Measuring “Engagement” in “Hands On” Service Projects

NOTE:  Occasionally the RFA blog takes on subjects that may make readers blood boil as we poke and prod at long-held Rotary beliefs.  Today we are taking on the possibly heretical notion that “service” as a fundamental requirement of being a Rotarian can take many forms.  Please feel free to violently disagree.  Your Humble RFA Editor.

I’m a proud member of the Columbia-Patuxent Rotary club’s “meeting after the meeting.”  Participants have been known to hang around for hours after our Friday morning meeting discussing any topic, Rotary or non-Rotary, under the sun.  A few weeks ago our discussion focused on tracking club member’s “hands on” service hours.  It has been proposed that tracking these hours will:

1) Help us promote Rotary in a way that helps to quantify the dollar value of our volunteer service.  How cool it would be to say we give “x” amount of hours of sweat equity in helping others in town and those volunteer hours have “x” dollar value?  Plus, discussing  our hands-on service  would absolutely help to promote Rotary’s brand, especially with prospective younger members.

2)  Perhaps tracking service hours will serve as an incentive to members that have not been active in service projects in the past.  Seeing how others are participating might inspire them to get off their butt and get into the fray of serving others.  And once they enter the pool, who knows?  They may just get hooked on this service thing.

To track service hours the club has created a form that basically asks members to self-report the service opportunity they participated in and the number of hours they contributed.  I’m sure this data will be tracked on some kind of a spreadsheet.

Even the old and wise…well….old…..Rotarians I hang out with have no objection to #1 above.  But (stunning surprise alert) they seem to have a few comments to make about #2.  So buckle on your chin straps and lets explore a few thoughts on the topic of engagement.

Lets start by observing that Rotary has several different constituent members who view the value proposition of their membership differently, depending on their demographic.  If you are a younger member you are likely to value “hands on” service opportunities and the opportunity to network with older members.  If you are a middle-aged Rotarian (don’t ask…I’m not going there) then you may be interested in service opportunities, as well as social and business opportunities.  If you are an older Rotarian (if you find yourself bragging about your grandchildren at club meetings then you are “older.”  That doesn’t mean you look, feel, or are old.  You are just older) it is possible that you are more interested in the social connection that Rotary provides and less likely to be interested in planting trees, road side garbage pickups, stocking the shelf at the local food pantry, etc.  The older members get, the more they might value raising money using a lifetime of connections they’ve developed in the community and/or their own personal ability to write a check to solve community problems.  While they applaud the energy of younger Rotarians, they could be excused for not being as enthusiastic about expending their own.

If the above is true, and a particular Rotary club has an older demographic (in 2016 Rotarians average age was 58.  40%+ of members were over 60 years of age) then the club might naturally become a sometimes demonized “check writing club” that raises money and gives it away to worthy causes, but seems to do little else.  The members are doing what they like to do, but are they RINOs (Rotarian in Name Only) if they don’t post for hands-on service projects?  Are we insulting or alienating our older members if we define “engagement” in a way that forces them to do service work they don’t want to do?  On the other hand, what are other members to think of this group that is obviously less than enthusiastic about attending volunteer projects?

Is it possible that there is absolutely nothing wrong with members being social and writing checks, if that’s how THEY define Rotary service?  Could it be “bad business” to define excellent membership through the lens of hands on service when that isn’t what the majority of members want to do?  NOTE:  If you are an older member who LOVES to do hands on service, or you belong to a club where the majority of older members LOVE hands on service, congratulations!

Doesn’t it make sense that if clubs want to promote more hands on service that they make it easier for younger members, who generally WANT TO DO hands on service, to join?  What if you track service hours for younger members and use them to offset younger member dues payments?  Several clubs in District 7620 are doing this successfully.  Younger members typically could care less about selling tickets for fundraisers.  Let them do hands on service.  Let older members have a cocktail and mentor younger members about how we did it better “in the old days.”

And finally (mercifully) there is the question of members who donate substantial time and money to support the club’s internal service.  The members who create and manage the club website.  The members who plan club programs or plan the club’s fundraising events, the entire club Leadership Team, members working in the District or Zone, etc. etc.  What about them?  Do we celebrate them in the same way we celebrate members who volunteered their Saturday to plant trees?  Let’s hope we don’t somehow devalue their contribution because their isn’t a checkmark on the service hour form for club, District, or Zone service activity.

If there is anything I absolutely love to discuss, its how Rotary and Rotarians resist change.  As an organization we need to get a lot better at change if we want to survive.  But its easy to point the finger at others when the change doesn’t involve you and your Rotary club, isn’t it?

For the record, here’s my personal opinion:

I think tracking service hours is a brilliant idea.

I think using the hours to promote the club in the community is also a brilliant idea and well worth doing.

I think tracking hours as a means to incentivize older members to do hands on service is doomed to failure.  I would be opposed to making the individual hourly service information public to the club for fear it might embarrass certain members.

I think Rotary clubs need to make it easier for younger members, who want to do hands on service, to join clubs.  Getting younger is the solution…not trying to change older members into something they don’t want to be.

