12 Ways for Service Clubs to Recruit and Retain Members
A service club or organization is a voluntary nonprofit organization where members meet regularly to perform charitable works either through direct efforts or by raising money for other organizations. These clubs are organized for a common benefit, community service and love for humankind. This concept has been a staple of our society for more than 100 years.
What is a Service Organization?
Service organizations promote the idea of time, talent and treasure through emphasis on philanthropy, professional development and engagement. Clubs help the local communities they serve through networks, engagement with community leaders, and networking with business, government and nonprofit sector leaders. Community problems are addressed, and service clubs seek to answer these problems.
People are encouraged to join service clubs to serve others, communicate with other community leaders, establish a local presence, learn from others, and help each other. Friendships for life are made. The joy of serving others and your community is priceless and sets an example for others to follow.
The common denominator for service club members is making their community a better place to live. Side benefits include enhancing social networks, improving one’s mental health and contributing to happiness, self-esteem, life satisfaction and the feeling of making a difference.
Major examples of service clubs in the United States include:
- Rotary International with 1.4 million members and 46,000 clubs worldwide.
- Kiwanis International and its family of clubs, which consist of over 600,000 participants and 8,386 clubs worldwide.
- Optimist International, with 3,000 clubs and 80,000 members.
The motto of Rotary is service above self. These organizations and others like them have made communities stronger, more interesting and more engaged, and promote service to others through fellowship with business, professional and community leaders.
The Decline of Service Organizations
A simple fact is that service organizations and clubs have been in a free fall of decline for at least two decades. Rotary, Kiwanis, Masons, Elks and Shriners have dramatically declined in members. Aging membership, inability to attract younger members, non-dues revenue declines, and lack of new ways to attract younger people continue to be major service organization problems.
The fact is the structure and organizational function of many service organizations and clubs has not changed. Life in the United States has changed. Service clubs still recruit new members, but a key issue is retention of membership. For example, in recent years, Rotary has averaged 44,000 new members recruited annually while losing an average of 51,000 members. This scenario cannot be sustained.
Suggestions to Improve Service Clubs
Having been a prior member of Rotary and Jaycees, plus a current member of Kiwanis, I am genuinely concerned about the long-term survival of service clubs. Innovative ideas for the future need to be created and vetted.
Here are 12 ways service clubs can recruit and retain members:
- Look for best-of-class service organizations around the world and reshape concepts for modeling that would work in the United States.
- Emphasize time over treasure and determine ways to minimize member time for meetings while maximizing member time for actual service activities.
- Build a club atmosphere that is more hybrid in nature to create limited formality while broadening club informality.
- Emphasize family involvement in the club as opposed to single individual involvement.
- Alter meeting formats using Zoom, limit face-to-face meetings and provide stimulating programs using speakers from across the world.
- Restructure the service club by having members of a variety of ages, including youth, on boards.
- Adjust membership criteria accordingly. Focus on recruitment and retention.
- Consider merging service clubs with similar missions for maximum effectiveness.
- Adjust the scope of the club in all aspects before club membership losses continue.
- Hire consultants to evaluate clubs and provide ideas for change that works.
- Emphasize greater partnerships with the organizations your service clubs support.
- Do a club SWOT analysis and discuss results with the national organization.
I love my service club and want it to thrive into the future. For this to occur, change must happen now, in incremental steps. Service clubs in the United States are in quiet decline. Ultimate closure of a service club cannot be the only answer. Too many people have benefitted from the local good works from these clubs across the country for years and deserve a better long-term fate.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.