Members of Activate Victoria, which uses a club model that attracts members through community service projects.

By Amanda Wendt, past governor of District 9800

During my year as district governor, we wanted to charter a club that would be different and offer a pathway for new Rotarians to pursue their passion for community service and enjoy the benefits of membership without some of the conventional obligations. The club, which adopts a district-wide online model, provides flexibility for members to pursue their own interests and creates a supportive experience for each member.

Members of the Rotary Club of Activate Victoria are not obligated to attend every club meeting or serve on committees if they don’t want to. They are encouraged to support the club in service activities. They can pay their annual membership fees upfront. And they are encouraged to attend district leadership events that align with their leadership journey.

We encourage Activate members to investigate other conventional clubs to find their best fit, seeking a club culture, experience, and resources that will help them make the changes they want to see. But importantly, as members of Activate, they’ll already be Rotarians as they conduct that search.

Many Activate members see themselves as belonging to Rotary as an organization more than members of a single local club. As such, they feel free to run their own projects, work with other Rotary clubs, and even serve in leadership roles in other community organizations.

What I love about this club format is that it offers busy, prospective members minimal obligations so as not to be a barrier to them joining Rotary. It will still provide them with all the benefits of connecting with other volunteers with a heart to give back to their communities. They can gain experience, learn from and share knowledge with others, and pursue their own interests and passions.

Meetings are held online regularly, but these serve mainly as a chance for collaborating on ideas. It is an entirely optional forum to problem-solve and work together to advance ideas or tackle an issue that has arisen. Fees are kept to a minimum, only what is necessary to cover RI dues and district charges. And these are levied through monthly automatic payments from a member’s bank account. The club has no budget of its own; instead, whatever is collected in donations is contributed to joint efforts with partners or to support a common initiative.

I find that clubs like this introduce new members to the Rotary experience while providing them an easy, no-hassle opportunity to explore and connect with other Rotary clubs, grow their leadership skills, work on service projects with other Rotarians, and expand their networks. Our members tell us they find greater fulfilment in this club model and gain experience that resonates with their careers, a significant advantage for people in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. People who have limited time due to other obligations are attracted to this model.

The club, now a year old, is evolving as we learn more about our members’ priorities. We need to continue listening and responding as new members come aboard and expectations shift. While we enjoy a reasonable conversion rate, we work to maintain a steady stream of membership leads from our district.

There are many advantages to chartering a club like Activate Victoria. You will need a strong partnership with your district leadership to share membership inquiries. Remind them that members who join an introductory club like this could be taking their first steps to a more conventional club in your district. Time spent finding the best Rotary fit is always time well spent and increases the chances for a fully engaged and committed long-term member of Rotary.

Read more about this club in the November 2023 issue of Rotary magazine.