What do you think about this whole “engagement” issue?  Does your club track hours of service?  How does it work in your club?  One way or the other, its the engagement of our members, however its defined, that will mean success or failure of our Rotary clubs.

This post was brought to you by the Rotary documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  You can rent or buy this one hour documentary at  You can read about using the documentary to raise money for polio eradication, increase the public’s knowledge about Rotary, and recruit new members, by holding a Movie Night in October during World Polio Month.  Read more about Movie Night on Ready, Fire, Aim here and here.

You can subscribe to the Ready, Fire, Aim Rotary blog and get automatic notifications of new posts sent directly to your in-box by clicking on the SUBSCRIBE button to the right of the blog text.

You can follow Ken Solow on Twitter at @daretodreamfilm and @kennethrsolow, and on Facebook at daretodreamfilm and Ken Solow.


How to Do “Movie Night” – Brought to you by The Rotary Club of Easton, Maryland.

I’m pleased to report that we’ve had a great response to last week’s post on Movie Night.  If you missed it, it proposes using the new documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, to raise money for polio eradication, promote your Rotary club, and engage potential new members and introduce them to Rotary.  Read last weeks post by clicking here 

Since them I’ve been corresponding with Ritchie Wheatley, the President of the Rotary Club of Easton, Md.  They are full-speed-ahead planning their Movie Night on October 24th.  I asked Ritchie for permission to share their planning with you and he graciously agreed.

The club has come up with a terrific project plan for the event.  They did a great job with this so consider “borrowing” their ideas.  Ritchie just let me know today that Peter Booker, DG of District 7630 has agreed to be on hand for the event.  Hint:  Make sure to inform your District leadership about your Movie Night.  They will want to attend.  This is a really great example of event planning that you can use for ANY event, not just Movie Night.

Dare to Dream Event – World Polio Day, Wed – 10/24/2018
1.Show 16 min. video at August Meeting to all members
2.Announce full length video on World Polio Date – raise funds, goal $3,000
3.Rent Avalon Theatre – cost $650-750 – Forms submitted early July, waiting on confirmation and meeting date
4.Establish price person – $25-$50, show full documentary
5.Committee Members – Tim Kagan, George Hatcher, Reza Jafari, Richie Wheatley
6.Start at 6 pm – end at 8:30 pm
7.Format for Event: 6:00 – 7:00 pm – Social Hour
                                       7:00 – 7:10 pm – Welcome to Event – RW / Update on Polio / Bill Gates Welcome
                                       7:10 – 7: 20 pm – Introduction to Tim Kagan
                                       7:20 – 8:20 pm – Show Documentary
                                       8:20 – 8:30 pm – Q&A, Ken Solow – request was made
  1. Register event with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/ – Done 7/19/18
  2. Emailed Peter Booker about contact at RI for Bill Gates Message
  3. Request from Rosemary material for promotion of event

You might note that under #3 they are planning on renting the Avalon Theatre for $650 – $750 and their goal is to raise $3,000 for Polio eradication.  Let’s do some math.  I just looked it up and the Avalon Theatre has a 400 seat capacity.  They are pricing tickets at $25 – $50.  If they sell 200 tickets for $25 that’s $5,000 less the theatre rental….seems like they have a great shot of hitting their goal.

This is one heck of a beautiful theatre.  If you wanted a fantastic experience to introduce someone to Rotary….this would fit the bill.

More about the Avalon Theatre.  This is from their website:

About…The Eastern Shore’s best place for Live Music and Entertainment Located in the Heart of Downtown Easton MD. Rated #1 on TripAdvisor for “Things to Do” in Easton Maryland

Ritchie asked me if we have any promotional materials to help sell tickets and I’m pleased to say, yes we will.  Give us two weeks and we will have a customizable flyer/advertisement that you can use to promote Movie Night at your local theatre, or at a member’s home.  It will be on a new Movie Night tab on the website.  Right now you can find a downloadable full-sized movie poster under the Raise Money for Polio Plus tab on the Dare to Dream website.

Your club can do this!  Or a group of clubs in your area can do it with you.  Just remember that the event is more than just a fundraiser.  Watch the movie yourself.  You will see that it is a fantastic way to introduce people to Rotary, and a great way to promote your club in the community.

To buy or rent the movie, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, click here.

If you are a Rotary District Polio Chair, or District Foundation Chair, and want to promote Movie Night in your District, contact me at and we can discuss creating a discount promo code for your District’s clubs as an incentive to watch the movie.

To subscribe to the Ready, Fire, Aim Rotary blog and receive notifications of new posts directly to your inbox, click on the SUBSCRIBE button to the right of the blog text.

Imagine Dare to Dream on the marquee of your local movie theatre.

World Polio Day and Rotary Movie Night

Wednesday, October 24th is World Polio Day.  I know.  I know.  It’s been a long time since your Rotary Club actually did something to celebrate.  But this year we are getting so close to the last case of polio (still three more years after the last case until official eradication) that I want to suggest a terrific event for your club, called Movie Night.  Movie Night is actually three events rolled into one.  It’s a fundraiser for PolioPlus, it’s a new member event, and it’s a first class public image event.  First question:  Why show a movie for your event?

