Service organizations struggle to attract and retain members

Virtually every service organization in the U.S. is struggling to attract and retain members. Scouts, Lions, Kiwanis, Elks, Rotary clubs, and others are experiencing levels of attrition, not seen in years. And the current pandemic is not helping this situation.

Yet, the biggest single obstacle to increasing the number of members in these organizations, are the members themselves! A few years ago, Rotary International sought to discover an answer to this problem. They discovered that in the U.S., more than 90% of existing members had not asked, or sponsored, a new member to join their club, during the past ten years. This statistic is alarming, and consistent with most service organizations.


Fellowship, doing good things help overcome tensions of economy

Many club presidents tell me they presume new members would not be interested in joining their clubs. Because of financial or other economic related issues. To me, this negativity is horrifying!

It may hold one of the keys as to why so many organizations are struggling. The economy seems to be the excuse du jour. However, most experts agree that fellowship and doing good things for others are among the best ways to overcome tensions caused by a problematic economy.

Retention is another issue for service organizations. One organization, I am personally familiar with, had three hundred members at its peak, has been losing 10% of their members per year.


Club leaders ignore the problem

One mistake leaders of clubs make is avoiding the problem. If efforts to attract and retain members are not driven top down, there is no hope. A second mistake is when a club does not have a dedicated “membership chair,” responsible for overseeing the recruitment of new members. In many clubs without such a chair, as quickly as the club leader runs out of prospects they personally know, new membership comes to a halt. While this may work short-term, it is not a reliable long-term strategy.

Surprisingly, when attention is paid to the problem, new members can be recruited and retained. I know because a service organization that I belonged to (with 2,800 members) agreed to use several of my suggestions. The result was the attraction of more than 300 new members in 120 days.


A brief a list of ideas to recruit new service club members


All new members and selected “key” existing club members be appointed “club ambassadors.”

They are responsible for inviting “x number” of guests to a future club meeting. Ideally, some of these people, with welcoming encouragement, will want to become members of the club!





Club leadership should encourage members to strive to induct a minimum number of new members who have been previously associated with their or another service organization.


In my next column I will provide more suggestions to attract new members. I will also include ideas to retain existing members. Whether it is attracting new or keeping existing members, I refuse to believe that you want to see your favorite service organization go out of business!


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Alan Adler coaches individuals and successful high-performing business leaders to help accelerate their personal and professional growth. In addition to one-on-one coaching, Alan hosts noncompetitive, confidential, business-owner mentor advisory groups. Click here to schedule a meeting with him. As an entrepreneur, he has started three businesses, including his current, Alan Adler & Associates, LLC. His experience also includes working in marketing communication roles, (with senior management) at two of the largest corporations in the world.  You can find his books, Getting the Fish to Swim to YOU & Keeping Them in YOUR Boat, and UpStream, on Amazon. Alan lives in Huntersville, NC with his wife Mindy. They have two grown children, two grandchildren, and a rescue dog named Bentley.






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