According to Rotary International (5 Things I Wish All Rotarians Knew), most attrition casualties have been members less than 1, 2, or 3 years duration. Another statistic from Rotary showed 26% with a membership of less than four years will leave their Rotary Club. In case you were wondering: this is not good.
This problem was not and is not unnoticed at Lakewood Rotary.
Action on this subject first started for us in 1977.
At a Fireside meeting one evening, when some new members and spouses were being educated about the requirements of Lakewood Rotary, President- Elect Mel Neighbors, sat and talked with Auggie Meier, Jim Rediske, Mac McGreevy, and Harry Mansfield, all long-time members of the Club. The perpetual discussion of mentoring to these new members was argued and dismissed as ineffectual to date. It was decided to make new Rotarians a Pledge Class for one year. A few days later, Mel was looking at a book that described the Northwest coast dwelling puffins. Puffins are seabirds, described as clinging to rocks with their fellow puffins for survival.
This seemed a perfect analogy to Mel for new Rotarians, and the name for the Pledge Class was born: they would be Puffins. Duties for the Puffins included handling the food basket project, attending a minimum number of social events, taking attendance, and most notably, putting on the annual roast of the sitting president at the last meeting in December.
Today, the Rotary Puffins are also responsible for the caring and “feeding” of a plush puffin doll. Upon induction, the current puffin-bearer is delighted to pass it along to the next new member. It hasn’t always been pretty: some of the Puffins have been lost, and some were forced to wear unusual clothing and jewelry by their caretakers. One even traveled to Iceland.
Mentoring? Yes, we still do it. In my 39 years in the Club, the mentoring program is what you might call “better than nothing.” And we have high hopes with our newest mentor chairperson. But for our Club, the Puffin program has succeeded better than anything else we have done. It does create some confused looks when we talk to other clubs about so and so, one of our Puffins…..we forget the rest of you don’t know what the heck we’re talking about!