Well, for one thing, movies capture our attention in a way that no other media can.  We are all addicted to screens, but seeing a film on a big screen in a theatre with theatre quality sound creates a unique experience.  And while books are my favorite form of entertainment, it takes a lot more time to read a book than it does to watch a movie.  To make my point about the engaging experience of movie watching, here is how your audience will be captured by your message on Movie Night.  See if you can relate…

Why celebrate World Polio Day? The fact that Rotary is a world-leader in Polio eradication is going to be bigger and bigger news when we get to the last case.  Why not tell the story of how Rotary became a leader in the global fight to end polio by showing the documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication?  The first step is for you to ACTUALLY WATCH the film, which you can do for $4.99 by renting it for three days on the Dare to Dream website.  

You will find that the movie is entertaining, educational, and inspirational.  We’ve shown the movie to Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike and the result is the same.  Standing ovations!

The next step (after taking this idea to your club’s Board and getting approval from your Rotary Club), is to reserve a venue to show the film.  You can either rent a two hundred seat independent theatre in your community (someone in your club will know the owner) or you can use the theatre at your local Community College, University, or other venue, for free….if you ask nicely.  Figure you get the local theatre owner to rent you the space for a weekday evening for $500.

Next you need to sell tickets.  You can price the tickets depending on your fundraising objectives.  Some communities are richer than others, but I’m suggesting your consider a price of $20 per ticket for the movie.  Maybe $30 for two?   Remember to tell people its a fundraiser.  $20 (in most places) is amazingly cheap for a fundraiser of any kind.  You should consider teaming up with other Rotary clubs in your area for the event.  Get four clubs with the goal of selling 50 tickets each.  One last thought….make sure your customers know that their ticket purchase is being matched 2 – 1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Their $20 ticket is actually raising $17.50 net for PolioPlus (if you pay $500 for a theatre rental) plus the $35 Gates match results in a total of $52.50 for PolioPlus.

Here’s an important point…your objective is to sell tickets to NON-ROTARIANS.  You are trying to spread the message to folks who will be inspired by our story and might consider visiting your Rotary club.  If you sell 200 tickets for $20 that’s $4,000, less $500 for the theatre rental and you’ve raised $3,500 for PolioPlus.

Your club members can get Paul Harris Society recognition for your PolioPlus contribution by filling out the Rotary Foundation multiple donor form.

Your club(s) can divide the proceeds equally to all of your members or allocate the credit by ticket sales.  It’s totally up to you.  Just send in the check for the net proceeds along with the form.

Note to District Foundation Chairs, District Polio Chairs, and End Polio Now Chairs:  Why not set up a quick spreadsheet or interactive page on your District’s website where clubs can input the proceeds of their event?  You can then publicize the total you’ve raised as a District.

Still don’t believe that watching a movie is an incredible experience?  Watch Mr. Bean deal with a horror movie.  By the way, Dare to Dream definitely isn’t a horror movie, but I had to share this clip because its hilarious.  Showing a movie about Rotary to your audience will engage them in our message in a way no other event can.

The evening is easy to actually manage.  Buy the movie for $25 ($19 is a contribution to PolioPlus) and download it to a laptop.  Check with your local theatre owner to make certain there are no technical issues.  You serve popcorn to your guests because its a Movie Night for pete’s sake.  Or, you can make friends with the theatre owner and have your guests be patrons of the theatre’s snacks and drinks.  On the website you can click on the RAISE MONEY FOR POLIO tab and find a hi-res downloadable movie poster that you can use to promote the film in the theatre.  You can blow it up to a large size and ask the theatre owner to display it with his other movie posters.  It looks great!

This is an opportunity to paper the town with flyers advertising the movie.  Get some press coverage in the local paper.  Make sure to invite the District brass to your event and have a question and answer session after the film.  Also make sure to have some good information about your club and Rotary International that are takeaways for your guests.  Don’t miss this opportunity to invite them to visit your club.

You will rarely have anyone be introduced to Rotary in a more positive way than having them attend Movie Night.  One last thing….October is Foundation Month so don’t worry if you can’t pull the event off on October 24th.  Any time in October will work just fine.  You can do this!!!

You can rent or buy the documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication at  

You can subscribe to the Ready, Fire, Aim Rotary blog and get automatic notifications of new posts sent directly to your inbox by clicking on the subscribe button to the right of the blog text.

You can follow Ken Solow on Facebook at DaretoDreamFilm and on Twitter at @Daretodreamfilm.

The Rotary History Fellowship

I’m a firm believer that those who study history have an edge over those who ignore it, because history gives us a useful framework for evaluating what has worked, and not worked, in the past.  Rational decision makers use that information to make (hopefully) more informed decisions about the future.  More information, along with more insight, more intuition, more education….does not guarantee better results.  We are, after all, discussing the future, and the only way to KNOW what is going to happen is wait for it to actually happen and THINK you should have known it all along.  Behavioral psychologists have a name for this delusion.  It’s called “hindsight bias.”

