Update on Dare to Dream Polio Documentary Project

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It’s been some time since I updated you on the progress of the Dare to Dream polio documentary.  It is a story that takes place from 1978 to 1988, and sets the stage for what we think of as Rotary’s Polio Plus campaign.  We are now well into our shooting schedule and have had the opportunity, and the privilege, of interviewing Past RI Presidents, Clem Renouf and Cliff Dochterman, who were instrumental in forming the first 3H Committee that laid the foundation for Rotary’s polio eradication efforts, and Dr. John Sever, who was deeply involved in helping Rotary choose polio eradication as a priority project and remains a leader in our polio eradication efforts today.

I call these men our living “Founding Fathers” of Rotary International’s polio story.  That they can still tell the story first-hand is a gift for all of us since many of our great leaders from that period of Rotary history have now passed away.  And believe me, they are GREAT story-tellers!  We interviewed each of them for about two hours and they gave us a first hand glimpse into the first steps of what is one of the most important, and historic, public health partnerships ever created.

Here is just a quick teaser of 95 year-old Past RI President, Clem Renouf,  interviewed at his home in Australia.  You can see the gleam in his eyes as he talks about overcoming challenges.

Here’s a short clip of Dr. John Sever,  talking about how we need to continually remind ourselves that polio is a terrible disease.

And finally, here’s a clip of one of Rotary’s great all-time story-tellers, 90 year-old Past RI President, and original 3H member, Cliff Dochterman.  We filmed Cliff at his home in California.  My DG class had the opportunity to see Cliff give his famous “DG is like conducting an orchestra” speech at the International Assembly in San Diego.  His interview for Dare to Dream was awesome.

Now that we have our “stars” on film, our next step is to “fill in” the details of the story.  It turns out the story isn’t just about Rotary.  It’s also about public health policy and the history of how an NGO could partner with governments and public health organizations to change how health care is delivered around the world.  What’s great for us is that Rotary’s actual history with polio eradication is full of drama, suspense, and yes….humor (if you think being tossed out of your own seminar about social mobilization and oral polio vaccine in Geneva is hilarious.)  As we continue the research for the documentary, we continue to grow more enthusiastic that we have a great yarn to spin.

If all goes as planned, the production will feature Rotary’s two foremost historians on the subject of polio eradication, Sarah Gibbard Cook, author of Rotary and the Gift of a Polio Free World, and David Forward, author of Doing Good in the World, the Inspiring Story of the Rotary Foundation’s First One Hundred Years.  We also will be interviewing Dr. Stephen Cocci, Senior Advisor, Global Immunization Division of the CDC, and Dr. Bruce Aylward, former Director of the WHO. Finally, we have some formidable past and current Rotary leaders scheduled to be interviewed, including Past RI Director and Polio Plus Chair, Bob Scott, and current Chair of Rotary’s Polio Plus Committee, Mike McGovern.

What’s left?  Well….we are still trying to raise the money we need to honor the financial commitments we’ve made to the folks who are actually producing Dare to Dream.  PLEASE go to www.DaretoDreamfilm.com and click in the upper right corner to make a donation. Oddly, we have several large donors to the project, but comparably few Rotarians who made a small, tax deductible donation.  I know a lot of Rotarians who’ve told me they want to support this documentary.  Why not go to the website and make a small contribution today?

And while your at it, why not go to www.Rotary.org and make a small contribution to Polio Plus?

We are going to distribute this film to Rotarians worldwide.  I hope you will consider a small donation so we can tell this amazing Rotary story.

How to Properly Follow-Up Your Membership Events

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I often find myself pondering the many ways in which Rotarians seem to ignore the most basic and fundamental rules followed by virtually all successful businesses.  I can’t tell you why this occurs on such a routine basis, I only know that it does.  Today’s rant is about one of most persistent failures of sales and marketing common sense that I see over and over again in my Rotary travels.  It has to do with following up a membership event.

Rotarians are pretty good at planning events, and membership events are no exception.  I’m often asked to speak at these events, which take the form of “new member meetings,” “open happy hours,” or a “new member social.”  You know what I mean.  Members bring guests to a “safe” environment where they will be introduced to Rotary on very positive terms.  They will hear from Rotary speakers about our unique value proposition, they will enjoy some fellowship and good cheer, and they will learn about a club’s commitment to community service.  We do a pretty good job at these events, at least in my opinion.  There are a lot of positive vibes by the end of the evening. Whey then, do Rotarians often feel so betrayed when so few attendees actually join their club after the event?

Don’t believe me?  Here is a quick video of Shelley Yore, a recent attendee at a Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent membership event.  Could anyone sound more positive about Rotary than Shelley?  Do you think she will actually join the club?  

The answer almost always lies in the details of what happens, or more accurately, doesn’t happen, after the event.  Because when asked about the  follow-up to a membership event, too often the answer is very casual.  Let’s just say, we could do a lot better.  Lets walk through the basics of what to do, and what not to do, after your next membership event so that you can improve the number of attendees that eventually join your club.  Remember, the goal isn’t to have a wonderful event.  The goal is to increase membership!

1.  Get the contact information for every attendee.  It is not hard to get this information from people who are typically eating and drinking on your nickel.  A simple spreadsheet of names and email addresses is the very basic minimum.  Just put a sign-up sheet by the door when they enter the event venue AND have someone there to make sure they sign in. (NOTE:  Have the person asking guests to sign in give out the free drink tickets.)  If you don’t have the contact information of your guests by the end of your membership event, then you’ve simply wasted your time.  I repeat.  If you don’t have the contact information for every guest who attends then you will only close the lowest hanging fruit of prospects who attend.

2.  Enter the guest information into a simple database.  Nowadays virtually everyone has access to simple and inexpensive contact management software.  If you are serious about SYSTEMATICALLY adding members to your club, at a minimum add the prospect’s classification information and the potential sponsoring member’s information to the data base.  Lacking a database, at least add a few columns to your spreadsheet and add the information there.

