Ninety-Five Years and We Still Haven’t Figured it Out.


A Ready, Fire, Aim reader, Ken, commented on my post about goal setting.  He was wondering why I took one-third of Rotary clubs off of my potential Dare to Dream free-program list because I thought they were “disconnected from Rotary.”  I’ve been thinking about using that term and Ken’s excellent comment ever since. How can a Rotary club be “disconnected” from Rotary?  After all, a Rotary club’s ability to “practice Rotary” (whatever that means) on its own terms is fundamental to our organization.  I’ve written about this before.  On October 2016  I published an article asking if Rotary was a Franchise Operation?  It accurately described a somewhat boozy, late night conversation between concerned Rotary leaders trying to figure out what it means for Rotary clubs to be autonomous, and how more often than not, that autonomy hurts Rotary’s brand in a particular community.  (That was back when I was writing interesting posts worth reading…..)

After all of these years it seems we are still wrestling with the autonomy of Rotary Clubs. Actually independent and autonomous Rotary clubs are perfectly happy with themselves, even if their District Governors are somewhat stressed.  It’s certainly important to me in the context of promoting Dare to Dream.  How can we get Rotary clubs to watch a free excerpt of the movie if they don’t follow the news that is flowing down to them from Rotary leadership? A few Rotary clubs simply aren’t interested in anything other than the programs that they enjoy doing, often for the past many years.   (As I told Ken, I can only guess how many constitutes “a few.”)  The point is, these clubs don’t see this as a problem.  But to be clear, when it comes to service projects, Rotary’s rules clearly give all clubs the right to be autonomous.

One of the great stories in the Dare to Dream movie is the story of Edgar “Daddy” Allen, the International Association of Crippled Children, and Rotary Resolution 23-34.

Daddy Allen was the legendary founder of the Ohio Society of Crippled Children, which became the International Society of Crippled Children, which ultimately became Easter Seals.  Rotary clubs so loved providing services to crippled children (yesterday’s term for children with disabilities) that they joined the ISCC in huge numbers.  The first Chairman of the ISCC was some guy named, Paul Harris.

The organization became so popular that it was suggested that ALL Rotary clubs be REQUIRED to financially support the ISCC.  This did not sit well with many clubs who did not want Rotary International to dictate what service projects individual clubs could do, or should do.  At the International Convention in 1923 the issue was clarified with the passage of Resolution 23-34 which clearly stated that Rotary clubs had complete autonomy in their choice of service activities.  There could be no Rotary-wide service projects enforced by RI.

Rotary leaders had to deal with Resolution 23-34 as they figured out how to position Rotary to do polio eradication.  As Dare to Dream filmgoers learn, the then new 75th Anniversary Fund would be funded by voluntary donations.  The fund itself  would be self-liquidating with a goal of raising $12 million over two years and spending it in five.  Contributions to the Rotary Foundation were also voluntary, but when TRF began funding ongoing international projects through the new 3H program, it created one of the biggest controversies in Rotary history.

Unbelievably, its been NINETY-FIVE years since the debate in St. Louis about Rotary club autonomy.  Apparently we still haven’t figured it out.

To learn more valuable Rotary lessons from Rotary’s history that are absolutely relevant today, watch the movie, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  

Follow Ken Solow on FB at daretodreamfilm and on Twitter at @Daretodreamfilm.

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Increase Rotary Membership and Don’t Call Me Shirley

During the development of the movie, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, we intended to make the film available to every Rotarian in the world for free.  We felt the story was so important, and so entertaining, that Rotarians would reengage with the polio eradication story….a necessity when you consider that we need to support polio eradication for three years after the last official case of polio is recorded. Surely getting people to watch the movie when it didn’t cost anything wouldn’t be a tough sell.

I thought changing the distribution plan for the movie to make it a fundraiser for polio was a good idea.  After all, we are charging $25 TOTAL for the movie, INCLUDING the $18.75 contribution to Polio Plus, and having walked down the DVD isle at Best Buy I could see that the price point wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t outrageous either.  Especially when you consider we are selling the movie for $6.25 and the rest of the price is a charitable contribution to Rotary’s most important project.

The new distribution plan is to make the first 18-minutes of the movie a FREE club program.  We’ve given Club Presidents a FREE downloadable PDF on how to conduct a discussion with club members about the movie and Rotary’s polio eradication efforts. What better “teaser” to buy the film than to show the first 18-minutes? Surely Rotarians will want to see how the story ends, right? (Forgive me for this, but I can’t help but add this clip from the movie, Airplane, where using the term “surely” has been forever ruined for me and for other Airplane fans.  This is Leslie Nielson in the first of many movie parodies that resurrected his career and Robert Hays as the ex-pilot, Ted Striker.)