As you might imagine, as the producer of a documentary about how Rotary became engaged in polio eradication, I think learning about Rotary’s history is critically important.  It helps us to avoid the mistakes that we’ve made in the past.  It helps us to appreciate our accomplishments in the present, and helps us to steer a better course in the future.  If you are interested in learning more about Rotary’s history, then I want to introduce you to Steve Hellersperk and the Rotary Global History Fellowship.  (RGHF)

Formally founded in 2002, the Rotary Global History Fellowship bills itself as the largest fellowship in Rotary.  According to the their website, the mission is:

This Fellowship is an association of Rotarians and friends dedicated to accumulating and preserving the history, values and philosophy of the Rotary movement, and encouraging others to do the same by publishing these histories, values and philosophies on the internet.

In short, the organization is kind of a Wikipedia of Rotary history.  Here is Executive Director, Steve Hellersperk, giving you a little insight.

The “History stuff” at RGHF is endlessly educational and entertaining.  I highly recommend you join RGHF.  It costs you $30 to join and gain access their entire library of amazing documents.

Of course, one of the most interesting historical documents produced about Rotary is the documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  Hellersperk, being the great guy that he is, is agreeing to do a little cross promotion with RGHF and Yours Truly and we will be announcing some cool incentives for members to buy or rent the film in the near future.

Here’s Steve closing the deal.  (By the way, this was filmed at the RGHF booth at the House of Friendship at the Toronto International Rotary Convention.  Steve did these brief shots in one take and with no rehearsal.)



Yup.  You need to be! To learn more about RGHF CLICK HERE.


To download buy or rent Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, the best one hour documentary about Rotary’s polio eradication history ever produced, CLICK HERE.

To subscribe to Ready, Fire, Aim and receive automatic notifications of new posts directly to your inbox click on SUBSCRIBE to the right of the blog text.

You can follow Ken Solow on Twitter at @daretodreamfilm and @KennethRSolow.  You can follow Ken Solow on Facebook at daretodreamfilm or at Ken Solow.

Two Rotary International Conventions and Three Book Reviews

Just back from Toronto where Rotary obviously was making an effort to get us to focus on doing good in the post-polio world.  More precisely, they were concentrating on the six areas of focus for the Rotary Foundation and making the connection to the U.N.’s 17 goals for sustainable development to be reached by 2030.  For many Rotarians, discussing any subject that isn’t polio eradication is good news.  For me, I’m still trying to process what it means that we’ve nearly accomplished a public health miracle.  It was also clear to me that the U.N. goals are almost unbelievably ambitious, which requires all of us to have a clear and accurate view of our world and it’s problems.  Which brings me to the subject of today’s blog.

To watch a documentary about how Rotary decided to eradicate polio, which is incredibly timely considering the amount of conversation there is about what to do AFTER polio is eradicated, please consider renting or buying the amazing new documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  It is an inspiring story about Rotary leaders overcoming towering obstacles.  To learn more click here.

Last year, at the Atlanta convention, I went to a screening of Gone With The Wind.  For those who don’t know the famous movie, it is a romanticized tale of the deep South before and after the Civil War.  I hadn’t seen the movie in its entirety in years.  To be honest I was completely appalled by the film and its distortion of the realities of slavery and reconstruction in the post-civil war period.  My fellow club members who attended the event with me found my shrieks of protest to be most amusing and asked me to remember that the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Gone With The Wind, was written in 1936 by one of Atlanta’s most famous residents, Margaret Mitchell, in a period where racism in the U.S. was rampant.  So having watched the film (which won ten Academy Awards in 1940), I promised myself (and my skeptical friends) that I would read the book as soon as I returned from the Conference.

Well….I did read the book.  It is ten-times more horrifying than the movie.  I have to admit that I did come away with a greater appreciation of the film, which at four-hours in length does a fantastic job of bringing the book to the big-screen.  Beyond that, reading the book goes a long way towards helping you understand how far we’ve come as a country in terms of race relations.  We are far from perfect, but no one would dare write anything like Gone With The Wind today.  My biggest fear is that someone would confuse this gigantic distortion of the facts as being an accurate history of reconstruction in the period immediately following the Civil War.

If you are interested in a great book by a great writer that goes a long way towards exploding a lot of myths about this period in American history, let me recommend Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant, called Grant.  Hopefully you’ve read Chernow’s most well known biography, Hamilton, which became the sensational Broadway musical we are all waiting to see.  Grant is a book that is startling as it debunks many myths about the 18th President of the United States.  The book is thoroughly researched and beautifully written.  After reading this incredible piece of history, see if you agree that Grant probably did as much or more for blacks in the U.S. than any other U.S. President, including Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson.

That was last year.  At this year’s Toronto Convention one of the featured speakers at the Tuesday General Session was James Marggraff, Inventor and Entrepreneur who is the Founder/Co-Founder of a bunch of successful companies, including LeapFrog, one of the first tablets ever developed for children’s education.  During his talk he recommended a book called, “Factfulness, Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World–And Why Things Are Better Than They Seem.”  He said the book was so good that Bill Gates offered to buy a copy for all U.S. college graduates.  (I checked on this and Gates did make this offer although I don’t think it’s still valid.)

