5 ingredients of a successful Rotary club

Running a successful Rotary club is a bit like baking a cake.
Chris Waugh

Chris Waugh

District Governor Nominee and Owner of Leader Support Service, providing business consulting and leadership development.

By Barton Goldenberg, immediate past governor of District 7620 (Maryland and Washington D.C., USA)

Running a successful Rotary club is a bit like baking a cake. You need the right ingredients.

If you’re a baker, you know that a great cake is made up of individual ingredients that come together to produce something special. A great Rotary club is like that, in that it is made up of a unique mix of ingredients. Here are the five that I have found in most, if not all, successful Rotary clubs.

1. A unique club identity

There are four clubs in my city of Bethesda, Maryland. While they are only a short geographic distance from each other, each has its own identity. The first is a dinner club of 30 members who have been together for years. They are generous in their donations to the Rotary Foundation and our district. The second is a breakfast club with an even balance of older and younger members. They are very supportive and heavily involved with Rotaract and Interact clubs. The third is a lunch club that is proud of its traditions and is committed to domestic and international projects. And the fourth is a breakfast club celebrating its 15th year, with members who speak nine languages and originally come from 11 different countries.

2: Engaging club meetings

There isn’t a single correct format. The pandemic has taught us all the need for flexibility and creativity. We can have virtual meetings as well as in-person ones, and even a combination of both. But there is a need for meetings to be engaging. Great clubs offer a reason for members to attend. They achieve this by spending effort to find inspiring speakers from a variety of relevant and timely topics every week. One week, you may learn about marine biology, the next about training service dogs for the blind. They keep announcements and club business short, and make their meetings personable by having greeters welcome newer people. They spend time recognizing member birthdays, and provide a place for all members to participate within the meeting format.

3A robust, member-driven service program

Service is at the heart of Rotary and it’s at the core of a great club. Members want opportunities to make a difference in their community and the world. But there are many ways to do that. Do members want more focus on domestic or international service projects? Do they want to emphasize one area of focus over another? A club survey can determine this. And the answer may change over time, so make it an annual practice. Great clubs offer service opportunities that match member expectations..

4. A desire to socialize with others

In a great club, members genuinely like to socialize with one another. They create multiple opportunities to socialize, whether this be at a club meeting, during a service program, at a fundraiser, at a fun event like a “day at the beach,” or at some other group event. In great clubs, members frequently socialize outside of Rotary because they genuinely like to spend time together. Prospective members feel the camaraderie between club members, and this creates a welcoming, fun, and vibrant atmosphere.

5: Strong leadership

Behind the success of a five-star restaurant is the head chef and staff. In the same way, a great club is the result of a dynamic leadership team. You need a committed and visionary president who has carefully chosen their leadership team. This team meets regularly to discuss new ideas, resolve outstanding issues, and chart a course for service and social activities. These leaders set the direction, they serve the club, and they stay attuned to the wants and needs of their members. They also work hard to identify and nurture future club leaders.

As you work hard to create a great club, consider how you will leverage these five ingredients. Famous pastry chefs will tell you they are always tweaking the ingredients and trying new combinations to figure out what works best for their customers. So too, a great Rotary club learns how best to use these five ingredients and modify them to pursue excellence.

The Best Practices for Engaging Members course helps you develop strategies for engaging people at all stages of membership.