By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Madison Rotary Club President Elect Pete Bucher took the podium at the April 23 meeting to tell the members about several other types of Rotary Clubs he had visited over the years. There were clubs that met in the morning and clubs that met in the afternoon or evening, as well as during the lunch hour as the Madison club does. Large clubs, small clubs, clubs that owned their own building where they met.
He even found clubs that met at different bars. Usually, it was a sports bar or something similar, and instead of being served a meal, they had a cocktail hour with snacks.
But all the Rotary Clubs he visited did seem to have one thing in common, and that was either declining or stagnant membership numbers.
The challenge, as Bucher sees it, is how to attract new members in the coming year. It isn’t an issue faced buy just local or regional clubs. National and international clubs are facing the same thing.
“Why do people join Rotary?” he asked. When he has asked that of other Rotarians, he has found the common theme among them is not just what the club offers for them, but for what it offers the community.
The Rotary Club seems to have a special drive to raise money to help the community, and it seems that this is what stands out for a lot of people, Bucher told the audience. The thing that he likes best about the Madison Club’s efforts it that this is done mainly through big fundraiser events like the Chili Dinner and the Prime Rib Dinner, things that bring people together.
Another reason people mentioned was that Rotary just stood out in the forefront of other civic clubs for one reason or another; and then there was the friendship, the sense of camaraderie among the members. One example was the gentlemen Bucher had met in Tallahassee who chose the larger Northside Rotary club to join, because he wanted to be around and interact with as many other people as possible.
When seeking new members, it was also inherently important to bring in business people and build up comradeship with them and getting them to bring their skills and expertise into the club, especially when exploring the challenge of getting new business and jobs to move into the area.
He offered the example of learning about something new by relating his encounter with a Rotarian from Monticello, with whom he struck up a conversation. The gentleman’s business card said that he was in the “sympathetic reconstruction industry,” a term Bucher had never heard of before. It involved updating old homes, while remaining sympathetic to the integrity of their original style and structure.
What do people get from joining? Developing leadership skill or public speaking skill can be developed or honed working with other members on projects or working with the community.
“It helps us, through what we do here, to be a little better at it,” he said. “We educate ourselves here and talk about what we learn at Rotary. People hear about it and maybe they want to join…but they haven’t been asked yet. We need to be Rotary-proactive: talk up Rotary and invite people to join.”
One of the things he was really pleased to see about the Rotary International was what they were doing with the PolioPlus project on a global scale. “I think that’s great – what we’re doing about polio,” a disease that has been eradicated in all but a handful of countries.
People are interested in Rotary. He has seen this from the conversations people strike up with him when he wears his Rotary pin out in public or when he travels. There is also a sense of camaraderie and friendship that emerges when Rotarians who are otherwise strangers to each other will readily strike up conversations about the club, its projects and its people and find that they have a lot of common ground.
Being proactive about seeking new members is one thing Bucher would like the club to put in the forefront, both now and later, when he takes the helm as the new president.
“It’s important that we continue to do those things that make tis organization great.” he said. “It’s a collaborative effort.”