Why Rotary is growing in Ukraine during a war

We conclude that no one joins a club, Rotary or otherwise, to sit around and do nothing.

By Tom Gump, member of the RI Membership Growth committee and past governor of District 5950 (Minnesota, USA), and Mykola Stebljanko, public image coordinator in Zone 21A and past governor of District 2232 (Ukraine)

Membership has grown 23.5% in Ukraine since Russian forces invaded the country on 24 February 2022. The region, which comprises Rotary District 2232, has added four Rotary clubs and five satellite clubs. The reasons behind this growth hold important insights for any Rotary club interested in increasing its membership or any district looking to add clubs.

The clubs in Ukraine became more visible in their communities in the days and months after the war began. People are witnessing the positive impact members are having and want to join in on making a difference.

One club, for example, had their members learn to become volunteer firefighters so they could help put out fires, literally, when local building are hit by shelling.

People are drawn to the opportunity to find meaning and purpose when they see real positive change taking place.

Survey results

The example in Ukraine essentially confirms the results of the three most recent Rotary International annual surveys – the all-member, programs and offerings, and leadership surveys. These found that club experience is the single most important indicator of member satisfaction. A Rotary member who does not have a positive club experience won’t find enough value in the club to stay. New members who join a club but find it doesn’t meet their expectation frequently leave. And new members who are never integrated into club activities are most likely to leave no matter what else Rotary has to offer beyond their club.

In the surveys, Rotary International membership staff used attitudinal questions and resulting answers to cluster members into four distinct types.

  • Inclusive-friendship engagement
  • Disengagement
  • Exclusive-professional engagement
  • Hyper-engagement

Each type had implications for satisfaction and retention. The scariest part was that 24.9% of members worldwide, the second highest, fell into the disengagement type. These members are the most likely to terminate their membership from dissatisfaction.

Impact clubs

We believe the growth the Ukraine clubs have experienced is not a fluke, and has important lessons for all clubs. The “impact clubs” that are forming in North Carolina, USA, do more service projects and have less meetings and are growing in their membership.

We conclude that no one joins a club, Rotary or otherwise, to sit around and do nothing. People join because they want to become engaged with a cause and do something real. Rotary matters and engaging our members in service opportunities that create lasting change matters.

If you want to grow your membership, create a club experience that allows your members to be people of action. Let’s learn from the example in Ukraine and grow Rotary by engaging our members.

Rotary District 2232 in Ukraine has experienced a membership growth of 23.5 percent from February to October 2022.


3 Responses

  1. this holds true around the world. Inviting every single member personally to join committees, engage in service and get involved in the activities of our clubs are so important.

  2. I am the President of the Rotary Club of Port Clinton, Ohio, USA. It is a small town of only 7,500 people. I will be in Europe from15-26 September and want to come to Ukraine to do hands-on help with fellow Rotarians to assist the Ukrainian people. I am a retired USAF pilot who has flown C-130 cargo aircraft into Kiev, Minsk, Vilnius, Riga, etc. in that region in 1989 (long time ago now). Can you please forward my name and contact info to a Club in Ukraine that can sponsor my visit? I want to help in my small way.

  3. I am a Canadian Rotarian with the Rotary Club of North Bay Ontario. I am presently the program chair for North Bay and always looking for speakers where there is humanitarian service to be fulfilled. Feel free tovreach back to me.

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