A Question of Size
By Pat Rooney
Much has been made in recent years of the fact that Club 29 is now the “Largest Rotary Club in the World.” We announce it from the podium, we applaud it frequently, and generally take pride in this. And it’s not a bad thing. The implication here is that we must be doing everything right with the most dues paying numbers. But are we really? Have we asked the question why this is so? I mean membership is one thing, but actual active members in attendance, on committees and donors to our various projects is quite another.
Not being the largest city in the country by a long shot, it begs the question, how are we keeping our position as the largest club? Are we just better Rotarians? Working harder on recruitment? Are all our members sufficiently engaged in Rotary? Do we want them to be?
I think the answer lies is the definition of active members. Active Rotarians are defined as attending luncheon meetings regularly, attending committee meetings regularly and participating in some fashion on various community projects. In these areas there are some red flags. With a membership of over 600 we are hard pressed to get 200 to lunch each Tuesday, depending on the speaker. I am not an expert on the subject but this seems low to me. Suspending the attendance requirements obviously had something to do with this statistic. Also, certain Rotary Committees often struggle to fill their schedule. I know the Salvation Army bell ringers, a club service for many years, has had a hard time covering its bases recently. With our membership, you would not expect this to be a problem.
I am not that close to the numbers but would be interested to know if our annual project funds have grown in accordance with our membership? Is our reach in the community greater by the same percentage? As I said, I don’t know the answers but these are the larger questions that need to be asked. Perhaps a strategic planning committee is in order to address our active member penetration issues and generate some discussion on these questions.
If the answer is yes and yes then we have a great mandate to move forward as the largest club. If not, then it’s just a numbers’ game and that is a slippery slope. Bigger does not always mean better. But bigger does create expectations of performance that deserve discussion and measurement.
Perhaps strategically we are fine being big for big’s sake, or perhaps no one cares about the level of activity in the membership. There is no immediate damage to be sure and we can continue on as is for some time. I think long term it’s the elephant in the room and, as such, it’s conversation we need to have.