Surely (I dare you not to say it) Club Presidents won’t show the 16-minute download plus the two minutes of credits and think that’s the end of the movie? Surely they won’t skip the discussion about polio? Surely they won’t miss this opportunity to sell the movie to their members so that everyone actually sees the end of the story and learns the important lessons offered by the great Rotarians who put us on the path to polio eradication? And surely they will stress that the movie is a much needed, and Bill and Melinda Gates matched, contribution to Polio Plus?

As importantly, will Rotary clubs avail themselves of the opportunity to use this film to recruit and retain new members? For example, why not gather all the new members from the past twelve months and have a “new member dinner” where everyone is invited to a club officer’s house to watch the movie, enjoy good food and frosty beverages, and generally discuss their Rotary experience so far? What better way to bond new members to the club, to Rotary’s greatest goal, and to each other?

Same thing with new prospective members. Why not have a special evening where anyone who has visited the club in the past is invited to a special movie night at a club member’s home who has a wide-screen TV, where they watch the film, enjoy good food and drink, and then discuss Rotary membership? What better way to introduce someone to club membership and Rotary’s illustrious history in a fun and non-threatening way?

Time will tell if changing our movie distribution plan to a fundraiser was a mistake. If Rotary clubs watch the free 18-minute club program and individual members don’t buy the film and learn the full story it will be a shame. Even though raising money for Polio eradication is important, if we don’t use this film as a tool for public image and membership retention and recruitment, we will be missing a big opportunity.

I can’t let you leave this post without enjoying one more famous (imfamous) clip from the movie, Airplane. My apologies for the violence depicted. As I recollect, we were all slapping each other for weeks after the movie came out. Here is Lloyd Bridges and Robert Stack, among others, creating chaos in the air and on the ground.

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28 Dare to Dream movie sales. Only 7,472 needed to hit our goal!

Here’s a shout out to Paul in Prior Lake, USA, Denish in Gold Coast, Australia, Ruth in Ivanhoe, Australia, dwp5334 from Castro Valley, California, and sphill1617 from Alexandria, Australia, the latest five customers for Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.   Not to mention our customers in Geneva, Switzerland, the Philippines, and Kuala Lumpur.  Pretty cool….don’t you think?

As we begin to turn the promotional gears for the movie, I can’t help thinking about goal setting and the lessons we can learn from our polio Founding Fathers on the topic.  I hesitate to say it, but I might know a thing or two about goal setting.   You probably know the basics.  SMART goals = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Bound. One of my favorite ways to teach Rotary Club Presidents about realistic goals is to use polio as an example of how NOT to do it.  “Eradicate polio for all of the children of the world.” How smart was that back in the late 1970’s with more than 1,000 cases of polio per day in every country in the developing world?  As you watch the film, pay attention to Clem Renouf, Dr. John Sever, and Cliff Dochterman discussing how and why they set such a huge goal.

My own personal opinion is the best way to set mediocre goals guaranteed not to inspire anyone is to take a poll of the audience and try to find consensus of what they want to do.  You will find yourself with very comfortable, achievable, AVERAGE goals because you set up the process to get the average opinion.

One of the themes of the movie, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication, is to explore how a few courageous Rotary leaders came up with such an outrageous goal.  I used to speculate with my PETS classes that whoever was responsible didn’t know anything about SMART goal setting.  So how cool was it to make the movie and interview the living “Founding Fathers” of Rotary’s polio program where we had the opportunity to ask each of them about setting such a large goal.  What did they think at the time?  What do they think of that goal now that we are “this close?”  What would they do differently?

If you are a student of leadership and you are interested in how big ideas become big accomplishments, you might want to visit and pick up a copy of the movie.  The cost is $25 and $19 of the purchase price will be donated to Polio Plus.  Their answers will surprise you.

So with the fearlessness, courage, and perhaps naiveté of our Rotary leaders in mind, let me go out on a limb (again) and share a few of the goals for the Dare to Dream documentary.  A year from now we can revisit this post and laugh at my logic.  Here goes nothing…..

