By Arnold R. Grahl 
Rotary News -- 9 August 2012   


Top: The Rotary Club of Cotonou Ifê, Benin, celebrates Rotary's anniversary with a cake in February. The club is one of several formed recently in Benin. Photo courtesy Boris Crestia. Bottom: Claudio Spiguel, third from left, and other members of the Rotary Club of Guaxupé, Minas Gerais, Brazil, with a car they purchased for a school for at risk youth. Decals on the car helped publicize Rotary's involvement, and led to several membership inquiries. Photo courtesy Claudio Spiguel

Eight years ago, Géné Villaça-Crestia was asked by her district governor to start a new Rotary club in her country, Benin.

She had been a Rotarian for only four years and didn’t really know where to begin. But she had a few things working in her favor: Villaça-Crestia is extremely passionate about Rotary, and she doesn’t take no for an answer.

“I don’t hesitate to drive to people’s places and come back again,” says Villaça-Crestia of her recruitment style. “I don’t wait for them to get back to me and tell me they don’t have time. I insist and go after them until they understand what Rotary is all about and the good it will do them to join.”

Villaça-Crestia’s techniques have been extremely effective. Within three months of her district governor’s request, she helped launch the Rotary Club of Cotonou Rive Gauche, Benin, and became the charter president. During the next two years, she helped form three other clubs, including two composed almost entirely of younger Rotarians.

This year, she and her son, Boris Crestia, a public relations specialist and Rotary Public Image Coordinator for Zone 20A, have teamed up to recruit advertising, public relations, and media professionals for another new club, which will soon be seeking its charter. Members have set goals of promoting basic education and literacy in Africa and serving as a public relations resource for other clubs.

Be passionate and persistent

Villaça-Crestia says the key to recruiting new members is to show them how passionate you are about Rotary and be persistent.

“People say they came to Rotary because they felt my passion and I could communicate it to them,” she says. “In this state of mind, any challenge is never really impossible.

“More than once, I had to wait hours in a reception area in order to meet an important or busy person and be able to convince them to join Rotary or give to The Rotary Foundation,” she adds. “But when you just explain to people, for instance, that the same money they pay for a nice meal in a good restaurant could help immunize a great number of families against polio, most people are sensitive to this and react immediately.’’

Villaça-Crestia says her favorite thing to say to prospective members is that by being Rotarians, they can be a bridge between the millions of dollars available through The Rotary Foundation and the poorest populations of the world. “Knowing that, and not becoming a Rotarian, is almost criminal,” she says.

Be involved in service and be visible

Brazilian Claudio Spiguel is another Rotarian who has succeeded in recruiting members. When Spiguel became president of the Rotary Club of Guaxupé in 2005, the club was hovering below 20 members and in danger of losing its ability to make a significant contribution to the community.

By focusing on getting members involved in service projects and publicizing those projects, he had helped raise membership to 34 by the end of his second stint as president. While serving in various leadership roles since, he has spread that enthusiasm to other clubs in the district, with similar effect.

Spiguel shared the following tips:

  • Teach club members the Foundation’s grant process and immediately engage them in pursuing projects that benefit well-known service organizations in need in your community. “To date, we have done five Matching Grant projects, and each has improved our credibility in the community.”
  • Broadcast the results of your work through partnerships with local media. “We created a weekly program at a regional TV station called ‘Rotary in the Community,’ a talk show with interviews and presentations about our work and Rotary in general. It has reached many people with our message.” ( Read a blog post from Spiguel)

What you can do

Share your passion for Rotary with your family, friends, and community during Membership and Extension Month in August. This year you’re invited to take part in two activities designed to help you remember why you joined and convert that excitement into inviting others to join.

By taking the Rotary Membership Challenge, you commit to sponsor a new member, tell a friend or colleague about your club’s projects, or volunteer as a mentor to prospective or new members. After you complete the form, Rotary will email you links to resources to help you meet the challenge.

By participating in the first-ever Rotary Moment Tweet Day on 14 August, you can tweet about your favorite Rotary memory or event, talk about your club’s activities, or share your community service project. Use hashtag #RotaryMoment.

You can also listen to Rotary’s popular webinar Using Social Media to Promote Your Club or District to learn how to create a Twitter account, post your first tweet, use hashtags, and lots more.