBLIC IMAGE LESSON #3:
 
Over communicate.
 
For a new member to navigate the waters of your club, they need to be communicated with. For current members to stay engaged, they need to be communicated with. Your club needs to communicate with them in a myriad of ways to keep them informed and engaged. Newsletter, website, social media, traditional media, text message, whatever it takes to get the word out.
 
A few things our club has done to address these issues:
 
- Prospective members are allowed to come to meetings until they are voted in.
- The membership committee now reviews applications via email and usually decide on membership within a week.
- Our website and our social media are updated regularly.
 
We've still have room to improve, but we are working on it. From a Public Image standpoint, how our clubs are perceived from the outside is reality, for better or worse. As clubs, we have to constantly evaluate if what we are doing is working. The status quo could be turning prospects and members away. I know one instance where it nearly did. My club could have done a better job communicating to me the process of becoming a member.