It was great to hear from the “CEO side” of Jess Karlsson at our lunch meeting last week. Jess provided us with some great insight into who she is (energetic and aspiring), where she’s been (taking on challenging roles across Australia) and what she is passionate about (leadership particularly in the not-for-profit space). Jess’ keen insight and understanding of the challenges facing the disabilities sector has no doubt made her a success at Cahoots (formerly Kids Camps). The Rotary Club of Perth is fortunate to have enthusiastic members like Jess in our club and in particular leading our Youth portfolio as its Director.
Over the next six months we aim to include more of our members as our keynote lunch speakers. By doing so, I hope this will be an opportunity to get to know some of our members better and to also highlight some of the unique and diverse skills that make up our club. As our mission states:
Rotary’s mission is for professional people to join together to use their skills and passion to make a difference in their communities and to undertake activities that foster pride in Rotarian’s worldwide.
By getting to know who we are and what we bring, we can aim to create an even better community.
Just a few months ago, the District released a report it commissioned Curtin University to undertake. The title of the report is: WHY DO PEOPLE LEAVE ROTARY: AN EXPLORATION OF THE VIEWS OF PAST ROTARIANS WHO HAVE LEFT THE ORGANISATION 2013 – 2016.
Over the coming months, my aim is to work with our board (potentially establishing a sub-committee) to review, understand, and assess the findings of this report and to then develop a strategic approach to addressing these issues. While many of the ‘lessons learned’ were already known (perhaps anecdotally), this report provides an informed and definitive view based on research and consultation from within our own district. In short, we have the “problem statement” before us…now what are we going to do about it?
Please find below a quick summary of the salient points:
In this report, the aim of the evaluation was to develop an in-depth understanding about the retention of Rotarians within Rotary clubs, in particular:
• To understand why Rotarians join and then leave Rotary
• Identify what are the enablers and barriers for the retention of Rotarians and maintaining their well-being
• Impact on personal wellbeing though participation in a voluntary organisation
The evaluation findings identified that the majority of respondents reported their experience of being a Rotary member was characterised by feelings of pleasure and contentment.
Within this context, the research team has identified specific barriers that appeared to lessen their overall sense of enjoyment. These factors included:
• heavy workloads as a volunteer
• uneven distributions of workload within the club
• Rotary’s values, protocols and policies negatively impact on their enjoyment
The finding concluded that these are contributing factors to subsequently influencing new members’ decision to leave the organisation.
So how do we move forward?
The report suggests that respondents identified:
• Improvement can be achieved through the recruitment of younger members that would help challenge some of the older traditions and policies.
• Recruitment of younger members alone, however, is not enough in itself to foster changes within clubs and it appears that customs and practices need to change within Rotary.
• Similarly, existing members may need to feel empowered to facilitate innovation and change within Rotary clubs.
Another major area of improvement identified was the “geo-political reality of being a Rotary Member”. What does this mean? Respondents appeared to note a common theme that ‘not two clubs were the same’. The organisation and models that the clubs ran on differed between clubs, possibly resulting in variance in the rituals, procedures and policies of individual clubs
These responses are important in highlighting that the experience of Rotary cannot be generalised to the entirety of Rotary and it is possible that differences in the experience of Rotary are due to the diverse nature of Rotary.
There are some ways in which clubs can adjust behaviours to mitigate this effect. These might include:
• Barriers to membership included club culture, size of club, and the location of club. A potential suggestion to managing the reported feelings of “cliques” includes pairing new members with club mentors to assist in reducing feelings of alienation and clique-ness within clubs.
• The research team would also recommend appointment of ‘member liaison and support’ officer. Duties of the role may include coordination of mentoring program, a contact point for member grievances, member polling, departing member debriefing.
A broader issue of communication has emerged from the respondents that indicates that the organisation’s communication style and strategy was not at a level to meet members’ needs.
The research team recommends that Rotary invest in methods that would establish a level of effective and reasonable communication with its members. It was evident that respondents had a range of views regarding how communication should be conducted across various levels within the organisation. The report concludes:
The research findings have shown that its members value and enjoy participation in Rotary and value its guiding principles. However, there is potentially a real problem sitting at the club level in regards to membership retention due to a range of significant factors including communication, club culture and practices. Further refinement and improvement of Rotary practice and culture may strengthen the organisation’s position and membership numbers to ensure that Rotary International continues its important work within the Perth and international communities.
This report is an interesting read and should be read in its entirety to understand context. If you’d like a copy of the report, please contact me and I’ll send you a copy electronically. I encourage each member to consider what we as individuals can do to continue to make our club an even greater club!
On a lighter note, PP George Etrelezis wins the prize…perhaps maybe a “Sergeant’s Fines Free Day” for spotting a mention of our club's history in The West on Monday this week. With the West Australian Ballet's upcoming performance of the Peter Pan from 17 Nov - 10 Dec 2017, The West highlighted as an interest piece the "Peter Pan" statue in Queens Gardens given to the city by our club in 1927.
Of course…a quick fact check would reveal who “today’s club president” really is!
But notwithstanding that small point, this article brings to light the power of unity and the power of strategic thinking. As the club works with the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority to establish a new landmark monument in Elisabeth Quay, one can only wonder what folks might think about our club 90 years from now!
Join Leaders. Exchange Ideas. Take Action.
Yours in Rotary, Stephen Inoyue - President - Rotary of Perth 2017/2018