A “Non-Scary” Rotary Club – Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle
Dupont Circle Foundation Chair, Miel Hendrickson, and President, Amer Ahmed Syud happily scheming how to increase Club’s Foundation awareness.

This week I had the opportunity to do my Foundation awareness talk as the Program for the Dupont Circle Club in Washington, DC.  President Amer and Foundation Chair Miel Hendrickson graciously met with me prior to the meeting to talk “Foundation Business.”  If you happen to be downtown on a Tuesday evening and can make it over to Bistro Bistro, you really should visit this club.

Why?  Because this is another club in the District that is breaking the traditional mold of Rotary clubs and growing a young and energetic membership.  The club was only chartered a few years ago and boasts 38 (soon to be 40) members.  As I said in my opening remarks to the club, “You guys have it all wrong.  Your average age is 25 years too young.  You have too many women in this club.  And, your dues are entirely too inexpensive” Their secret, they think, is the dues.  You only pay RI and District dues and a very small charge for….wait for it…..Happy Hour.  So no sit down dinner costs and the restaurant cuts them a great deal for the room upstairs.  Amer was bragging about having the lowest dues in the District,  but I think the Olney Club (see post in archives,”It Don’t Have to be Fancy to be Great”) might give them a run for the money.  Probably not surprisingly, both clubs are very upbeat about their growth goals.

During my visit the club was emotionally bidding goodbye to Rotarian and Paul Harris Fellow, Deb Foti, who is leaving the U.S. for opportunities overseas.  Apparently this is one of the occupational hazards of DC Rotary clubs where members tend to travel a lot.  I was floored when one of the members gave a happy dollar and praised Deb for not being “one of those scary Rotarians in the clubs we didn’t want to join.”  (Note: I did give my own Happy Dollar for all of us “scary old” Rotarians everywhere.”

It’s true that the average member of the Dupont Circle club is young.  But we all might consider if we ARE the old “scary” Rotarians in clubs these younger members don’t want to join.  How welcoming are we to young members AND THERE GUESTS?  Do we make the environment fun?  Believe me, they have a lot of fun at Dupont Circle, if for no other reason that they aren’t weighed down by a big meal.

As for Foundation business, I found myself in the unusual position of counseling club leaders that they need to diversify their membership by getting a little older so they can take advantage of the experience, contacts, and yes, deep pockets, offered by our older members.  Hey….we can be a lot of fun, too!  It was gratifying to meet passionate Rotarians making it happen with their own model for dues, fun, food, and service projects.  Check them out if you get a chance.