3.  Figure out what you are offering your prospective new member(s) as a follow up to your event.  Are you asking them to join you at the next club social – which is preplanned and has a date already reserved?  Do you want them to visit your website?  OK.  Do you want them to visit the club this week?  Next week?  When?  How about joining you at your next service event?  Again – the event should already be planned with a date already set.  This offer constitutes your first “close” with the prospect.  Make it clear to everyone in the club that this (whatever “it” is) is the action step you are going to to use to quantify the success of your event.  NOTE:  Closing for membership is OK at your membership event, but some would worry you were being a little pushy.  Just keep this in mind, at SOME POINT you are going to close your prospect to join the club.  I wouldn’t recommend more than two action steps before closing.  If you don’t ask, then don’t expect them to join.

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4.  Follow up with your guests IMMEDIATELY after your event with a thank you message.  IMMEDIATELY after the event.  Not two weeks, four weeks, two months, or six months.  IMMEDIATELY.  A simple email thanking them for coming to your event and expressing how much you enjoyed meeting them and introducing them to your club is fine.  Pitch your next step, whatever it is.  Consider hand writing the note on Rotary stationary.  Aren’t you impressed when someone takes the time to do that in a note to you?

5.  Keep track of every prospect.  Make certain that the Rotarians who invited guests are held personally accountable for the follow up and get the results into your spreadsheet or database.  If you have ten guests come to a membership event, and only one or two take the next step in your closing process, then your membership committee (you have one…right?)  must IMMEDIATELY discuss what it is about your Rotary product that isn’t selling.  When guests seem to have a great time at an introductory event, but then fail to close as a solid prospective new member, something might be wrong.  I would guess a solid closing ratio is something like 50% of guests moving to the next step of your process.

6.  Make sure you keep track of those guests at an event that CAN’T come to your follow up event.  People have all kinds of valid excuses for not being able to pursue Rotary at this time.  Put them on a separate mailing list and continue to send them the club’s newsletter, interesting RI blogs, or interesting community news.  You can steal fantastic articles of interest from the Rotarian magazine.  Make sure this group is invited to EVERY membership event you hold thereafter, until they tell you to take them off of your mailing list.  Every once in awhile have their prospective sponsor give them a call just to check in.  If nothing else, invite them to your fundraiser, to buy raffle tickets, or whatever else you are pitching to raise money for your projects.

7.  Figure out the path from initial membership event, to next step closing event (whatever it is) to asking the prospective member to join the club.  Who will do the ask?  When will they do it?  Should it be just one person or should the membership chair join the sponsoring member?  Should the ask be done over breakfast or lunch?  After the meeting?

Believe me.  There isn’t one successful sales professional on this planet who doesn’t regard every single qualified prospect as a very valuable asset.  Sales pros live and breathe to close these prospects.  Nothing is more important to them.  Getting prospects to show up at an event is a MARKETING issue.  But closing prospects after an event is a SALES issue.

When you can say –  before you hold your membership event –  who is going to attend, how you are going to track who they are, what you are going to ask them to do, when you are going to ask them to do it, how you are going to ask them, what percentage you expect to say yes, and who is responsible for the asking, THEN you are ready to pull the trigger on your membership event.  Follow these rules and your close ratio is going to skyrocket!

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OH..and if you follow all of the rules and prospective members are taking a close look at your Rotary club but still aren’t joining, then it’s time for you to take a hard look at your Rotary club.  Maybe you have a little work to do to make your club’s value proposition more interesting to prospective new members.

10 Steps to a New Rotary Club with 100 Members in Just Four Months

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Rotary’s leadership has clearly asked us (begged us?) to be creative in structuring the Rotary experience so it will be relevant to a new generation of Rotarians.  Since creativity isn’t necessarily one of our organization’s strongest points, I thought I would pass along a few ideas about this subject.  NOTE:  I want to give a special shout-out to Rotarian Clarissa Harris and the District 7620 Young Professional team.  Many of the ideas below are theirs, although I am admittedly going to take things to another level.  It’s OK.  They think I’m a lunatic anyway.  Since they have already completed steps One through Seven below, I KNOW you can do it too.

Step One:  Agree that this new, vibrant club is to populated by members of all ages, sexes, religions, etc., etc.  However, we are going to build the club from the bottom up to be attractive to young professionals.   Agree that your target market of young professionals is age 25 – 40, time constrained, obsessed with their careers, don’t have a lot of discretionary money, possibly new parents, possibly new home owners, highly educated, interested in community service, globally oriented.

Step Two:  Go to the local four-year university and meet with the alumni director.  Offer to do a joint project where they offer their alumni a chance to be involved with a great networking event that features the university as co-host, held on campus, with a service project to improve the neighboring community, in exchange for Rotary picking up any cost for the event (other than space), co-promoting, organizing, and managing the event. HINT: Canvas local Rotary clubs near the college or university to find Rotarians with contacts at the school.  This is pretty easy.  Even if you don’t have an “in,” alumni staff are typically young(ish) and looking for these kind of events.  Another HINT:  The key is the mailing list.  If you can’t do this with an alumni association, find another group with an interesting list to partner with.

Step Three:  Find three or four sponsors that want to promote their business as being community-oriented, focused on young people and community service, where the sponsor gets to be a speaker about service-issues on an education panel about careers and service.  Figure each sponsor is asked for $1,000 to $2,500 so you have a budget of $5,000 to $10,000 for the event.  Once the local college or university is on board, finding sponsors will be relatively easy.   “In-kind” donations will also be available if you put together a good event plan.