When I got home I invested $14.99 to download the book and I’ve been binge reading it ever since.  It is one of those life-changing books that will have a big impact on how you perceive the world.  The author, Swedish statistician and academic, Hans Rosling, begins the book by posing quiz questions designed to illustrate how most of us misperceive the world we live in, with potentially disastrous results.  I didn’t do too bad on the quiz but it wasn’t fair since I knew the answers would be skewed more positively than I would have guessed because of the title of the book. The good news is the world is in much better shape than we think.  The further good news is the book does more than make the case that the world is better off than we think it is.  Rosling gives us clear instructions on how to avoid the pitfalls we face in trying to understand the world when the media, and our luck in living in high-income countries, makes it hard to discern the truth.  Rosling died last year  at age 68 but he left us an amazing and challenging book.  ALL ROTARIANS need to read it!  Please.  And maybe Bill Gates will pay for it, but you will have to research that for yourself.

You can subscribe to the Ready, Fire, Aim Rotary blog by clicking on the subscribe button to the right of the blog text and receive automatic notifications of new posts directly to your email.

You can follow Ken Solow on facebook at and on Twitter at @Daretodreamfilm.



A Rotary Father’s Day Story- The Ulman 4K for Cancer

In joined Rotary in September 1996 when my son, Danny, was five years old and my daughter, Carly, was three.  I suppose my wife Linda and I are like most parents in wondering what lessons our kids have learned from us as they enter young adulthood.  I’m sure Rotary parents raise the bar on this conjecture since our motto is “Service Above Self.”  We hope our children will find some time in their incredibly busy lives to do something for others.

I’m proud to say that this summer, my daughter, Carly, along with twenty- seven other riders,  is riding a bike 4,000 miles across the United States to raise money for children with cancer.  The Ulman Cancer Fund is a non-profit organization that raises money for young adults, and their loved ones, who are impacted by cancer.  You can learn more about the Ulman Cancer Fund here. 

Each year the Ulman 4K for Cancer sends three biking teams across the U.S. where they typically ride 75 – 150 miles per day, living off of donated food, and staying at pre-arranged donated host facilities.  The teams start at the Baltimore Inner Harbor and go to Seattle, San Francisco, or Portland.  Each rider is tasked with a fundraising goal and I’m told that the Ulman Organization will top $1 million in fundraising from all of their races to support cancer survivors for the first time this year.  Follow Carly’s Seattle team progress and meet the team here.

The 28 member Seattle team. 

I suspect that the young adults who take up this challenge are doing it for a variety of reasons, including a desire to meet the physical challenge of seven weeks of riding their bikes every day, the chance to bond with fellow crazies who think the whole idea is fun, and maybe, just maybe, to give a little something back to those who might be less fortunate than they are.  I can’t speak for all 28 riders who are on Carly’s Seattle team, but the young adults I had the privilege to host on the days prior to their ride meet every measure of Service Above Self.

Right picture, from L-R, Kristina, Phoebe, Carly, Marco, Simon, and Fabian.  Picture on the left is the same crew getting ready to take off from Baltimore in a torrential downpour.  It was a pleasure being their host.

One of the traditions during the 4K is that each day’s ride is dedicated to someone by the riders on the team.  On Father’s Day, several team members dedicated that day’s ride to their Dads, and to me.  Why me?  Maybe because I’m a cancer survivor myself.  I was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer, Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia, on January 11, 2011.  I’m one of the lucky ones who benefits from the unbelievable advances in genetic medicine and my cancer is now under control.  Still… I have to admit that it was, and is, quite an honor to have some of these young athletes dedicate the day’s ride to yours truly.  And yes, it made it for a very special Father’s Day gift from my daughter.

Have heart all of you Rotary parents.  Odds are that your kids are getting the very best messages from you about the values we hold most dear.  You might not have had the formal sit down conversation to discuss the details of serving others, and they might be too busy to join the local Rotaract or Rotary club just yet.  But you better believe they are taking note of how you are donating your time to help others, and we are all going to be in great shape as this new generation of do-gooders finds their way.

Top row:  Having fun on the road.  Bottom left, the Seattle team counting off before beginning their journey.  The tall ship is the famous U.S.S. Constellation anchored in Baltimore Harbor.  Bottom right is Carly dunking her tires in the Inner Harbor.  She will do the same when they arrive in Seattle, dunking her wheels in the Pacific Ocean.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

You can support Carly’s 4K for Cancer team by clicking here.  

You can support polio eradication and enjoy the best movie about Rotary ever produced by renting or buying the Rotary documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  Click here to rent for $4.99 or buy for $25 and make a $19 contribution to PolioPlus.  

To get automatic notifications of new posts on Ready, Fire, Aim, click on the subscribe button to the right of the blog text.  Notifications will be sent directly to your email.



The All-Time World’s Greatest Vocational Moment



The Columbia-Patuxent Rotary club begins our meeting with a series of moments.  On any given week we can have a membership moment, a Foundation moment, or a Vocational moment.  The trick to a vocational moment is that it is supposed to be different from what many Rotarians know as a “classification talk.”  A vocational moment gives the speaker an opportunity to share a best practice, news item, or other interesting idea about their classification with the rest of the club.  It is a very cool way to allow members to show off their business acumen without overtly networking during a Rotary meeting.  Lastly, a vocational moment is supposed to be …..a moment.  It is not the club’s program for the meeting. Just a few minutes to share an idea.

