As I have visited clubs and met with club leadership, I have learned that membership is of prime concern.  A cursory glance at the comments on the short survey given at each club illustrates that club members share their leadership's concerns.
Rotary International is encouraging clubs to be innovative in addressing membership strategies.  They recognize at least seven different types of clubs: traditional clubs, satellites, e-clubs, passport clubs, corporate clubs, cause-based clubs, and Rotaract clubs.  RI is encouraging clubs to innovate in developing more club formats as well as more membership types.
The declining population in rural America affects those clubs located in small rural communities.  Some towns of 1,000 people or even less, have vibrant Rotary clubs serving their communities.  Other clubs in these small communities are struggling to maintain their vitality.  As the community gets smaller and older, so does the Rotary Club and so does the pool of potential Rotarians.
All is not doom and gloom.  While challenging, there are potential solutions.  Does it seem that there is not possibly room for another Rotary Club in your community?  Consider the possibilities.
Satellites. These are groups of Rotarians who are actually members of your club.  They meet at another time and perhaps place and are pretty independent in their operation with self-government and their own projects and fund-raising.  They do need to be supervised by the sponsoring club and a way of communicating and reporting needs to be established.  This is a good way to extend your club membership to community members who can't meet at the time your club meets or who may be uncomfortable with your club makeup or culture.  It takes a minimum of eight members to be officially recognized as a satellite.  If there are not enough members to form an official satellite, the group could operate as a committee of your club until they achieve enough members to take the next step.  Satellites are expected to eventually become Rotary Clubs in their own rights, but there is no time limit on how long that can take.
Rotaract Clubs.  Most of these clubs are associated with colleges or universities in North America.  They do not need to be.  Community Rotaract Clubs are open to those 18-30 years old who want to operate in the Rotary environment with projects and fundraising and all the other opportunities Rotary offers its members.  Is this a possible way to make your club sustainable for future generations?  As Rotaractors graduate (age out) of their clubs, it is natural for them to become Rotarians.  Who wouldn't want some energized 30 somethings joining their club?
These are just two possibilities.  By analyzing your club's environment, and past efforts to grow membership, and with the ability to innovate new solutions to club membership types and club formats, your club may find a solution to make your club sustainable and serving your community for generations to come.  You are not alone.  RI and District 5610 stand by to help.
For more information, the RI website learning center has lots of documents and information for you to explore. This is the perfect time to celebrate your club’s members and consider the many options available for strengthening your membership. Rotary has a series of membership courses available in the Learning Center — from Attracting New Members to New Member Orientation. Show your Rotary pride by adding a Proud Member frame to your profile picture on Facebook. You can find all these resources and more at Membership Chair Carmen Hansen is a great resource to reach out to for your membership projects.  Carmen can be reached at
Ina Winter
District Governor 2019-2020
RID 5610