 

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Step Four:  Create an agenda for your event that includes a panel discussion about why community service will help your career.  Have the speakers focus on that subject, both as community servants themselves, and potentially as employers (if your sponsor is a business owner.)  Have the University President, or perhaps the Alumni Director, be a speaker.  The panel discussion is a great way to invite questions from the audience.  YP’s want to be engaged while learning.  Then, after box lunches purchased at a big discount with sponsor money, create a service event that allows young folks to get busy with a hands-on project.  Finally, the day ends with drinks at the bar….er….paid for again by sponsor money.

Step Five:  Market the event through the alumni association.  Use their mailing list to create an edgy ad that reads something like this:

LOOKING FOR TIME CONSTRAINED, CAREER-ORIENTED, COMMUNITY-SERVICE MINDED, YOUNG PROFESSIONALS, WHO WANT TO GROW THEIR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK WITHOUT WASTING MONEY ON EXPENSIVE LEADS GROUPS.  (Find an image on Google or elsewhere that show a harried looking young professional in need of help.)

Join us for a spirited discussion about how to build networks, find mentors, and serve your community at the same time.  And help to clean up the “XYZ Park”, and have a few drinks on us, while your at it.  Followed by link to web site landing page.

OR – just let the Alumni Association come up with the ad.

Step Six:  Figure on having 50 – 150 responses to your mail if the mailing list has 2,000 or more contacts.  Ask the DG to distribute this ad to local clubs to distribute to their networks.  Have your local young professional committee put the ad on social media. Figure 6 or 7 out of 10 people who RSVP’d will actually show up at your event.

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Step Seven:  Have a great event.  Make sure to have excellent handouts about Rotary and make sure to get the contact information of the guests who post for the event.  Let them know you will be following up.

Step Eight:  IMMEDIATELY follow up after the event with all attendees and with the other prospects who didn’t attend.  Have your committee preschedule a second service project within eight weeks of the first project.  Also schedule a purely social “networking event” within four weeks of the first event held on campus.  Announce these upcoming events at the first event.  At subsequent networking events, meet at any local bar or restaurant that has parking to accommodate a large crowd of YP’s who are used to sharing business cards while having a few cocktails.  BE SURE to ask everyone on the list to share these event announcements on their social networks.

Step Nine:  After three months you will have shared the experience of at least two service projects and one networking event.  Now its back to a venue for another (your second) networking event, AND a pitch to join Rotary.  Here are a few key structural points for the new club.

A.  The new club does NOT have meetings.  The new club has networking events.  Specifically, you meet twice a month for networking events.  No bell.  No pledge.  At some point the members have to figure out how to have a short business meeting take place in a bar setting.  They will figure it out.  Committee work will be done elsewhere.

B.  The new club does as many service projects as the members want to do.  They are unlimited in terms of how often they do these projects and how they can help the local and international community.  “Hands on” service is clearly understood to be different from “fundraising events.”  Contributions to the Rotary Foundation are funded by fundraising events and members are not expected to fund TRF out of their pocket unless they can afford it.  Of course, older members are expected to be leaders in this regard and step up to higher personal levels of giving.

C.  Members pay RI dues and District dues.  Other than that, maybe they chip in $40 a year to send the club president to training and that kind of stuff.  Figure the total annual cost of membership to be about $200 per year. This is probably $300 – $600 LESS than YPs are already paying for unproductive networking groups that their business coach told them to join.

D.  Make sure to have the proper membership paperwork available at the meeting and of course, online.   Follow up IMMEDIATELY with everyone on the list – PERSONALLY – to ask them to join.

Step Ten:  Make sure everyone knows that the objective is to expand the club’s network to include older members who will be able to help mentor YPs and help them build business and non-business networks in the community.  Twice a month the networking crowd should be getting OLDER.   Members should also be encouraged to visit other local clubs to build their Rotary networks.  Will older professionals want to join this networking group and do community service alongside energetic, idealistic, committed, and enthusiastic younger professionals who want to learn about life and business from them?  You bet they will!!!

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I suspect YPs will grasp the basics of this plan better than I do, because I stole many of the ideas from them in the first place and they know the networking technology like the back of their hand.  Remember, Rotary benefits include 1) business development, 2) community service, and 3) fellowship.  YP’s are probably most attracted to numbers 1 and 2.   Older folks are more attracted to numbers 2 & 3.  Target the benefits you offer to the demographic you are targeting.

And there you go.  10 steps to 100 new Rotarians in four months from your first event. They think of Rotary as networking events and community service.  Maybe you will screw this up and it will take six months instead of just four.  You can do it!

 

 

Is Rotary a Franchise Operation? A Random Conversation at the Zone Institute

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RI President-Elect, Ian Riseley, who is an accountant by trade but a great guy anyway!

Just back from the Zone 33-34 2016 Institute where I had the opportunity to listen in and participate in a conversation between a Past District Governor and a Past RI Director. The two are long-time friends and the conversation took place at the lobby bar after everyone had attended their class dinner. I mention this because (in my case) enough alcohol was imbibed to lower inhibitions and keep the opinions flowing. Conversations like these are the reason I love showing up to Zone meetings in the first place. Where else do you get to hang out with Rotary wonks like these guys?

Since you couldn’t be there, I thought I would share my greatly condensed version of the ideas flowing around the table. I didn’t have a tape recorder running but I think I can pass along the gist of the conversation.  If it seems like the participants were  rambling and talking in circles, that’s because they were.

NOTE: In a typical business franchise the franchisor signs a contract with the franchisee that dictates how the business will run in great detail. The franchisee pays a fee to own a franchise to the franchisor. In exchange for these constraints, the franchisee often benefits from lower costs, business consulting, and regional and national advertising. Perhaps most importantly, they benefit from the franchisor’s brand recognition.

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Rotarian A: No way Rotary is a franchise. Rotary clubs are completely different and Rotary International can’t make them do just about anything according to our bylaws. Clubs are independent entities and celebrate their ability to do things their own way.