I figure there are 35,000 Rotary clubs in the world.  Then figure there are 10,000 clubs that are completely disconnected from Rotary.  So we have 25,000 clubs to work with.  You also have to figure in the large number of Rotarians who don’t speak English, but we are working on foreign language subtitles for the film so we won’t deduct for language barriers.  If 10% of the clubs take advantage of our offer for a free club program over the next twelve months (the Mother of all assumptions) where they can show the first 18 minutes of Dare to Dream, that’s 2,500 clubs showing the excerpt.  (It’s free for Pete’s sake! They can see the excerpt on the website or download.  There’s no risk and its a great program….right?  RIGHT?)  Now, if Club Presidents encourage club members to buy the film so they can learn the rest of the story, and 3 members of each club (on average) buy the film, that gets us to sales of 7,500 copies.  Polio Plus gets $18.75 of each purchase, which adds up to $140,625…before we add in Movie Night fundraisers.  If 2,500 clubs watch the excerpt and 3% do a Movie Night, and if the 75 clubs that do Movie Night raise on average an additional $500 per Movie Night, this would add an additional $37,500 to the unofficial total. (It’s unofficial because I won’t be able to track it online.)

I’m thinking we declare victory once we raise more than $200,000 for polio eradication!

That’s crazy, right?   Maybe so, but not nearly as nutty as saying we were going to eradicate polio for all the children of the world back in the late 1970’s!  Anyone out there want to help out with this?


Visit the Dare to Dream website at  Your $25 movie purchase allows us to donate $18.75 to PolioPlus.  Follow us on Facebook at daretodreamfilm.  Follow us on Twitter at @daretodreamfilm.

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Dare to Dream’s Wild Premiere in Evanston

Don’t you love movie premieres? The press, the excitement, the stars, the red carpet, the fashion, and of course, the fans. We had it all last Friday at the premiere in Evanston of the new documentary, Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication. Here is a quick shot of the limos lined up outside of One Rotary Center as the excitement was building.

The feeling in the theater last Friday was electric. We showed the movie and then Carol Pandak, Rotary’s High Priestess of Polio eradication, hosted a panel discussion with Sarah Gibbard Cook, author of the book, Rotary and the Gift of a Polio Free World, and Mike McGovern, Chair of Rotary’s International Polio Plus Committee,and your’s truly, to discuss the movie and update the audience on the latest polio eradication news. Afterwards we got some great video of lucky audience members who attended the show.

Here’s Mark Gibson DGE District 6440:

Not to be outdone, here is Suzanne Gibson:

And finally, here is Diane Teska:

There is an old saying in Rotary, “what goes on in the after party stays in the after party.” But here’s a photo to give you some idea of the chaos that ensued at the party beginning at or around 4PM at Rotary’s home offices last Friday. I was told this behavior wasn’t unusual for the staff on a Friday afternoon but I must admit to being just a little intimidated.

If you are at all interested in learning more about the best movie about Rotary history you’ve ever seen, then go to and check it out. You can see the 3-minute trailer, download the 16-minute excerpt of the movie that you can use as a free club program, or you can buy the film for $25 and make a $18.75 contribution to Polio Plus when you make your purchase. There is a lot of excitement building about this film….it’s time for you to check it out.

#daretdreamfilm #rotary #endpolio #droptozero

You can follow Dare to Dream at Daretodreamfilm on Facebook, and @daretodreamfilm on Twitter.

I’m Baaack

I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s been more than two years since I last wrote on this blog. Did you miss me?   (Hello…Hello… anybody out there?)

It turns out that I’ve been working on an amazing project for the past two years and I thought this was as good a place as any to fill you in about what’s going on.  But first, let’s watch a compilation for a minute or two of Arnold uttering one of his most famous and most annoying quotes.

OK.  Why am I bugging you?  Because we are kicking off one of the most fantastic Polio Plus fundraising campaigns ever.  We’ve produced a full-length documentary, called Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication.  It is one of the coolest stories you’ve never heard.  I mean it.  Who knew that our own Rotary history could be so interesting?  And so entertaining.  When you find out how Rotary got into the polio eradication business you aren’t going to believe it.  We were able to get first person interviews with the Rotary leaders who actually put us on the path to polio eradication. Turns out I didn’t know this story and I’ll bet you don’t either.

Stay tuned as I try to learn something about social media in order to promote the movie on RFA, Facebook, and Twitter.  We’ve created a daretodreamfilm Facebook page (please friend it, or like it, or whatever you are supposed to do) where you will find timely video, photos, and news about the film.  I am also going to be tweeting about the movie and the twitter account is @daretodreamfilm.  How about that?  Daretodreamfilm and daretodreamfilm …..which also happens to be the name of the website where you can buy the movie.

