Monthly Archives: December 2013

It Don’t Have to be Fancy to be Great

I highly recommend that, given the chance,  you make up at the Olney Rotary Club.  They meet for Thursday morning breakfast.  However, be warned….don’t show up looking for a gourmet breakfast cause you won’t find one there.  Instead, you have your choice of bagels and coffee (no orange juice as I ruefully found out).  Or, if you are so inclined, you can order ala carte from Panera Bread right next door.   And, the Olney Club meets at the Olney Community Room, a community center in Olney where the cost of the room is $20.  Add up the extremely low cost for the meal AND the extremely low cost for the room and what do you get?  Extremely low dues.  And what does that mean for membership?  You guessed it… is growing like crazy.

I’m not kidding either.  Eighteen months ago the Olney Club was down to three members.  Last week I had the privilege of inducting their 25th member, as well as doing a Foundation program for the club AND meeting with the club’s leadership team afterwards to discuss their plans for meeting the District’s $200 per member goal for Foundation giving.  Here’s a twenty five member club that already has two PHS members.  Yup, just another club that is making hitting their Foundation giving goals easy. The club is young, energetic, and full of ideas.  Lately they’ve been adding one new member PER WEEK!  At this rate they will soon be big enough to actually serve orange juice for breakfast.

I’m just kidding about the OJ.  But I’m dead serious about the awesome model they are building for a low cost way to be a Rotarian.  It was fun to see Area Governor Geoffrey Fenner helping to put away the tables and chairs after the meeting, along with several other club members.  (While the other half of the Rotary “power couple,” Club President, Stephanie Fenner, was deep in discussions about important club business).  Our meeting after the meeting took place at Safeway across the parking lot because the Community Center needed the room.  Olney Club Rotarians are serious about “doing good in the world.”  Apparently it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to do so.

L-R, Shelley Pollock, AG Geoffrey Fenner, Tom McCarthy, Terry Anderson,Chris Hinton-Miller

From Miss America to Income Taxes…Miss America was Better

IRS logo

We all know that we don’t give to the Rotary Foundation in order to get a tax break, but on the other hand, the fact that Uncle Sam subsidizes our charitable giving is “better than a stick in the eye.”  So, knowing that my last Ready, Fire, Aim post featuring 2011 Miss America, Teresa Scanlon, elicited more comment than any other post this year (for reasons unknown)  I now will make a few brief comments about income tax planning…a topic sure to create a veritable tidal wave of interest.   This post will probably go the Rotary equivalent of “viral.”

I can’t give tax advice in this blog, but if you make enough money to know what a deduction is, then you might consider making your donation to The Rotary Foundation before December 31 so you can take a charitable deduction this year.  If you are eligible for a charitable deduction (many Rotarians are but if you are not sure check with your tax advisor) then the value of the deduction depends on your tax bracket.  If you have $72,500 of taxable income in 2013 your tax bracket is 25%, so your tax deductible $200 check to TRF really costs you only $150 because your deduction is worth $50.  The highest tax bracket for 2013 is 39.6% on more than $400,000 of income, so the deduction for a $200 contribution would be worth $79.20.

There is a difference between your Rotary Club’s fiscal year and the IRS’s calendar year, that presents something of an issue between your Club’s Rotary Foundation Chair and your accountant.  While your Foundation Chair (and yours truly) would be quite happy to accept your TRF contribution any time prior to June 30th and have it count for 2013, unfortunately your CPA will disagree.  Don’t be confused about your 2013 tax planning and your 2013 EREY (Every Rotarian Every Year) contributions.  If you want to take your charitable deduction this year, be sure to make your contribution to the Rotary Foundation by December 31.

For those gluttons for punishment who want to read more about charitable tax planning, I present two links below.  One is to a recent post by Barbara Ristow, Pinnacle Advisory Group’s Financial Planning Director.  (NOTE:  Rotary DOES have a Donor Advised Fund) The other is a link to an article by Michael Kitces, Pinnacle Partner and Director of Financial Planning Research, and by all accounts one of the best tax minds in the U.S.  You can read more from Michael at his Nerd’s Eye View website,



 OK… back to our regularly scheduled post Christmas programming.