Rotarian B: Oh really? Then why do we have a constitution and a manual of procedure and why does the COL meet every three years? And why do you think Rotary wants clubs to win the presidential citation? Rotary is trying to institute a certain set of standards that define a “vibrant club.” If every club is doing the activities required to earn the citation then our organization begins to look and smell like a franchise operation.

Rotarian A: I’m not sure that checking the boxes on the presidential citation makes a club vibrant. Do the Rotarians in each club really care about the citation standards? I don’t even know if my own club has won an award in the past few years. If a Rotary club is “doing its own thing” and is happy with their Rotary experience, then they are a vibrant club by the only standard that matters, which is their own.

Me: This reminds me of discussions about good parenting. Do good parents reward the child that tries the hardest but gets a C, or do you reward the child that gets an A, even though it comes easy to them? You seem to be suggesting that effort counts and RI can’t check a box for effort on an online application process.

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RI Director Zone’s 33-34, 2016-18, and another all around good guy, Joe Mulkerrin

Rotarian B: Absolutely not. You reward the “A.” But using data that is collected online is terrible because you can’t tell which clubs are earning the “A.” The data stinks. It was much better when DG’s could simply tell RI which clubs should win based on their knowledge of what a club is doing. Now DG’s are totally out of the loop. DG’s should be able to add their own judgment when RI evaluates whether a club is eligible to win.

Rotarian A: If we really understand that Rotary is a member-driven organization, we will encourage and reward Rotary clubs for being happy with themselves. Where is the award for being the happiest or the most fun? And what if a club is satisfied but it doesn’t fit RI’s thinking about what is vibrant? I realize Rotary wants clubs to improve, but according to whose definition of improvement? RI Presidents change the citation every year.

Me: But if you could operate Rotary like a franchise, then you would have a better shot at defining our brand experience. Once consumers of “Rotary” get a uniform product experience, we could do a much better job of marketing Rotary. As it is, what are we selling? The customer experience for Rotary is a complete mess…you just don’t know what you are going to get when you walk in the door of any particular club meeting.

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RI Trustee, Barry Rassin, reporting on the healthy state of the Rotary Foundation.

Rotarian A: What you get is a group of dedicated people doing community service and having a good time. The Rotary communications and PR team did a good job with describing us as Community Leaders, Exchanging Ideas, and Taking Action, don’t you think?

Rotarian B: Yes, but the clubs aren’t all on the same page. Wouldn’t it be better to have a group of clubs that are striving to achieve the goals set forth in the presidential citation? More foundation giving. More members. More diversity. More PR. If every club is striving to win the citation then we would have a much stronger brand identity…by definition.

Me: I joined AMWAY when I was in college. But I was introduced to the business by David Taylor, the starting left offensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts. I guarantee you that walking past Taylors’ trophy room on the way to our AMWAY meeting had a huge impact on my perception of the AMWAY brand. A pro athlete selling AMWAY? Really? Of course, the last people you would ever want to sell you laundry detergent are a bunch of college males who do their laundry once a month… but that’s another story. (laughter) My point is, what do consumers see when they attend different Rotary club meetings? Without any control from the franchisor, in many communities folks who are interested in Rotary learn about our brand by visiting clubs that could be a lot better.

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Rotarian A: I’ve talked about the same thing but I use Starbucks as my example of a successful franchise and one of the most successful brands. How do people feel about themselves when they pay up to drink Starbucks coffee? It may be just a cup of coffee but it’s branding genius. Rotarians need to think the same way. What is the experience we offer when you join a Rotary club? If the current members are happy with the experience, then do the standards set in the presidential citation matter at all?

Rotarian B: You are too much of a contrarian thinker! (laughter) The citation isn’t for the members and it isn’t really for the public. It IS for club presidents. If a club president wants his club to earn the citation then he or she can get it done. It isn’t THAT hard to win. An awarding winning club best represents our brand in any community around the world.

Me: Rotary really needs to understand that PR is just a subsection of sales and marketing. We need clubs to have a marketing chair, not just a public image chair.  If it’s true that club members and the public don’t know that clubs are winning this award, then that’s a marketing catastrophe. We have to get Rotarians to understand the power of this new brand identity.

Rotarian A:  And with that, gentlemen, it’s time for bed.

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(L) Geetha Jayram, one of District 7620’s two Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award winners.

(R)  Marni Nixon, Coordinator of Club and District Support for the Americas, absolutely radiant at the idea of not having to deal with me anymore.

 

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Rotary Coordinator, Chris Jones, desperately trying to help us have stronger Rotary Clubs.

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(L) RI President-Elect Ian Riseley, (R) Marni Nixon, still thrilled that she doesn’t have to work with me anymore.

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(L) Past RI Director, John Smarge, 2010-12.   (R) RI Director-Elect David Stovall, with PDG’s Cyndi and Peter Doragh.

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(L) Previous boss, Charlene Hall, who encouraged me to write this blog post, with some guy named Robert who hangs out with her.  (R)  Another picture of the current boss of the Zone surrounded by flags and colorful banners.

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RI President-Elect Ian Riseley with ANOTHER District 7620 Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award Winner, Peter Kyle.  (Just sayin)  Peter purchased the alcoholic beverages mentioned in this blog.  Thanks, Peter.

 

 

If You Build a Terrific Young Professional Recruiting Event….Will They Come?

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“If you build it, they will come.”  Kevin Costner’s character in the movie, Field of Dreams, hears a mysterious voice with this message while walking in his corn field in Iowa.  “Build it” refers to building a baseball diamond, and as James Earl Jones says in this iconic clip, if Ray Kinsella (Costner) builds the field, fans will come to watch the game. This is a three minute clip so skip it if you like, but this is truly one of the great scenes in a great baseball movie.

Anyone who knows anything about the business of major league baseball knows that baseball is wrestling with developing its next generation of fans.  And while James Earl Jones speaks poetically about the timeless and somewhat old fashioned virtues of baseball, the sport is in a lot of trouble if they can’t market a better value proposition to a younger demographic.  Rotary has much the same problem.  We need to get serious about how to position Rotary as a great value for young professionals.

