In their working lives, many Rotarians are responsible for hiring or certainly orientating new employees into the organization. In that role, we understand it is necessary if we expect the new person to quickly become a proficient employee.  And it works!
Why do we think Rotary should be any different?  We eagerly bring in new members.  Too often, we assume the new member’s sponsor has done the Membership Committee job and told everything there is to know about Rotary…. really, how many of us do it?  Not many…or maybe it is just that we forget what it is like to be a new Rotarian; they have a thirst to learn about us but it is hard to do when everyone else talks about Rotary as if the world knows all about us.  We need a role in our clubs that is charged with doing regular Fireside Chats. Yes, it is more than a cup of coffee at our local Timmy’s.
How about developing a schedule for potential, new Rotarians or for that matter any Rotarian who wishes to participate in getting together to talk about Rotary at a Fireside Chat.  It would seem appropriate to do one of these Chats every six months, however if your club has generated a lot of interest in the community of late and they are beating down your doors, do these Chats more frequently.
Who should assume this role?  Who is passionate about Rotary?  Do you have someone who knows the club history, is easy to talk with, one who seeks out the new members to welcome them?  Either the President or the Membership Chair should make a personal plea….no emails.  You want the person to ignite the Fireside Chat attendees; therefore it’s necessary they can draw people into conversations.  The other side of this equation is the compilation of the material you wish to share during these Chats. Perhaps that can be someone else who has time to research your archives for juicy tidbits of club history and develop the material from District and Rotary International into take aways that will be kept and referenced from time to time.  You want to take the time to develop the hand-outs to ensure each groups hears the same messages.
At these Chats, keep it simple.  It is a make-up.  Perhaps the sponsor may wish to bring the potential member, it’s a great way to start dialogue.  It is a good thing to have a couple of long-time members in attendance to interact, perhaps lead a part of the session.  I suggest do it on an evening; no more than
1- ½ hours long.  The club should pay all the expenses if it is just coffee and cookies.  If at a restaurant, and people want to order off the menu let everyone be responsible for their own expenses.  For this reason, I would suggest a library (often these rooms are free).
What do potentials and new Rotarians want to know about?  Who is Rotary?  What do we do for the community?  Or in the world-wide community?  How much is Rotary going to cost me?  I have no time,  “I hear I have to attend every week?”  Address the commitments, talk to the participants about how they can contribute in a manner that fits their personal schedule to ensure regular attendance… two hours on a Saturday morning to clean up trash on the road side, attend a committee meeting, help with a community project, or do a make-up locally or an on-line make-up.  Not just that every November members are asked to contribute to the Foundation.  Show them how our moneys are used and how it comes back to our District; how your club has received District grants for local projects or how your club has contributed to Roy Sheldrick’s Haiti wells.  A great discussion starter is the 4-Way Test and what is means in the lives of Rotarians, of how others in the community know that those wearing a Rotary pin live up to the Rotary standards and can be counted on to do the right thing.  Another worthy topic is our Five Pillars.  One thing I can assure you is that you will not be short of material to share.
Last fall the Albion Club held our first Fireside Chat in some time.  Our historian, Nathan, a passionate story-teller of our colored history (we had some bigger than life community leaders over our 93 year history) and they make some great fodder for tall tales.  However due to Nat’s career he has transferred his membership out of the district.  We all hoped he’d return, so we waited.  Finally, I picked up the banner, while a relative newbie to this village I knew I could never tell our story as Nat; therefore I chose to build an informative evening of Rotary factoids from our club’s written history, RI’s beginnings and our projects, from our District and Rotary International web sites.  I developed a series of written sound bites telling brief stories about the many projects done by Rotary.  Thank heaven for Publisher!  It actually looked good. When we did the first one we had in attendance - two new members, and three potential members plus two members from LeRoy Rotary who wanted to compare.  The current members felt they had learned new material and one is a returnee with several previous years at the club.  Of the potentials, two applied immediately and one is now attending and we expect to see her join shortly also.
Since so many people say they are too busy to be a Rotarian, we chose to be right up front about Rotary time commitments and the monetary expectations are at our club.  Each attendee received copies as takeaways.
Key points – keep it short, upbeat and it isn’t about what you know, it is about what the audience is taking way about Rotary.  Make it conversational! Make it fun! Everyone starts their Rotary journey with the same messages.
The Albion Club Fireside Chat material is available to all clubs who wish to email me at  This material is geared to our club and our community and will need tailoring to meet other club’s needs.