It’s just my opinion, but if Rotary Clubs would just go back to the notion of Rotary as a place for business and community leaders to network with each other, as opposed to being just another service organization, we would go a long way towards solving our membership issues…but that’s just me.

A few weeks back I set a new world’s record for vocational moments.  Five useful ideas in two minutes!  It was so good I thought I would share it with you.

Note:  In real time this took exactly two minutes and fifteen seconds.  I’m embellishing it here because I can, and because I want you, my valued Ready, Fire, Aim reader, to fully understand what I’m talking about.

Another note:  If you are not a U.S. citizen some or all of the  tax ideas in this post may not apply.  However, you can figure out how to do your own vocational moment for your specific area.  If you are a U.S. citizen, Ready, Fire, Aim suggests you consult with a qualified tax advisor for specific tax advice.  We ain’t giving any tax advice here.  We’re in the world peace business.  

Here goes nothing….

Have you heard of the FAANG stocks?  They are Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.  These five stocks have accounted for about twenty-five percent of the gains in the S&P 500 stock market index since the market low in 2016.  I hope you own these stocks, or a proxy like a mutual fund or exchange traded fund that owns these stocks.  Or, perhaps you own other securities that have appreciated wildly over the past nine year bull market.

If you do, it is quite possible that your portfolio badly needs to be rebalanced.  Your “over-loved” stocks should be trimmed and your portfolio brought back in line with your portfolio policy.  The problem is that in the state of Maryland, if you are a high earner you could pay capital gains taxes as high as 28% when you consider Federal, State, Local, and ACA surtax.  What to do?

Don’t sell the stock and pay the capital gain.  Instead, gift the appreciated shares to the Rotary Foundation for your next charitable contribution instead of using cash to make the gift.  They will sell the shares and avoid paying the capital gain because they are a tax-exempt organization, and they will use the sales proceeds to help with our goal of world peace.  After making the gift, go ahead and repurchase the shares using your cash in an amount that makes sense to rebalance your portfolio.  When you repurchase the shares you will be resetting the cost basis of those shares making your portfolio much easier to rebalance in the future.

So…so far we’ve rebalanced your portfolio, made a generous charitable donation to the Rotary Foundation, avoided paying a capital gain, and reset the cost basis in your favorite stocks making your portfolio more tax efficient in the future.

But we are not done yet.  With the new tax laws changing the amount of the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly, many Rotarians will not be able to itemize and receive a charitable deduction for their generous gift of appreciated stock.  Here’s what you do.  Consider establishing a donor advised fund.  Many established  charities offer the opportunity to have a donor advised fund, including the Rotary Foundation.

Set up a donor advised fund and gift your appreciated shares to your fund.  You can sell the shares in your donor advised fund and then make your annual charitable gifts from the fund.  The fund allows you to avoid the capital gains tax on your appreciated securities, and it also allows you “pyramid” your charitable contributions.  If your stock, along with your other deductions for mortgage interest and state and local taxes, is more than $24,000, you can itemize your deductions in the year you make your gift.  In subsequent years make your charitable contributions from your donor advised fund.  When  the fund is depleted you can donate more appreciated stock to your fund and once again take a charitable deduction.  Click here to learn about the Rotary Foundation’s donor advised fund.  

So, now you can rebalance your portfolio, make a generous gift, avoid a capital gain, reset your cost basis, AND get your charitable deduction by utilizing a donor advised fund.

If this seems a little confusing to you, and your not sure how it may apply, don’t worry.  Find yourself a reputable Certified Financial Planner (CFP).  They will be happy to assist you!

If you are looking for a great value for your next $19 gift to charity, why not purchase the new documentary about how Rotary became engaged in eradicating polio.  Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, can be purchased for $25.  $19 of the sales price is a charitable contribution that benefits Polio Plus.  You can rent the film for three days for $4.99 or purchase for $25.  Click here for more information.


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Rotary and the “Take Your Place” Fair

Left: AG Charlie McCabe, and PDG Ken Solow, at the Leadership “Take Your Place” Fair

I’m a graduate of the Leadership Howard County Class of 2000, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the program.  I do know that “Leadership” is a brand name for several Leadership programs in the state, including Leadership Montgomery County, Leadership Ann Arundel County, Leadership Baltimore County, etc.  There is also a Leadership Maryland organization.  It seems lots of communities, counties, and states, have similar leadership programs.  Here is the goal statement for Leadership Howard County from their website:

Leadership Howard County presents an unequaled opportunity for leaders to see beyond their own work or personal environments to the broader interests of the community.  Through interactions with decision makers and industry experts, they develop a working knowledge of our community across sectors, and learn to appreciate the diverse perspectives of their classmates. The result—a dedicated network of leaders equipped to transform our community.  This is a 10-month tuition-based program that runs from September – June.

Part of the gauntlet of government agencies and non-profits waiting to pounce on unsuspecting Leadership graduates.

What does all of this have to do with Rotary?  Leadership Howard County recently held a “Take Your Place Fair” for graduates of the program.  To what purpose you ask?   