Our plan is to use movie sales to raise big money for Polio Plus.  To promote the film we’ve arranged for Rotary clubs to be able to watch a 16-minute excerpt of the movie for free and use it as a club program.  We are hoping Rotarians will want to learn the rest of the story and buy the movie.  Aside from being structured as a fund raiser, this movie will be the best member retention, member recruitment, and community PR tool your Rotary club has ever used.  Trust me.

For now, let me thank Ilana Bittner and Pixel Workshop for creating an absolutely wonderful film.  Thanks also to Darren Easton at Cypher’s Agency for helping me get up and running.  If you’ve  a mind to check out the trailer, the movie excerpt, or buy the film, go to Dare to Dream or navigate to  I’ll sell you the film for $6.25 if you make a $18.75 tax deductible contribution to Polio Plus.  Well….you pay $25 and we’ll make the $18.75 contribution for you.  Sound like a deal?

Dare to Dream, How Rotary Became the Heart and Soul of Polio Eradication,  is owned by the Rotary District 7620 Project Trust Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization.

Follow Ken Solow on Twitter at @Daretodreamfilm.  Follow Dare to Dream on Facebook at daretodreamfilm



It’s Time to Step Up to a Major Gift to The Rotary Foundation

I’ve just finished a three-part series of posts about recruiting young professionals to Rotary.  You know the story…we need their clear-eyed idealism, their boundless energy, their willingness to get their hands dirty with fresh ideas about how to solve problems in our community.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  Today’s post celebrates what I like to think of as one of the great benefits of having older Rotarians in our clubs.  And that, my friends, has to do with dirty, sweaty, money.

That’s right.  Those clear-eyed, idealistic young professionals typically don’t have much money.  And they are not quite certain (yet) how they will make their money.  Interestingly, entire generations of young Rotarians don’t seem to care about money in the same way that we (by “we” I mean older, more mature, but still vibrant, vital, and good looking baby-boomers) do.  They seem to be more interested in….wait for it…..being happy.  I know, I know.  I don’t understand a word of what they are saying either.  Which brings me to the target audience for this blog.  I’m writing to those of you who are ages 55 and older, have more money than you need to pay the bills, more money than you really need to leave the kids, and believe that having money creates a responsibility for you to do something meaningful with it over and above taking care of you and yours.  Something that will make a difference.

NOTE:  If you are not in this target audience, because for the most part older folks don’t read blog posts, please forward this post to someone you know who might fit this description. They will only hate you for a month or so, and then settle in to about year’s worth of indifference.

We (Rotarians) are all about doing good in the world.  You know the story.  World peace, 2.5 billion children vaccinated against polio, TRF’s six areas of focus, service above self, and so one.  We get it.  But perhaps you agree that it takes money to make Rotary’s world go round.  It’s money that funds our best and most important projects.  And its money that brings me to one of my favorites moments from one of my favorite movies, “As Good As it Gets.”  Here Greg Kinnear (Best Supporting Actor Nominee) and Helen Hunt  (Academy Award for Best Actress) find out from (Academy Award Winner for Best Actor) Jack Nicholson, that some people’s lives are about noodle salad. The punch line about “sweaty money” is just awesome.

If you have money, then you are probably used to people asking you to spend it, or invest it, or give it away.  We all deal with well meaning people who have a genius for asking us to make charitable donations in just the wrong way.  Which brings me to another of my favorite movie characters, Ned Ryerson, from the movie, “Groundhogs Day.”  We all hate to be “sold,” and Ned sure does a great job of reminding us just how pushy people can be when they are trying to sell you something.  Bill Murray as Phil and Steven Tabolowsky as Ned are perfect in this scene.

So, with great humility, let me take my turn as the “Ned Ryerson” of Rotary and talk to you about that sweaty money that is so crucial to funding the Rotary Foundation.  As we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of TRF, its time for those of us who can afford it to step up to a different level of giving to fund the good works that Rotary does in the world.  And to do that, I’m suggesting we become more familiar with how to make a Major Gift to TRF. To start, take a look at the fantastic piece from RI called, “Major Gifts, Major Impact – Rotary.”  (Just type it into Google and download the PDF.)   Here’s a few highlights:

Six pages on why TRF is one of the most interesting and important charities in the world. Followed by:

You can make a Major Gift with a minimum of $10,000.

You can make a pledge to fund a Major Gift over a three- year period with three equal payments of only $3,330. (The time period of your pledge is negotiable, as is most everything else in life.)

You can make a named gift to the Rotary Endowment Fund with a gift of $25,000 or more, or a pledge of $25,000 or more.  You have a lot of flexibility in determining what will be funded with the earnings from your gift.

You can make what’s called a term gift that gets spent immediately on TRF’s areas of focus, the SHARE program, Polio Plus, and the Rotary Peace Centers.

