Want your Kiwanis club to grow and thrive? Learn from the largest Kiwanis club in the Capital District.

By Julie Saetre 

The Roanoke Kiwanis Club in Virginia, U.S., has served kids in its community for 102 years, and its membership roster is 150 — making it the largest Kiwanis club in the Capital District. Clearly, the club has found a formula for success.

Jeanne Bollendorf, the club’s 2022-23 vice president, shares what works for her club — and could be impactful for yours.

Be active and visible.
The Roanoke Kiwanis Club sponsors a Key Club in each of the area’s high schools, and it gives out US$50,000 in scholarships and grants each year with funds raised at its annual pancake breakfast in May. For its 100th anniversary, the club established a $400,000 accessible playground in an underserved neighborhood, and it is currently working on an adjacent nature park.

“We work really hard,” Bollendorf says. “I think one of the reasons that our club has so many members is because we have such an impact in our community. People can see it’s not just coming for lunch. We’re actually getting things done.”

Adapt to attract.
Roanoke club members recently completed a survey to determine how they should plan strategically for membership growth. One approach will focus on Gen-Xers.

“That group does very much want to see impact, immediate impact,” Bollendorf explains. “They want to know that what they’re doing is making a difference. They don’t want to go to a lot of meetings. So those are all things that we’re going to be really focused on.”

Create community connections.
“We partner with a lot of other community groups. I think that’s really important to the success of the club,” says Bollendorf. “We can plug ourselves into coalitions of other people. Then we’re all working together.”

Make meetings meaningful.
A focus on business minutiae can make members impatient. The Roanoke club avoids boredom, Bollendorf says, with robust weekly programs.

“As the vice president,” she adds, “it’s my responsibility to coordinate all the speakers for the year. So we have a committee of volunteers who bring in very engaging speakers.”

Foster a sense of belonging.
Some Roanoke members have participated in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training. And they add an extra element: belonging.

“For the past few years, we’ve had a big focus on making sure our club is a welcoming place for everyone so that the process is more holistic and organic — just making sure that people know that they are welcome in our club and that they can belong in our club,” Bollendorf says. “We work hard to bring in members who represent lots of different areas.”