·         Learn about the organization’s volunteer needs: i.e. Board membership, service volunteers, fundraising, etc.

·         Better understand the types of organizations in the community offering services, i.e. non-profit organizations; foundations; County boards and commissions, Service Clubs, and Professional Membership organization

Lanlan Xu, from the IMPAQ International/Chinese Language School, being pitched by Charlie McCabe.  You can see that she is mesmerized by Charlie’s Rotary story.  

Yours Truly,  your intrepid RFA reporter, and Charlie McCabe, Area Governor for the seven Rotary clubs in Howard County, were asked to participate in the Fair and represent Rotary as an opportunity for service.  As we looked around the room, we remarked that Rotary (either our club or others in the county) supported just about every other non-profit in the room.  Here are five brief observations about the experience:

  • When pitching potential members who were moving from station to station at the Fair, we quickly learned to refine our elevator pitch so we could briefly describe the benefits of Rotary.  I found myself falling back on, “Community leaders, meeting to discuss important issues, and then taking action.”  It was very effective.  Who knew?
  • Almost everyone in this select group (they were already graduating from a Leadership class for crying out loud) already was familiar in some way with Rotary.  Surprisingly our brand wasn’t  perceived as being a negative from this particular group.  For the most part they wanted to learn more.  Of course, they might have just been being polite.

Here is Rotarian, Bita Dayhoff, in her capacity as Director of Community Action Council, an important non-profit in Howard County, participating in the Fair.  Dayhoff is a corporate member of the Columbia Patuxent Rotary Club.  How cool is that?  To her right is Dwight Mikulis, board member of CAC.  They claimed to have recruited fourteen new board members so McCabe and I claimed to have recruited fifteen new Rotarians.  What Four-Way test? 

  • We mentioned that Rotary clubs often have a corporate membership program to a few Leadership graduates from local banks and other larger business organizations.  If your club doesn’t offer a corporate membership plan of some sort, make sure to craft one.  It certainly was an attention getter at the Fair.
  • We had a list of all of the local clubs with contact information and meeting times.  The fact that we were offering several choices was very effective.  The notion that most Rotary clubs offered flexible attendance rules seemed to be very important.
  • Finally, it was an excellent reminder that Rotary competes with many other organizations offering opportunities for service.  We need to continually think about answering the question: why should someone volunteer with Rotary instead of with another organization?

Do you have a Leadership group, or a similar group, in your community?  If they don’t already have something like a “Take Your Place Fair,” why not track down their leaders and suggest one?  It’s a great opportunity to meet potential members.  When you think about it, what better possible audience could we have for our message of leadership and service than a group that just graduated from a year-long class promoting those same ideals?

COMMERCIAL:  This post is brought to you by the Rotary documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  If you haven’t done so yet, you can rent the film for $4.99 for three-days or buy it for $25 and make a $19 contribution to Polio Plus.  Find out more about this exciting movie at  

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A New Community-Based Rotaract Club is Chartered

The whole mishpucha.  The Charter members of the Rotaract Club of Howard County. (Note: Mishpucha is the Hebrew/Yiddish word for family.)

There is a movement afoot in the world of Rotaract to charter community-based Rotaract clubs.  While it is true that college or university-based clubs have many of their own advantages, consider the unique value proposition for a community-based club: 1) community-based clubs are not beholden to a faculty advisor at a college or university.  Too often the success or failure of a college or university club is outside of the Rotaractor’s control, 2) community-based clubs do not have the same four-year, or in the case of community colleges, two-year, natural limitation on membership that you often see in college-based Rotaract clubs.  Once members graduate they can move away from the local community and leave the club.  Of course we hope they will join another Rotaract, or Rotary, club, wherever their post-graduate travels take them, and 3) community-based clubs can pull members from the entire community, not just the campus community.  The flip side of this is that it can be easier to spread the word about a new club on a college campus, and some colleges have huge student populations.  Nevertheless, being able to offer Rotaract to the entire community is a nice benefit of a community-based club.  (Just to be clear….I love College / University Rotaract Clubs just as much!  I got nothin but love for them.)

The newest club in Rotary District 7620, the Rotaract Club of Howard County, has another unique characteristic other than being a community-based club.  The Howard County club is sponsored by not one, two, or three Rotary clubs.  It is sponsored by SEVEN Rotary clubs in Howard County.  That’s right.  All seven clubs in the county stepped up to sponsor the new club.  That means that they share the financial responsibility to support the new club and they share the responsibility to be mentors, networkers, recruiters, and overall cheerleaders for the Rotaract club.

DGN Barton Goldenberg (far right) administering the last rites…er…I mean, installing the club officers.  From left, Dani Sorge, Eric Gillentine, Taylor Kimble, Katherine Mooney, Michelle Wong, and Charter President, Meghan Whalen

Having seven sponsors also creates some challenges for Rotary in the county.  The clubs have created a “Rotaract committee” where each club has named a representative to meet twice a year to discuss all Rotaract matters.  The committee hopes to create a joint service calendar that shows the service projects for all seven Rotary clubs, which is something they’ve  never done before.  Hopefully this will be a productive way to  share service opportunities and other opportunities with the Rotaract club.  Temrah Okonski is the Chair of the new Rotary committee.  She is already getting a lesson in what it’s like to “herd cats” in Rotary.  I told her it is probable, or at least likely, that she will survive this experience.