You get recognition for your entire gift in the year you make your pledge.  So if you are giving $5,000 per year for five years to the Endowment Fund to benefit the SHARE program, you get recognition for a $25,000 gift.  Which is, by the way, Major Donor +2 recognition.  (Your District only gets credit for the $5,000 you give each year.)

(ANOTHER NOTE:  Don’t take my word for any of this.  Contact the Major Gift officer in your District to get accurate and complete information.  I’m probably screwing up at least half of these details, but hey…I’m trying to make a point here.)

So here is a last thought to consider.  The Rotary Foundation is proudly celebrating it’s 100th anniversary at the International Convention in Atlanta in 2017 where Rotarians will congratulate ourselves for our amazing achievement of reaching the goal of $1 billion in our Endowment Fund.  At 5% per year the Endowment earnings will help fund $50 million of needed Rotary projects around the world.  But here’s an interesting statistic for you.  At $2 billion in value, the payout of $100 million per year WOULD EQUAL the annual contributions we make for Polio Plus, INCLUDING the Bill and Melinda Gates matching contribution.  Wouldn’t that be extraordinary!

So, as we enjoy the holiday season, and look forward to meeting next year in Atlanta, let’s make a promise to ourselves to look into a Major Gift to the Rotary Foundation.  And if we can’t afford to make that kind of commitment, then let’s remember that Rotary encourages all of us to give what we can afford.  Last time I looked, we still have a little work to do towards our goal of world peace.

Happy Holidays Everyone!





Will They Feel Welcome?

This is the third in a series of posts about recruiting Young Professionals to Rotary.  See the previous posts at the following links, Ten Steps to 100 New Rotary Young Professional Members, and  How to Properly Follow up Your Membership Events.

Here they come.  Excited.  Nervous.  Maybe a little unsure of themselves.  They are coming as a guest Rotarian to visit your Rotary club.  The purpose of their visit?  They are coming to unabashedly promote their business and to meet you in order to expand their professional network and perhaps find a business mentor.  You see, they joined Rotary in order to do community service and to build their business network, and they were told that in joining Rotary they were joining “the original social network.”  And as their fellow Rotarian, you are a part of it.  (Their new network, I mean.)

They will have their elevator pitch all shined up and ready to go when the Club President acknowledges them as a guest from the podium and asks them to introduce themselves. They are going to be very clear and professional as they promote themselves and why you should do business with them.  Perhaps they work in the same business or industry as you do.  Turns out they joined a new Rotary club that was just started in your city and they fully expect that one of the benefits of membership is to meet other Rotarians who might be able to help them build their business.  In fact, the club they joined is full of young professionals, but none of them have the knowledge, wisdom, experience, and contacts that you do, by virtue of the fact that you’ve built your business over decades, and you are, in many ways, the successful business man or woman that they aspire to be.

So here they come.  Will you say, “How dare they come to my club to promote themselves and their business.  That’s not what we do as Rotarians.  They haven’t “earned” the right to come to my club and give this business-oriented self-promoting speech.  Rotary is a service organization, and we don’t self-promote around here.”  Of course, you might not know that this young professional’s Rotary club probably does two to three times as much community service as yours, at least as measured by the amount of “hands on” projects they do.  Their new club exists to do community service projects and to build business networks, and they might do as many as two service projects every month.  In fact, they will probably be contacting your club to partner in a project that they’ve designed in the near future.  They really have some great new ideas for helping people in need in your community.

Hopefully when this eager young professional comes to visit your club, you will do more than extend the usual gracious Rotary welcome.  I hope you will actively search out this serious and dedicated professional after your meeting and give them some encouragement.  Thank them for visiting.  Ask if there is anything you can do to help them.  Perhaps offer to meet them for lunch or breakfast to give them some advice.  In short, give them a sense of just how valuable building a Rotary network can be to them, both in terms of business advice, and perhaps in time, personal advice as well.  If you do this, word might just begin to spread among the next generation of possible Rotarians that this Rotary network “thing” is actually VERY valuable.

Maybe, just maybe, this new Rotarian will be a new member of your own Rotary club.  It’s time for all of us to fully understand that growing a professional network is right at the top of the list for young professionals looking to join Rotary.  We need their energy, ideas, and enthusiasm.  Let’s make sure they feel welcome to our organization. Maybe we didn’t realize it before, but we are a big reason these young professionals joined Rotary.



Update on Dare to Dream Polio Documentary Project


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 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 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


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.


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!


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


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.



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:


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.


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!!!


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!