It Just Ain’t Fair College Park

Teresa Scanlan

2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan

OK.  So this photo has little to do with having Dr. Anna-Mae Kobbe, District 7620 Paul Harris Society Chair, being  a member of the College Park club so members think in terms of PHS even before they think in terms of getting their first Paul Harris Fellow.  And yes, Anna-Mae is the District Governor Designate, meaning that if there is anything left of Rotary District 7620 after I finish screwing it up in 2015- 2016, Anna-Mae will be the District Governor in charge of cleaning up my mess.  Any yes, the College Park Rotary Club, about 45 members or so, already has five PHS members so they’ve pretty much got their annual Foundation giving licked.  With five PHS members contributing a total of $5,000 per year it takes the pressure off everyone else for the club to meet our new strategic goal of $200 per member giving for the SHARE program (Annual Program Fund).  A good goal for PHS for a club is 10% of the membership.  Do the math and see how one out of ten members can contribute 50% of annual TRF contributions.  See what I mean?  It just isn’t fair that College Park has the District PHS Chair, the District Governor Designate, AND already has five PHS members.

But if that isn’t bad enough, two weeks ago the College Park Club had Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, as a guest speaker.  I thought I would include her photo because someone on the District’s marketing committee told me that something about this photo might improve the readership of my blog.  Whatever did they mean?  It goes without saying that a photo of my visit last week was not thought to be overly important.

I suppose I should mention that current President, Mike Twigg, President Elect, Alan Sherer, and Past DG Bette Lewis, are all doing a fantastic job infusing new energy and enthusiasm into this club.  Their picture is shown below.  Do you care?


President Mike Twigg, PDG Bette Lewis, PE Alan Sherer
President Mike Twigg, PDG Bette Lewis, PE Alan Sherer
President Mike Twigg, PDG Bette Lewis, PE Alan Sherer




4 Ways to be Great Rotary Follower


Followers blog
I hate to put it this way, but in Rotary you really can “lead from behind.”

This is the time of year we think about Rotary Leadership.  Larry Leahy, long-time Area Governor in Anne Arundel County just sent this helpful email to his clubs reminding them that club leadership election time is here.  (Hopefully Larry doesn’t mind me sharing an excerpt from his mail.) Please be sure to have all of your 2014-2015 elections completed by the end of the month. Some clubs have stringent requirements in the bylaws. All information about the current PE, the Secretary and the new PE needs to be sent to Sherry ASAP. The December 31 date is real and needs to be done. The advantage of prompt elections is obvious: the incoming president can turn their attention to effective planning going forward.

You may consider sending the PE and your current Vice President to Multi-District PETS in late February/ early March. The cost is minimal and the advantage gained is incredible. It is not by accident that the district has five leaders involved in the active planning of the district: Bob Parkinson, Peter Kyle, Bill Fine. Ken Solow and the newly selected designee. This effectively insures continuity and very effective advance planning.
Good stuff, Larry!  But this is also a good time of year to think about what it means to be a good follower.  Strangely, being a great club member that is not on the club’s leadership team is just as important of stepping-up to be a club leader.  Here are some tips for being a great Rotary follower:

1. Give your new club President a break.  It’s hard enough to step into the job without our club “experts” weighing in on everything they are doing wrong.  Your opinions are important, but give your club leaders a few months before you let them know that you are actually the Rotary expert in the club.

2. Be a joiner.  Join more than one committee in the club and infuse that group with your best ideas, energy, and enthusiasm.

3. Not withstanding point number 1 above, have high standards for your club president and the rest of your club leaders.  You should be setting a high bar for them in terms of your expectations about their performance, and they should be doing the same for you, AND themselves.

4. Embrace change!  Club President’s are taught that while we all love our Rotary clubs, we could probably love them a little less.  Give some new ideas a chance in your club.

