Wheels Coming Off At The Rotary?

The Rotary Club was established in Chicago in 1905 as a place where businessmen could meet, network and along the way put something back into the community.

Though there were originally just four members the idea spread across first America, and then the world at a phenomenal rate, so that by the 1920s the Rotary was as firmly established in British life as it was across the Atlantic.

By now it is the largest organisation of volunteers in the world.

Though never especially fashionable with the intelligentsia, for generations it has provided local businessmen with a place to meet on a weekly basis and try to make a difference, both at the local and international level - one of its most successful campaigns saw it lead the drive to stamp out polio from the planet.

In spite of this success, however, Rotary is now seeing its membership drop as its image has become shop-worn and society has changed around it, making it harder for people to make the kind of commitment in terms of time and effort that the organisation typically requires.

Rotary itself says it is facing a 'demographic time-bomb', as it struggles to attract younger members to local clubs where the majority of the members are typically much older than them.

In 'Wheels Coming off At The Rotary?' Allan Beswick travels to clubs around the country and finds there are significant efforts afoot to turn things around, with newer clubs springing up where formalities are more relaxed and the meetings more accommodating to a younger age-group with less time to offer.

He also visits the more traditional clubs where the members reluctantly recognise the need for things to move on, even if it means they are left to wither on the vine.

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The Rotary Club was established in Chicago in 1905 as a place where businessmen could meet, network and along the way put something back into the community.

Though there were originally just four members the idea spread across first America, and then the world at a phenomenal rate, so that by the 1920s the Rotary was as firmly established in British life as it was across the Atlantic.

By now it is the largest organisation of volunteers in the world.

Though never especially fashionable with the intelligentsia, for generations it has provided local businessmen with a place to meet on a weekly basis and try to make a difference, both at the local and international level - one of its most successful campaigns saw it lead the drive to stamp out polio from the planet.

In spite of this success, however, Rotary is now seeing its membership drop as its image has become shop-worn and society has changed around it, making it harder for people to make the kind of commitment in terms of time and effort that the organisation typically requires.

Rotary itself says it is facing a 'demographic time-bomb', as it struggles to attract younger members to local clubs where the majority of the members are typically much older than them.

In 'Wheels Coming off At The Rotary?' Allan Beswick travels to clubs around the country and finds there are significant efforts afoot to turn things around, with newer clubs springing up where formalities are more relaxed and the meetings more accommodating to a younger age-group with less time to offer.

He also visits the more traditional clubs where the members reluctantly recognise the need for things to move on, even if it means they are left to wither on the vine.

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The Rotary Club was established in Chicago in 1905 as a place where businessmen could meet, network and along the way, put something back into the community.

Though there were originally just four members, the idea spread across first America, and then the world at a phenomenal rate, so that by the 1920s the Rotary was as firmly established in British life as it was across the Atlantic.

By now it is the largest organisation of volunteers in the world.

Though never especially fashionable with the intelligentsia, for generations it has provided local businessmen with a place to meet on a weekly basis and try to make a difference, both at the local and international level - one of its most successful campaigns saw it lead the drive to stamp out polio from the planet.

In spite of this success, however, Rotary is now seeing its membership drop as its image has become shop-worn and society has changed around it, making it harder for people to make the kind of commitment in terms of time and effort that the organisation typically requires.

Rotary itself says it is facing a 'demographic time-bomb', as it struggles to attract younger members to local clubs where the majority of the members are typically much older than them.

In the two-part series 'Wheels Coming off At The Rotary?' Allan Beswick travels to clubs around the country and finds there are significant efforts afoot to turn things around, with newer clubs springing up where formalities are more relaxed and the meetings more accommodating to a younger age-group with less time to offer.

He also visits the more traditional clubs where the members reluctantly recognise the need for things to move on, even if it means they are left to wither on the vine.

How the Rotary Club is facing up to what it describes as a 'demographic time-bomb'.