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That "Classification" Thing

We do not talk about this in our club due to the fact that so many of our members are retired and “classification quota” does not apply to retired members. However, as Rotarians, it is something to be aware of. Our strategic plan had an inadvertent reference to a limitation of no more 10% of membership could be honorary members. This was intended to be in reference to classification of members not the distribution of membership between active and honorary members. This did initiate some discussion with the District and research in RI publications on what the 10% referred to and led to Board discussions about honorary memberships.


Why does Rotary have classifications? What are classifications supposed to represent? Who and what factors determine what classifications a club may have? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that arise regarding classifications, taken from the most authoritative, written sources available from Rotary International.

Why does Rotary have classifications?

Rotary uses a classification system to establish and maintain a vibrant cross-section or representation of the community's business, vocational, and professional interests among members and to develop a pool of resources and expertise to successfully implement service projects. This system is based on the founders' paradigm of choosing cross-representation of each business, profession, and institution within a community. A classification describes either the principal business or the professional service of the organization that the Rotarian works for or the Rotarian's own activity within the organization.

Does Rotary International maintain a list of classifications?

RI does not maintain a general list of classifications. Due to the ever-changing landscape of professional work and the unique commercial environments in which Rotary clubs are located, Rotary no longer keeps a standard list of classifications on file. Clubs are encouraged to create their own classification lists by using their local Yellow Pages, chambers of commerce, or other business directories. Classifications aren't rigid and can reflect the many different types of professions and positions that exist in industries. One example would be the classification of lawyer/barrister; this standard classification can be broken down into criminal law, tax law, or intellectual property law.

What are the occupational codes, and how do they differ from classifications?

Rotary International's occupational codes were created some years ago in the event that Rotary found reason to research the industries represented in its membership. These industries are also used when determining the makeup of RI committees. These broad industry titles should in no way be confused with classifications. Rotary International no longer tracks occupational codes.

Should a club deny membership to a transferring or former Rotary based on a classification limitation?

The classification of a transferring or former member of a club shall not preclude election to active membership even if the election results in club membership temporarily exceeding the classification limits.

What limitations, if any, exist on the election of a member to a classification that is already held by another member?

The club shall not elect a person to active membership from a classification if the club already has five or more members from that classification, unless the club has more than 50 members, in which case the club may elect a person to active membership in a classification so long as it will not result in the classification making up more than 10 percent of the club's active membership.

What classification does a retired person hold?

Retired persons inducted into active membership in a Rotary club shall use their former profession as their classification, but this will not be counted towards the club's limit of members in a single classification. Club classification rosters shall not include retired Rotarians.

Do Honorary Members hold classifications?

Honorary members do not hold classifications, but shall be entitled to attend all meetings and enjoy all the other privileges of the club.

How broadly are clubs encouraged to interpret classifications?

While adherence to the classification system is desirable, the Rotary International Board of Directors has agreed that each Rotary club should consider carefully the classification practice and broaden the interpretation of classifications where necessary to meet the modern business and professional environment.

What is a classification survey, and how can I find out what classifications are "open" in the club?

A systematically prepared list of classifications is the logical basis for club growth. RI does not maintain a general list of classifications. To identify relevant business and professional practices within a community, clubs are encouraged to conduct a thorough classification survey. Surveys act as a basis for developing and aggressively undertaking specific, ongoing plans for building and strengthening club membership in order to serve more effectively in all areas of activity. The classification committee of the club is responsible for developing and maintaining an up-to-date classification survey of the community in which the Rotary club is located. Clubs should maintain and use up-to-date classification surveys to develop and strengthen club membership by identifying and recruiting qualified members to classifications that are open. While the club's classification committee compiles the classification survey, it is the club's membership committee and board that reviews and determines the classification of all prospective members.

What should the classification survey and the membership of the club reflect?

A club should have in its membership a representative of every recognized business or professional activity in the community insofar as it is possible to obtain such representation in conformity with the principles laid down in the RI constitution, article 5 and the standard Rotary club constitution, article 6. Clubs are encouraged to review the demographics of an area to verify that all respective segments of the population are represented within its membership.


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