Posted by Quentin Wodon, Guest author on Jul 31, 2017
Apart from volunteering their time, another way through which Rotarians contribute to service projects is by giving money. This can be done through the Rotary Foundation, as well as through club foundations or the clubs themselves. Rotarians also pay dues for their membership. In some clubs these dues may be high, especially if weekly meetings involve lunches. In other clubs the dues may be lower. By adding up what Rotarians give to Rotary and their membership dues one can get an estimate of the overall cost of membership. Calculating this cost is important. Clubs should be aware of their cost of membership and they should regularly assess whether this cost is appropriate or too high. This exercise was done in my district through the membership survey already mentioned in previous posts (as before, for details see my book on Rotary).


Cost of Membership

So, what is the cost of membership in my district? On average, according to the survey this cost came up to $2122 per year per Rotarian, of which a bit more than half was for dues and meals (most clubs meet for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and charge for meals whether Rotarians attend the meeting or not, but there are exceptions). The rest consisted mostly of donations. Specifically, the survey suggested that about four in five Rotarians gave to their club or club foundation with an average gift of $409 per year. Three in four gave to the Rotary Foundation (of Rotary International) with an average contribution of $386 per year.

These estimates do not include other potential costs, such as the cost of participating in annual district conferences, the conference of Rotary International, and a number of other events such as Christmas dinners, installation diners at the club or district level, club fellowship events, etc. So in my district the average cost of membership is likely to be of the order of $2,500 or more, and for those who are able to give generously, it is likely to be substantially higher...

...Note also that I use the term “cost” here in a generic way. If Rotarians were not members of Rotary, they would still probably give to other charitable organizations. Similarly, while Rotarians volunteer with Rotary, they also volunteer with other groups and the survey documented some of that. All this implies that while not being a member of Rotary might help to save on dues and the cost of meals, it might not generate a “cost saving” equal to the estimated overall cost of membership as calculated here, simply because donations might then be channeled through other organizations. At the same time Rotarians are likely to assess the value proposition of membership in part in function of the way they perceive the overall cost of membership to be – considering both dues and donations (even if those are voluntary). Therefore it does make sense to estimate the cost of membership in a comprehensive way...

In the next post in this series, I will discuss what Rotarians think is working very well in their club, and what may not be working as well.

Source: ROTARIAN ECONOMIST. Analysis and Commentary for Service Above Self