Rotary Training – New Ideas Just Ahead


Sean McAlister, Mary Nagle, and your’s truly, struggling through a tough meeting.

If there is one area of District Leadership that’s closest to my heart, it would have to be being a Trainer.  I was first asked to do PETS training (President-Elect Training Seminars) all the way back in 2003-2004 by then District Governor, Jim McDiarmid.  Since that time I’ve been involved in developing the PETS curriculum and in actually doing the training sessions.  I’ve had the pleasure of working, in most years, with Pat Kasuda, Andy Baum, and the current training chair, Paul Frey (all of whom are past District Governors, and one of which (Frey) is one of my graduates!)    Over the years we’ve taught leadership, Rotary knowledge, the Foundation, Membership, how to have club meetings, and lots of other cool stuff to President-Elects preparing them for their Rotary year as club president.

However, like many areas of Rotary I’ve been writing about, it’s time to move forward.  In this case the ideas, energy, professionalism, and enthusiasm, will be brought to us next year by our new Training Co-Chairs, Mary Nagle, Past President of the Carroll Creek Club, and Sean McAlister, past President of the Capitol Hill Club and former Area Governor.  Turns out that Mary and Sean are both professional educators, as I found out in a recent meeting in Bethesda.  (Yes…food and progress go together once again in Rotary.)  Sean and Mary REALLY know what they are talking about, or at least I hope so, because I didn’t understand half of what they were saying.

Here is what I do know.  Whatever it was they were talking about, they sure were excited about it.  Look for training to utilize more technology, to better meet the needs of small and large clubs, to be better integrated with RI Training, and to provide more opportunities for non-President Elects to learn about Rotary.  Training is the key to Rotary clubs doing a better of job of “do gooding,” and that, in turn, is going to help us all to make the world a better place.  Stay tuned…..more good stuff is coming.

And, oh by the way, to my fellow trainers, PDG and current Training Chair Paul Frey, PDG and Grants Chair, Andy Baum, and Council on Legislation representative and Zone Membership representative, PDG Pat Kasuda….the entire District thanks you for all the club Presidents you have trained over the years.  Not to mention…you guys were pretty good District Governors, too.









Dawn Wittfelt is named PR Committee Chair


DG Peter Kyle, PP Dawn Wittfelt, and DGE Bill Fine

Yes, it seems to be true that the best ideas for making the world a better place happen when Rotarians get together to eat.  That this is true may be unfortunate considering some of our waistlines, but there you go.  This week DG Peter Kyle, DGE Bill Fine, yours truly, and our newly appointed Marketing and PR Committee Chair, Dawn Wittfelt, met at Ruby Tuesday’s where Kyle and Solow ordered the ribs.  If you haven’t had the ribs at Ruby Tuesday’s you really should because they are second only to The Corner Stable for having the best ribs in the county.  But I digress.

Dawn presented the Team with her ambitious plans for getting the Marketing and PR committee up and running.  I wish you could have seen the faces of the three old Rotary dinosaurs seated at the table (those would be Kyle, Solow, and Fine) while Dawn proceeded to explain how we could revamp our entire marketing and PR strategy in a matter of months.  It is VERY GOOD to have new energy and ideas infused into our District!  Under Dawn’s direction we will soon have a professionally organized marketing and PR effort with subcommittees that include graphic design and video, traditional media, social media, training, website, newsletter, and more.  In short, we are about to have one of Rotary’s first District-wide  communication plans.  

Here’s a thought for your Rotary club: It took us only a few months to turn this from an idea into a spectacularly successful working committee.  We came up with the idea, had two marketing symposiums and recruited interested Rotarians, worked within our strategic plan, gave our Chair a clear vision of what we want to accomplish, gave her our best suggestions about how to go about doing things (over a meal…of course), and now let her loose to create as much positive havoc as possible.  Why not do the same in your club?

Remember….District 7620 does NOT have a good idea form for you to complete.  All you need is some imagination, some big ideas, energy, enthusiasm, a few Rotarians who want to make the world a better place…..and something to eat!