Which brings me (blessedly) to the subject of this post, which is share with you a creative event for recruiting young professionals to Rotary.  Past President of the Dupont Circle Rotary Club, and well-known expert in recruiting young professionals, Clarissa Harris, and the District 7620 YP team, including Nomie Hamid, Katie Blyth,  Tiffany Nesfield, and Justin Saltzman, are out to change the paradigm for how to recruit Next Gen Rotarians.  Here’s the secret….they are not promoting a Rotary membership event.  Instead they are “selling” YPs on how community service can help jumpstart their career.  That’s right.  It turns out that YP’s are looking for opportunities to build their network, be mentored, and practice leadership skills. And yes, they are very interested in doing “hands on” community service.  NOTE:  This does not mean selling tickets to fundraisers.  Just sayin.

The event is called, Generation Lead.  To be held on Saturday, September 17th, the agenda is a clever mix of information about leadership development in the morning and a service project in the afternoon.  They have created a professional and informative website at www.serviceconnectsucceed.org. Please go there immediately to steal….er…..get the details.  Here’s how the day goes:  Participants do some basic warm-up networking and then participate in an interactive leadership workshop run by Sarah Alexander with the University of Md.’s Office of Community Engagement.  Next is a panel discussion with John Hill, CEO of Pinnacle Advisory Group, Kristin Post, former Peace Fellow and researcher at the Marine Corps Culture Training Center, and Sarah Alexander, discussing how community service has an impact on who they hire, how community engagement impacts how they view their employees, and how community service has impacted their personal career development.

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YP guru Clarissa Harris.  

After the morning sessions on professional development, the YP’s are off to an interesting service project where they will be planting more than 5,000 bee friendly plants to support three new swarms of bees.  The mix of hands on service and high quality information about professional development will clearly illustrate the unique value proposition of Rotary.

The economics of this event can be replicated by any club or District with an interest, although this particular event is funded by an RI grant.  (You can substitute corporate sponsors for the RI grant and pull off a similar event.)  They key is for sponsors to realize that they can have their company associated with a valuable demographic (YP’s) and also be seen by potential customers and current clients as supporting youth and community service….a powerful combination.  In this case the District 7620 YP team found a powerful partner in the University of Maryland, who generously donated the space for the event on campus as well as busses to transport participants from the morning session to the afternoon service project.  Perhaps more importantly, U of Md. is marketing the event to the U. of Md. Alumni Association’s Young Professional Group.

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What about Rotary involvement?  The YP team is directly emailing to Rotary Alumni.  (Yes, the data on that list is a little sketchy.)  Additionally, each club in the District is invited to send up to five YP’s to the event.  Each participant will be strongly encouraged to visit their sponsoring Rotary club after the Generation Lead event.   Rotary clubs are also asked to provide volunteers for the day to serve as potential mentors to participants, further demonstrating the value of Rotary as a career building move for YPs.  7620 DG, Anna Mae Kobbe, has written several times to her Club Presidents asking them to participate, and now the YP committee has committed to making follow-up calls to certain clubs making certain that they get the message.

Current attendance is 100+.  The goal is 200+.  Clarissa and her team have built an extraordinary opportunity for Rotary Clubs to reach out to their local business community and invite young professionals to attend a free event.  Generation Lead would benefit any business owner interested in furthering the development of their young professional employees.  Why wouldn’t they send them to a free seminar sponsored by Rotary?

Another question might be, why isn’t the event sold out already?  (By the way, having 100 registered two weeks prior to an event is somewhat short of amazing considering this is Rotary after all.)   Here are a few obstacles to be overcome:

Rotary Club Presidents are now focused on their own agenda as its still very early in their year.

Rotary Club Presidents are getting bombarded with a variety of messages from their DG and from RI and this is just another thing on the list.

For this to work best, Rotarians should be reaching out to the local business community to find YP attendees.  Rotary clubs ain’t so good at the “reaching out” part.

Many Rotary clubs don’t recognize the need to get younger.  They are fine talking to each other about the grandkids every week.

Rotary clubs think they should be sending their own YPs to this event, as opposed to PROSPECTIVE YPs to this event.  If they don’t currently have YP members they think this event doesn’t apply to them.

Well….they apparently built a baseball field in an Iowa corn field and people came to watch baseball played by ghosts.  Now the question is, “If you build a fantastic recruiting event so that Rotary clubs can get younger, will they come?

Let’s hope so!

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Proper Rotary Bagel Etiquette

 

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I have been besieged with thousands of inquiries about what I’ve been doing in my new role of Immediate Past District Governor.  (Perhaps the actual number of inquiries is zero but my therapist says I specialize in self-delusion and the thought of thousands of inquiries makes me feel better.)  It has been several weeks since my last post so it is time to bring you, my faithful RFA readers, up to speed with RFA’s most recent insights into the world of Rotary.   Having missed my self-imposed deadline to bring you world peace by the end of this past Rotary year, today I’m breaking a very important story about bagel etiquette at the Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent. (ColPax)

First some background.  Like many Rotary clubs, Col Pax is deeply engaged in finding new and innovative ways to make the club more attractive for the next generation of Rotarians. On the list, of course, is to explore ways of reducing cost.  And one of those options was to serve a continental breakfast instead of a hot breakfast in an effort to save money.  One of the popular items on the breakfast buffet is bagels with the obligatory lox and cream cheese.  The problem being that waiting for those connoisseurs who enjoy toasted bagels created a long line at the breakfast buffet.  My job as your RFA reporter? To get to the bottom of what is or is not acceptable in terms of bagel toasting behavior.

Here’s long-time club members, and Area Governor, Charlie McCabe, giving his view on the subject.  (Note the cameo by DGE, Greg Wims, as he slides by on his way to get his bagel toasted.  There was no way Greg was getting caught on camera discussing this issue.)

