The Lakes Region Rotary Club meets at the Water Street Cafe in Laconia weekly. (Courtesy photo)
By LEAH WILLINGHAM, The Laconia Daily Sun
When it comes to engaging millennials in the Lakes Region Rotary Club, the tactic is simple: Let them come to us.
“We’ve tried to attract them organically,” said long-time member Karmen Gifford. “We don’t want to sell it to people; we want them to want to be there.”
Ben Wilson, who works out of the Edward Jones office on Union Avenue in Laconia, is in his mid-30s, and is the incoming president of the Lakes Region Rotary Club. He said he was interested in Rotary from a young age: He joined his first Rotary Club in Maine when he was 28.
“It’s a great way to make lifelong connections and give back to your community,” he said.
The Lakes Region Rotary Club is a local chapter of the international service organization whose purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders to benefit communities through service work.
Club members volunteer and raise money for service organizations in the area, including preparing and serving lunch every other month at the Salvation Army, and organizing an annual Youth Leadership program that brings together future leaders from high schools around the Lakes Region.
Gifford said the demographic of the club tends to be in the 30-65 age range. While there are some members who attend every Rotary event, Gifford said members typically come and go, depending on interest in the projects the club is working on.
This open attendance policy is the best way attract any members, especially young people, Gifford said. She said young people are looking to have a variety of experiences, and might shy away from an exclusive commitment to one group.
“If there's an expectation, they might hold back,” she said.
The club meets weekly for breakfast at Water Street Cafe, where local leaders are invited to join the club and speak on their efforts in the community. Each member is assigned to invite someone over the course of a season. Past speakers have been Laconia Police Department Chief Matthew Canfield and representatives from the New Hampshire Make-a-Wish foundation. Gifford said the group went on a tour of the Colonial Theater renovation project this past summer.
Gifford said club members are notified of upcoming activities via a Google email list. People can sign up for whatever activities interest them, Gifford said.
“There’s no obligation, and no one’s going to say you're not a good fit for this club because you miss a few meetings,” she said.
Gifford said Lakes Region Rotary has also been trying to engage new members by using social media. When they have a breakfast or another event, they will post photos on Facebook, and tag guests.
Rotary clubs in the area are being creative about how they expand their membership.
This year, the Laconia Rotary Club adopted a “business” membership option, where anyone from a company can attend the weekly meetings on behalf of a business.
Allison Ambrose, a young professional at Wescott Law Firm in Laconia, said her company signed up for that program. She said it’s a great alternative for young people like her, who have young children and might not want to commit to joining the organization on their own.
“We found that [the business membership] was an attractive option, as it affords us the opportunity to participate as a group without having to individually commit to weekly meetings,” Ambrose said.
Gifford said she’s seen a resurgence of young people in Laconia. Both of her children moved away to go to college, but came back.
“It’s a nice place to live, and it’s fulfilling to be a part of a community that’s so focused on giving back,” she said.
Benjamin Wilson, the Rotary's incoming president, promotes the club's Salvation Army Turkey Plunge fundraiser. (Courtesy photo)
- Written by Tom Caldwell
- Category: Business
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