Our club was founded on March 26, 1999. I joined Rotary in 2018 and often heard our founding members talk about the glory days of our club when membership hovered around 50. By mid-2020 we were closer to 30 and one founding member expressed concern that our club was dying. Like many clubs, we’d add a new member only to turn around and lose a  member. We weren’t growing and were certainly smaller than many years ago.
I had only been a Rotarian for two years when the concern surfaced. Being president nominee at the time, I was determined it wouldn’t happen on my watch. I really liked our club and, more importantly, the people who made up our amazing club. Wanting us to change our growth trajectory, I began to explore changes we could make to avoid dying.
Solving the Problem
Like many clubs, we were on the older side and our members had filled many leadership positions over the years. They were ready for, and deserved, a break. The key seemed to be attracting younger members, but we certainly weren’t doing that. Why not? My perspective was that dues were the biggest barrier.  Our dues were set to rise to $227.50 a quarter. I knew when my wife and I were raising our three children, there would have been no room in our budget to spend $910 year so I could volunteer in my community. Day care alone was $900 a month and we thought we’d be rich when we didn’t have to pay that! Today, you can’t have one child in daycare for $900 a month. But that’s another story! It seemed we needed to reduce our cost for membership. The question was how.
Like all clubs, we have hard fixed costs to District 6040 and Rotary International that we can’t change. This left only two big ticket items: room rental (previously $900/quarter) and breakfast ($12/person per week), resulting in the quarterly dues of $227.50. I honestly felt that if we could get to $75 a quarter, or $25 a month, we could get young working adults to join our special club in making a difference in our community and our world. This meant finding a lower cost location and eliminating breakfast, without losing any existing members.
Getting Buy-In
I knew that to make these changes I needed the buy-in from the entire club. So, in the lead up to my presidency I began personal outreach to every member in the club, starting with the founding members. My pitch was simple:
  • We needed to attract younger members to grow and strengthen our club
  • Younger adults couldn’t afford $227.50 a quarter
  • Our dues needed to be no higher than $75 a quarter to be affordable for young adults
  • To reduce dues we needed a lower cost (or free) meeting venue and we needed to eliminate the costly breakfast. (My hope was that members would volunteer to bring food occasionally.)
My ideas met with overwhelming support. I only had one minor push back. One member said to me after a long pause, “I really like breakfast!” I responded, “I really like breakfast too, but not for $12 a person and $227.50 a quarter!”
What Happened Next
What happened next far exceeded my expectations! Admittedly, we didn’t get to $75/quarter, but we did manage to reduce dues to $80/quarter by finding a free meeting space and eliminating the weekly breakfast.
People began to invite guests who loved what our club was offering, we began to grow, and our little club ranked in the top three clubs all year in attendance. During my presidency, my goal was to add five new members and we added eight! We also had another unique opportunity where the Lee’s Summit Downtown Rotary  Club (an afternoon club) was folding. They were charging $100/quarter, which made our now $80/quarter attractive. A small team within our club worked with their club and ours, joining forces so that we became one club, Sunrise-Sunset Rotary, with two meeting times, adding an additional eight members. Our total growth during the year was 16, going from 29 to 45, ending the year at 44 after one member moved out of state.
I’m no longer president and I’m sure you’re wondering where we are now. It’s good news! Dues are still $80/quarter, we’re still growing and are now a club of 52! On to the next challenge in finding a larger, free space for meetings.
Final Thoughts
  • This doesn’t happen without the support and buy-in from the membership. It takes a village!
  • We are Rotarians and breakfast, lunch, or even dinner doesn’t need to define our clubs.
  • Our club believed in me and, more importantly, they believed in us. We made it happen and we are continuing to make it happen.
  • Don’t be afraid of change. We’re problem solvers!
  • In RLI Training, District Leaders continually said ,“Be willing to think outside the box.” As a new Rotarian, this gave me the courage to do just that.
David Fritz, is Immediate Past President of Lee’s Summit Sunrise Sunset Rotary and currently serving as one of the District 6040 Assistant Governors.