To give you some idea of how quickly Rotarians try to deflect responsibility for a problem to someone else, here’s another long-time Rotarian, and former District 7620 Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin, pointing the finger at Anne London, the club’s Community Service Chair, for a bagel toasting violation.  Note how gracefully Anne passes the blame on to some other nameless Rotarian.  In case you missed it, the revelation here is that is seems to be unacceptable to put your bagel in the toaster BEFORE the meeting starts.

In the next clip, Rotarian (and my dentist), Walt Mazzella, freely admits to leaving his bagel to toast while leaving the area to kibbutz with Rotarian Mark Stoner.  NOTE:  I’ve made it a practice to be very careful about what I say in print about anyone who puts sharp metal objects in my mouth that have the potential to cause me pain.  Mark Stoner , on the other hand, is the club’s President-Elect and is smart enough not to weigh in on this particular controversy.  I personally thought his response showed a lack of courage (or some other peculiarly male part of the anatomy), but it is the political season and club PE’s around the world are being careful with what they say about just about everything.  Interestingly, they are already experiencing the phenomenon of Rotarians not returning their phone calls.

It is ironic that the ColPax Board of Directors has now discontinued continental breakfasts, no doubt due to the extreme tension and conflict caused by bagel etiquette violations.  Or because they have other more effective means of lowering club costs, although I can’t be sure.  And it is interesting that the ColPax Club, under the direction of Mark Stoner and Club President, Alan Jefferson,  recently raised $10,000 for the Summer Enrichment Program which benefits kids in the Head Start Program here in Howard County, Md., with a new and innovative fundraiser, and I thought it was more worthwhile to write about the club’s bagel etiquette.

All of which is my long-winded way of answering the question about what Immediate Past District Governors do.  We reengage with our home Rotary clubs and begin to cause real problems based on imagined issues.  What fun!

Stay tuned for more hard-hitting journalism from your RFA correspondent.

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What I Won’t Miss Now That My Term is Over

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7620 DG Anna Mae Kobbe and First Gentlemen, Doug Newell.

The past few weeks have not been profitable for the “smart money.”  First, the Brexit vote was horribly miscalculated by bookies who had the “stay” vote the heavy favorite. Pandemonium ensued.  Your RFA correspondent can now report that the bookies lost even more as the “over and under” bet on Yours Truly making it all the way until the end of his term was just as lopsided.  For Rotarians willing to bet against the odds, BIG MONEY was made when we peacefully transferred power to new District Governor, Anna Mae Kobbe, on July 1rst.   I won’t miss the Vegas crowd…that’s for sure.

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The Vegas smart money crowd tries to cover their bets.

Another group that I will not miss is the District Governor’s secret service detail.  You may not know that Rotary provides a security detail to provide for the protection and safety of Rotary’s biggest  power brokers, namely District Governors.  Rarely seen, but incredibly effective, the Rotary secret service does not like it when the entire District leadership team is in one room at the same time. (For obvious reasons.)  I can now reveal just how stressful it was for Linda and I to put up with these guys for the entire year.   I’m looking forward to going out to dinner without the stupid dogs sniffing for explosives prior to my arrival.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have to admit I will mess flying in Rotary One.

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Rotary One hovers in the background prior to one of my club visits last year.

There is one other group that I won’t miss as I pass the District’s leadership baton to Anna Mae, and that is the paparazzi.  While Rotary’s secret servants are annoying, the paparazzi that followed me around all year were downright rude.  If I would have known how intrusive they would be as they tried to photograph every aspect of my personal and professional life, I wouldn’t have accepted the gigantic groundswell of support and adoration that forced me to me accept the DG nomination last year.  Good riddance to all photographers.  Hey pal, If you want a picture of me going forward, you will have to see my agent!  Oh…and no more requests for autographs….please.

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What WILL I miss?  I will miss helping  Rotary clubs achieve their goals as DG.  I will miss the seemingly unending goodwill of Rotarians everywhere who seemed so appreciative of the time and effort it takes to do the job.  I will miss representing RI President Ravi Ravindran, who’s theme for the year, “Be a Gift to the World,” was a gift to the rest of us.  As was his choice of class tie.  (Just sayin)  I will miss working with the leadership team in my District. I will also miss working with my Club Presidents.  As the year progressed it was impossible not to be impressed by the collective good that is done by our Rotary clubs.  I will also miss working with our Area Governors.  They made me look good, which was quite a feat.  And of course, I’m grateful to our District 7620 Rotarians.  They do all the work and they do it because they truly want to make a positive difference in the world.

What’s left for me, now?  Well first, its time to collect on my Rotary stock options.  On July 1 my options on Rotary’s stock, symbol BGIFT, vested.  BINGO!  Next I have to speak with my Rotary agent about my upcoming worldwide speaking tour.  (sigh)

Here’s a few photos from Anna Mae’s big night.  Enjoy!

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What a fantastic Leadership Team.  From Left:  DGE Greg Wims, DG Anna Mae, and DGN Rich Glover.
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Past DG’s from Left front, Raj Saini, Bette Lewis, Anna Mae, Pat Kasuda, Bob Hanson.  Top Left: Bill Fine, Bob Grill, Andy Baum, Claude Morissette, Ken Solow, Bob Parkinson, Ray Streib, Jay Kumar, Peter Kyle.
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Immediate Past First Lady, Linda, affixing a well-earned Past DG pin.
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Award Winning Columbia Patuxent Club President, Laurie Reuben, gets a IPDG hug.
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DG Anna Mae finally collects her much coveted margarita machine.
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PR Chair, Dawn Wittfelt, and Awards Chair, Larry Leahy, scheming on how to get 26 awards delivered in 30 minutes.
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Three of my Rotary mentors, from Left:  PDG’s Bill Fine, Andy Baum, and Peter Kyle.
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Can you see whose name sits atop this leadership org chart?  That’s right!  District Secretary Sherry Whitworth,

 

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An Amazing International Conference in Seoul Korea

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Yours truly clowning around at Gyeongbokgung Palace

I took more than 500 pictures during my trip with District 7620 First Lady, Linda, to Japan and then to Korea for the International Conference.  Because the pictures are incredible I thought I would cherry pick 20 or so to share with you and try to give you a little flavor of what its like at an International Conference.  RI President Ravi didn’t have the final numbers, but thought this might be the biggest ever International Conference with 45,000 or more attendees.  The biggest news from the Conference?  Be prepared to take advantage of the biggest single PR and membership windfall in Rotary history next year as Rotary begins to string together a number of polio-free months.  Enjoy the rest of the pictures!

