L et's face it: If Rotarians don't succeed in attracting younger members to their clubs, there won't be any clubs to attract members to.
Megan Cotugno, a former Rotaractor who is now a Rotarian, doesn't mince words when she talks about the importance of younger generations to the future of Rotary.
"One thing I've done in the past few years is really advocate for Rotaract as an integral part of the family of Rotary," she says. "Rotaract is the future of this organization. Youth may only be a small percentage of our community, but we are 100 percent of the future."
Cotugno became hooked on Rotary while accompanying her mother, who had just become a Rotarian, on a mission trip to Mexico City in 2001. See her full story in the video above.
Rotaractors like Cotugno represent an important source of future Rotary club members. In honor of New Generations Month, we tracked down a couple of Rotaractors who went on to become Rotarians, as well as some who are waiting to make the leap, to see what they had to say about making the transition from Rotaract to Rotary.
Jonathan Nish, former Rotaractor and member of the Rotary Club of Putney, Greater London, England, since 2006: "The key is for clubs to invite Rotaractors. The relationship between the Rotaract club and the sponsoring club is important. You have to keep those channels open. The more young people who join, the more we sort of tip the scales and make it easier for others."
Nina Kolenc, a former Rotaractor and member of the Rotary Club of Maribor Lent, Slovenia, since March: "My father was a Rotarian, and my mother and brother were in Rotary clubs. I think it's very important that Rotarians know about Rotaract. To be invited, they first have to know you. It is better if Rotarians have some projects together with Rotaractors; it's easier to make those connections."
Vincent Graffeo, president of the Rotaract Club of Birmingham, Alabama, USA: "There is no system in place to transfer from Rotaract to Rotary. Rotaractors are getting out of Rotaract in their 20s and 30s. Your average Rotarian is in their 50s, so there does seem to be an age gap. A lot of our members are interested in remaining in the family of Rotary. There definitely is a benefit for Rotary to reach out to Rotaractors and their clubs."
Jorge Aguilar, president of the Rotaract Club of Chicago: "Rotaractors see ourselves as the next generation. I think it's very important for Rotary to attract younger members -- just look at the demographics. A great tool Rotary has is its educational programs. I was an exchange student in Switzerland in high school. I never would have been able to spend the time abroad as a young person if it wasn't for the [Rotary] Youth Exchange program. What family can afford that? That's how I got involved and what made me want to give back."