The new Rotaract Club of Ho. Co. has a great business model where they will meet the first Wednesday of every month to network and recruit new members.  Every other Wednesday will be their business meeting.  And as much as possible throughout the month they intend to do a wide variety of service projects.  I absolutely love this model.  Oh…they are contemplating charging members dues in the $10 to $20 per annum range.  I’m not sure what they ultimately decided, but I do know it is significantly less than the cost of the typical networking clubs that cost up to $1,000 per year.

Click here to check out the Rotaract Club of Howard County Facebook page

At the end of the day, there is absolutely no reason that this Rotaract  club shouldn’t quickly grow to be a 100 member club.  The club  offers a unique opportunity to do business networking, practice leadership skills, and do local and global community service.  It’s always exciting to charter a new club, and this charter ceremony was no exception.  DGN Barton Goldenberg handled the charter duties with poise and charm, and brought the new club officially into existence to the great satisfaction of everyone in attendance.  And special thanks to District 7620 Rotaract Chair, Marilyn Nevi Cruz, who drove up from downtown Washington, DC to join us.

So….now the work begins.  This club chartered with 20 members.  I can’t wait to see what these young leaders do with this amazing opportunity.

Yours truly presenting the multi-million dollar, diamond studded, gold inlaid, gavel, to Rotaract Club President, Meghan Whalen.

COMMERCIAL:  This blog was brought to you by the Rotary documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  This amazing full-length movie tells the incredible true story of the Rotary leaders who had enough courage and vision to guide Rotary to a position of world-leadership in polio eradication.  You can rent Dare to Dream for three-days for only $4.99 and receive a FREE excerpt of the film to show at your next Rotary or Rotaract meeting.  Or you can buy the film for $25 and make a $19 contribution to PolioPlus.  Order your copy of Dare to Dream now!

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Everything Rotarians Need to Know about Public Television

I honestly can’t remember how I initially connected with Randy Feldman, but I’m sure glad I did.  I can tell you he has been an amazing resource for helping me better understand the weird organizational landscape of public television.  I am, after all, a movie promoter nowadays, and I was interested in promoting our documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, on public TV.  He is also an expert on Rotary public relations, and I’m going to share some of his thoughts on that subject at a later date.  Randy was the one who came up with idea of playing Dare to Dream over a hotel’s internal room television channel during a PETS training or District Conference…still one of the coolest ideas for promoting Rotary that I’ve come across.

Randy has some impressive Rotary chops.  He is a Past Governor of Rotary District 6840 and a Past President of the Rotary Club of New Orleans.  He was Vice Chair of the Host Organizing Committee for the 2011 Rotary International Convention.  And he is a past member of the Rotary International Communications Committee.

Why was he qualified to serve on the International Communications Committee?  Because Randy retired at the end of 2012 after 22 years as President and General Manager of the PBS station, WYES in New Orleans.   Without getting into his incredible resume of accomplishments, trust me that Randy has probably forgotten more about Public Television than we are likely to ever know.

That being the case, as your intrepid Ready, Fire, Aim reporter, I asked him if he would be willing to share a few thoughts about what Rotarians should know about your local public television and radio stations.  He was gracious enough to share these thoughts with you:

“Many commercial stations have public service programs or public service segments in their news programming or news magazines in which you can appear and tell your story about your latest project.  Contact the public affairs personnel at the station to see what the possibilities are. 

Your local public television and radio stations may be interested in pre-produced public service announcements.  And depending on their locally-produced programs, they may want to interview locals with interesting stories as well.  The station Program Director is the person to contact. 

Also, many have local on-air fund-raisers that could give you the opportunity to be on-air or in a phone bank tohelp them and they in turn may offer you an opportunity to say you are with Rotary.  The Membership Manager or Development Director would be the right contact. 
If you have long-form programming that you would like to air on local public broadcasting stations, the funder or the producer for the program cannot be part of the content.  This would look like a conflict of interest even if it isn’t.  Public broadcasting is very careful not to cross that line, even if it is only perception and not reality.  Because Dare to Dream is about Rotary and produced by a Rotary organization, it will have a difficult time clearing the conflict of interest criteria that most stations have.  But not all stations will be that concerned.  This is especially true of second public television stations in a market.  The person to approach at these stations is the Program Director.

If you think you have a program that should be seen nationally on PBS, approach your local station Program Director and ask for advice.  They will be able to give you the information you need to determine your chances and how to contact PBS.”

I also asked him about cable access:

“Yes, Ken.  Cable access in many places around the country looks for free content.  It can be difficult to reach out to them.  I think many states will have a state association of cable franchises, and you could find contact information that way.”

Thanks, Randy, for the great information about public television.  Maybe its time that Rotary clubs developed a relationship with a local station manager and consider how to integrate public television into their PR efforts for their club.  And yes, perhaps they might consider Dare to Dream as possible content for their station.

You can now buy a three-day rental of Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, for only $4.99.  To rent or buy, click here.

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