The scale of the plenary sessions and opening and closing sessions was massive.

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Colorful outfits were everywhere.  Korean performers taking a break.

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I just wanted another excuse to try to spell Gyeongbokgung Palace.  The weather was beautiful all week.

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A Shinto shrine in downtown.  The colors were amazing.  The culture is amazing.
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I had a hard time choosing the right skyline shot.  This is just a small view from Seoul Tower.  Seoul impressed everyone as being gigantic, clean, modern, efficient.  The whole package.  The people were incredibly friendly.  If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly recommend it.

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Korean barbecue is as good as advertised.  Kimchi, a popular Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables?  Not so much.  Can I have a side of fries, please?

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We stayed in the Gangnam section of Seoul, which is in the Southeast section of the city.  Just about everyone seemed to have a one hour or more bus ride to the Kintex center.  Gangnam is the young, hip, place to be in Seoul.  I fit right in.

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Current You Tube star  Psy is a cultural icon in Korea and probably its biggest star.  His song, Gangnam Style is famous worldwide.  His performance at the closing ceremony was sensational.  Turns out his grandfather and father were Rotarians!  

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The House of Friendship was always packed.  Here is a random shot of some serious shopping going on.

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The Kintex Center is actually not in Seoul, but west of Seoul in Goyang City.  Here I am at the rose festival, just two short stops away on the Kintex shuttle.  

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The Rotary Host Operating Committee did an outstanding job.  Everywhere you traveled there were signs like this welcoming Rotarians to the Conference.  This was at the flower festival in Goyang City.

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Arch Klumph?  Anyone ever heard of Arch Klumph?  I think he must live in Atlanta, Georgia.

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For all of my snobby, craft beer drinking friends, you should know that I LOVED Korean (and Japanese) beer.  Crisp and light.  Just like Coor’s Lite!

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Early in the morning before the crowds came pouring in.  The place is just gigantic.

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Ditto

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Rotary Club of College Park, Md., Rotarian, Chris Puttock, with soon to be former Zone 33 RPIC, Sue Poss, hanging around the House of Friendship.  Sue doesn’t know it but she is about to win a free Samsung tablet from LG.  Guess what?  So did I!

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More ancient mixed with the modern.

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The Koreans are nutty about baseball.  But imagine my surprise when we arrived at the airport and the Orioles game was playing on a giant screen at the departure gate.  Turns out that Hyun Soo Kim, a lifetime .318 hitter over 10 seasons in Korea, is currently batting over .400 coming off the bench for my beloved Orioles.  Koreans are not especially happy with O’s manager, Buck Showalter, because Kim isn’t starting….yet.

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More colorful costumes at Kintex.

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I gave out plenty of Dare to Dream business cards during the trip.  Thanks to everyone who agreed to pitch in $20 to help us get this fantastic documentary about the “founding fathers’ of polio eradication produced.  If you haven’t done so already, please check it out at www.daretodreamfilm.com.

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Hard to believe how close North Korea is to Seoul.  This is from our tour of the DMZ between North and South Korea.  Strangely beautiful, isn’t it?

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I’ll see you next year at Atlanta.  I’ve gotta meet this Arch Klumph character.

 

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Congressional Champions of Polio Eradication Reception

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Dr. John Sever, the MC for the evening who is also THE Rotarian who formally recommended that Rotary undertake polio eradication as a world-wide challenge, and RI President-Elect, John Germ.

If you ever find yourself completely depressed about politics, politicians, the political process, and all the things that you see and hear about government that make you want to cringe, I suggest you find a way to wangle an invitation to the Rotary Congressional Champions Reception held each year at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The event honors the Representatives who best champion U.S. giving to the polio eradication effort.  I promise it will make you feel a lot better about the understanding, caring, and downright good stuff being done by our Representatives in Washington, DC.  The numbers are staggering.

According to Kris Tsau, my favorite head of Rotary’s advocacy efforts for polio eradication, here are a few facts that are sure to impress:  In FY 2016 the US provided US$228 million for the polio eradication activities of the CDC (US $169 million  – 10 million above the FY 15 level); and USAID ($59 million – level funding from FY 2015).  This a significant achievement considering an overall reduction to CDC’s budget.  Kris says we are asking for a total of $233 million next year: $174 million for CDC and $59 million for USAID.  NOTE: THIS IS A WHOLE LOT OF MONEY!!!

I’ll get to our Congressional Champions in a minute, but first, your intrepid RFA reporter was able to track down some of Rotary’s top leaders in our international polio eradication effort for an interview.  Here’s a gal you may have never heard of, but who does an amazing job for all of us:

Pretty interesting about finding the virus in the environment and treating it, isn’t it?  Director of Rotary’s Polio Plus Program……not too shabby.  Or, how about this guy?  (Note: These Rotary leaders seem remarkably cheerful even though they had to tear themselves away from the free food and open bar to do these interviews. I guess $228 million tends to cheer you up.)

Did you catch that?  Mike is the Chairman of the Rotary International Polio Plus Committee….another Rotarian who we might want to thank for his efforts.

