By Sally Kirby Hartman, past president of the Rotary Club of Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Until 2007, my Rotary knowledge consisted of spotting “Rotary Meets Here” signs on the edges of small towns.
Then two Rotary Club of Norfolk members invited me to learn about their club. I didn’t know the club president and club member who treated me to breakfast. But their enthusiasm for Rotary made me eager to know more.
This friendly duo recruited me after realizing their club had no members from the community foundation where I worked. While enjoying eggs and pancakes, the Rotarians talked about their club and invited me to a meeting. Later, they sponsored me for membership.
The timing was perfect. My only child was heading to college, and my 13 years of helping lead PTAs and booster clubs was ending. Rotary quickly filled that void as I volunteered with club members:
- Reading to children in Title I elementary schools and giving them free books.
- Sorting donated canned beans, peanut butter and other staples at our local foodbank.
- Picking up plastic wrappers and cigarette butts during the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Clean the Bay Days.
The volunteer gigs, fascinating meeting speakers, and regular check-ins from my sponsor hooked me on Rotary. After a year, I chaired the community service committee. Then I joined the board of directors and climbed the leadership ladder to club president in 2015-16.
Today, my favorite parts of Rotary remain the same as in 2007 – learning from meeting speakers, doing meaningful community service, and having fun with fellow Rotarians. To share my positive experiences, I always look for potential members – good people with a heart for service. Among my Rotary recruits are:
- A government auditor I met at a 6:30 a.m. boot camp at the gym.
- Several community leaders I knew through my foundation work.
- A psychologist who spotted my nextdoor.com post about an upcoming Rotary fundraiser, messaged me, and became my real-life friend.
These recruits have either chaired club committees or served on the board with one of them on the way to becoming club president.
My membership experiences made me wonder what drew friends and family in other cities to Rotary. Here is what I learned from three of them:
Past District 6150 Governor Gary Speed
My former colleague joined the West Little Rock Rotary Club in Arkansas in 1987 after participating in a Group Study Exchange trip to Brazil.
On that trip Gary, a Little Rock intellectual property attorney, said he developed “a friendship with an incredibly dedicated Rotary member who became my sponsor, mentor, and later district governor. He was a Rotarian’s Rotarian.” In 1999-2000, after serving as club president, Gary followed his mentor’s lead by becoming district governor.
“I love the international aspect of Rotary,” Gary says. Years before joining Rotary, his sister, Kay, won an Ambassadorial Scholarship for graduate school in Canada. A few years ago she passed away in a Rotary-sponsored hospice in Ontario. “I always feel like I’m paying our debt to Rotary,” Gary explains.
My Arkansas high school classmate joined Rotary in Sherman, Texas, in 1999 after a colleague of his wife, Sheri, invited him to a Rotary Club of Grayson County meeting.
John was a corporate trainer and Army Reserve officer who had been the featured speaker at several Rotary clubs. But he never thought of joining one until he was asked. He has since been on the leadership teams at clubs in Texas, Arkansas, and Colorado and is the 2023-24 co-president of the Rotary Club of Wheat Ridge in Colorado.
One of John’s favorite parts of Rotary is reading the monthly Rotary magazine. He says he often shares “my favorite stories and club best practices. The RI website also is amazing. Grant-funded projects and PolioPlus progress is exciting for me. I cannot wait to eradicate polio from the face of the Earth.”
Carol Hartman Smith
My sister-in-law just finished her fourth term as president of the Bryn Mawr Rotary Club in Pennsylvania. She joined the club in 2014 after a Rotary member and fellow small business owner invited her to lunch and a club meeting.
As the long-time owner of a hair, nail, and skin-care salon, Carol was a dedicated volunteer with the American Cancer Society and Pennsylvania’s Adopt-a-Highway program. Rotary’s commitment to Service Above Self mirrored her values, so joining the Bryn Mawr Club was a natural fit.
Carol appreciates Rotary’s “camaraderie and good deeds” and how her club adapted during the pandemic – even to holding up a tiny American flag on a toothpick she found in her pantry for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during her club’s first Zoom meeting.
Gary, John, Carol, and I all joined Rotary because someone asked us. We have expanded those connections by inviting others to experience Rotary and mentoring new members.
Look around for people you can introduce to Rotary. Take a moment to invite them to hear an upcoming speaker or join you for a community service project. You may just have recruited a future club president or district governor.
Finding People to Invite: A Prospective Member Exercise — Try these strategies to attract qualified members for your club.