By BRUCE CONNELLEE / Governor, District 719
When you think of Rotary, do you think of PMS? You know, Pale, Male and Stale?
When you visit a Rotary club, maybe thinking about joining or coming as a speaker or friend and you cast your eye around the room, what do you see? A mix of younger and older Rotarians, maybe a couple of different colors, and a nice male/female balance? Certainly, if you are a younger visitor, you expect to see a mix. If you don’t, it will stand out in your mind.
All of us who are members of this great organization of Rotary understand that to survive we need to attract new and younger members to our ranks. Yet, one of the attraction strategies we often overlook is integration with Rotary’s youth programs.
Rotary has a built in ladder of development in the organization that allows us to engage young members at all ages. EarlyAct, InterAct, and Rotaract can engage young potential members from grade school through college and early adulthood.
Part of our goal to get new young members is to get the word out of what Rotary is, what it does, and the impact we have on our community locally and globally.
I recently spoke with a friend who did not know what Rotary was all about, so I showed him the “Four-Way Test,” explaining how this guides what we think, do, and say. We chatted about it and he said: “Yeah! That is really good!” My friend then went on to donate to Rotary and is looking at clubs in his area to join.
We need to live and talk Rotary and encourage young people to join us in whatever capacity. Then it’s much easier to encourage them to become members. All of us know and interact with younger people — our kids, our grandkids, and people at our workplaces. As people see how they can join with us to help their communities and at the same time enjoy the fellowship of like-minded individuals, they will be much more likely to commit to membership.
Think about visiting your local high school and inviting young people, maybe the student government leaders or the international club to join Rotarians in your next community project. How about the various youth levels at your church? Is there a solid after school program in your nearby diverse neighborhood? Consider coordinating through them to clean their park, and then ask them to help clean yours.
For young folks to believe in us, we have to live Rotary not just talk Rotary. Because Rotary is a way of life, not another activity or thing to do. We need to get Rotary into individuals, not just individuals into Rotary.
RI President Shekhar Mehta’s primary theme this year is “Be one, Bring One, and Serve To Change Lives.” At your next club meeting ask the person next to you if they can think of a way to engage with youth and change a life or two. We can do this!