Finally, I thought you should meet one of the most selfless Rotarians I know who travels the country teaching us about Post-Polio Syndrome.  Thanks, John, for everything you do for us.

 

About those Congressional leaders that we should be so proud of.  Here they are:

  • Senator Roy Blunt (M)), Chair of the Senate Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee
  • Senator Jef Merkley (OR)
  • Senator Brian Schatz (HI)
  • Representative Tom Cole, Chair of House Labor health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee
  • Representative Dave Reichert, Co-chair, House Global Health Caucus.

Other members who took the time to visit with us included:

  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9 – Represents the district that includes RI HQ)
  • Rep. Gary Palmer (AL-6, Member, Rotary club of Birmingham)
  • Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-2; Member, Rotary club of Columbia)
  • Senator Bob Corker (TN)
  • Senator Thad Cochran (MS) (Rotary Foundation Alum – Graduate fellowship scholarship in 1963).

So, we need to keep doing our part by giving to Polio Plus each year. Of course, I can’t let you go without reminding you that we are producing a documentary about the Rotary “founding fathers” who had the courage and foresight to put us on the road to polio eradication.  The documentary is called, Dare to Dream, and we really need some help with the funding.  So AFTER you cut a check to Polio Plus to help eradicate this terrible disease, please see if you can scrape up as little as $20 to honor the unsung Rotarians who deserve our recognition and our thanks.

Click on this link to visit the Dare to Dream page and see the movie trailer.  www.daretodreamfilm.com.

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No reason for this picture at all but I thought it looked “arty”

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PDG 7620 and Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity awardee, Peter Kyle, with Past RI Director, Anne Matthews

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L-R:  7620 Young Professional Task Force leader, Clarissa Harris, Rotary Peace Fellow, Kristin Post, Dupont Circle Membership Chair, Rachel Eisen, Kaiser Permanente Health Plan, Janini Ramachandran,  Deputy Director of the CDC, Anne Schuchat, and  Elliott Larson, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

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Dr. John Sever with his daughter, Valerie Kappler

Champions classmates

With DG classmates Janet Brown, DG 7610, and Alex Wilkins, DG 7570.  Notice that JB and Alex are rocking nifty DG pins.  Me….not so much.

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The COL Speaks….It’s Engagement in a Blowout! But Now What?

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The recent Council of Legislation (COL) has emphatically and resoundingly answered General Secretary, John Hewko’s, question, “What’s more important, attendance or engagement?”  The answer is now officially, ENGAGEMENT.  Having looked at the changes being made to the RI constitution and bylaws, and having had the chance to speak to several COL delegates from several districts, it’s easy to see that representatives were on a mission to remove many of our “old” and “antiquated” rules that acted as a possible headwind to growing our Rotary clubs.

Here a just a few of the changes that Rotary clubs “may” choose to implement:

No more than two club meetings are required each month

Removed admission fees for new clubs

Attendance rules can be determined by individual clubs

Classifications are now optional

Minimum members to start a new club reduced to 20

Rotaractors can have dual membership as Rotaract and Rotary

Corporate memberships are now allowed

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Some unimportant dude from Sri Lanka wearing a great tie (left) and District 7620 delegate and PDG, Pat Kasuda (right)

So, because I love to stir the pot, and because it seems to me the new rules throw down an extraordinary challenge for many of our clubs, and pose a variety of questions about what it means to be a thriving and successful Rotary club, AND because I’m a middle child and I’m convinced my mother didn’t love me as much as my siblings, I would like to pose the following question:

What if we agree that engagement is more important than attendance, but the evidence clearly suggests that many of our Rotary clubs simply aren’t engaging?  What if they are only fun for the current members and not prospective members?  What if they aren’t necessarily relevant in their own communities?  What if the reason that Rotary clubs don’t grow has nothing to do with cost of the meals and  the frequency of the meetings?  What if the reason Rotary clubs don’t grow is that they simply don’t have a compelling value proposition to offer prospective members, and/or to retain current ones?

There are many Rotary clubs who do the same projects, to benefit the same organizations, with a shrinking base of members, and have done so for decades.  What if the members don’t recognize their club’s deficiencies (it’s hard to recognize your own club’s deficiencies) and instead decide that the club’s value proposition is just fine, despite the evidence?  Instead of taking a hard look at how they do what they do, what if they simply decide to cut the number of meetings to two per month which will reduce the meal cost by 50%, and stop taking attendance because the COL says it isn’t important anymore?

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My guess is that unless Rotary clubs see this as a challenge with the greatest possible potential to grow their membership, and use the new rules as a catalyst to reengineer their club and reimagine what Rotary could mean to their community, then membership could actually decline.  Why?  Because for many Rotarians there is a rhythm and a comforting habit associated with attending weekly meetings.  For other Rotarians the weekly meetings allow them to engage in fellowship with members who they look forward to meeting once each week.  For those Rotarians who find great value in the fellowship at Rotary meetings, they might find that going to Rotary twice a month just doesn’t scratch their itch.  It isn’t too far from going a couple of times per month just for the fellowship, to not going at all.

This admittedly “glass half empty” view of cutting back on club meetings ignores the fact that the younger generation of Rotarians is clearly asking for:  1) lower costs, 2) more flexibility in meeting attendance, and 3) more focus on community involvement.

So here we go.  They (the COL) have given us the gift of passing the resolutions that needed to be passed in order for Rotary to move to the next level and reach a new generation of members.  OMG!  What do we do now?  One answer, of course, is to do nothing!  We certainly don’t HAVE to make any of the proposed changes in our own Rotary clubs.  Change is risky.  Actually, change sucks.  But, as the guy who writes a blog called, Ready, Fire, Aim, you might guess that I’m 1,000% in favor of the new COL resolutions.  Let’s get creative.  Let’s rattle some cages.

If you are out there and you are capable of thinking outside of the box, this would be a good time to speak up.  Your club needs your best ideas on how to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

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