Monthly Archives: February 2014

3 Great Reasons to Apply for Rotary Club Awards


Why should we care about “winning” a District club award?  Or for that matter, an RI Presidential Citation?  Good question, don’t you think?  After all, I don’t know any Rotarians who serve the local or international community because they want to win an award.  And actually applying for the awards does take a certain amount of effort that could be better spent….serving the community.  Larry Leahy, our District Awards Chair, has made the process as easy as possible with simple forms to complete that allow you to win Gold, Silver, or Bronze awards based on earning points for Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service, New Generations, and International Service.  But even so….why bother?

Here are three good reasons to apply for and WIN an award (in no particular order):

Reason Number One:  It will help you recruit new members.  It will especially help small clubs recruit new members.  How?  Because the award allows you to say that you are “an award winning” club, and for many potential recruits that could be meaningful.  In fact, it is an important third-party confirmation that you have a GREAT Rotary club no matter how big your club is.

Reason Number Two:  It will help you to retain your current members.  The old saying is, “familiarity breeds contempt,” and unfortunately at times that can be true in our clubs.  Long-time members may no longer appreciate just how good your club is and the breadth of services you provide.  Winning an award is a great confirmation that they have made an excellent choice to be a Rotarian in YOUR CLUB.  Winning always feels good.  Remember, Rotary is a team sport and in this case winning an award give the team something to cheer about.

Reason Number Three:  The award could be newsworthy.  At a minimum its worth letting the local paper know you are an “award winning” club.  Any further PR you do as a club can include the fact that you won your award.  It turns out the community just might be interested that the local Rotary club is an award winning club.  Be creative in letting them know.  While you and I know that it is isn’t that difficult to win some kind of District award, let’s keep it a secret between us.  As far as the community and the press is concerned, your club just won a very exclusive award.

There you go.  Three good reasons to apply for and win some club awards.  Deadline for the submission is March 31, 2014.  If you have any questions about District awards contact Larry Leahy at  And by the way…it’s perfectly OK to be a little cocky while you strut up to the front of the room to accept the award for your club at the District Conference.

A New Rotary Club is Born….er…..Chartered.

Hard to tell who is more excited, the new members or the District Leadership Team.

Of the long list of things I have yet to do in Rotary, I can now officially scratch off going to Charter Night for a new club.  In this case, our newest club in District 7620 is the Rotary Club of Federal City which chartered with 42 new members.  That’s right….42 new members!  The backstory for the club isn’t all that interesting.  Rotaractor Navin Valliappan  gets together a few good friends and they decide to start their own club based on the notion of community service, good fellowship, and as he puts it, “being cheap.”  (Navin…we like the term “inexpensive” but that’s OK.)  Enter District Club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, who proceeds to make the drive from Glen Burnie to City Hall in DC about a zillion times in support of the new club.  Mix in a little District Governor Peter Kyle, Membership Chair Darrell Nevin, and a lot of well-wishers in fellow clubs in the District, and voila….you have a new club made up almost entirely of enthusiastic young professionals.

The Charter ceremony was full of pomp and circumstance.  First of all, the reception was held at the Embassy of Pakistan in DC.  The guest speakers were the Pakistan Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Jalil Abbas Jilani, Ward 4 DC Representative the Honorable Muriel Bowser, and our own “His Excellency” District Governor, Peter Kyle.  However, it may have been Past District Governor, Ray Streib, who rescued the evening by bringing some order to the chaos of getting all of the new members properly sworn in.  I happened to sit next to Ray during the ceremony and I can tell you he had the look of a proud papa, as well he should.

As I watched the proceedings I found myself thinking that brand new Rotary clubs have the opportunity to create their own traditions.  I was chatting with new club President, Navin, after the ceremony and related the same thought to him.  This club can do anything it wants to do as long as it has strong leadership and a club of excited, educated, and motivated members.  But guess what?  Every single club in the District has the same opportunity.  With each new year our clubs swear in a new leadership team with the opportunity to make positive change in their club and in their community.  They can start a new tradition any time they want to.

To me that’s the single most exciting thing about Rotary.  There is no “Good Idea” form that has to be approved by RI or the District.  If it helps do good in the world, or if it adds to the fellowship of being in Rotary, then go ahead and do it.  How great is that!

So best wishes to the new Rotary Club of Federal City.  We are all looking forward to watching you become a force for good in DC and in our District.



DGE Bill Fine avoids drawing blood while “pinning” a new officer of the club.
His Excellency Mr. Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. with District Governor, Peter Kyle.
Past DG and District Extension Chair, Ray Strieb, inducting the new members and creating order out of chaos.
DG Peter Kyle administering the Oath of Office to new club President, Navin Valliappan.














Multiple Club Membership Event? Interesting Idea

L-R- Hodges, Almgren, Sponheimer, Streib, Grayson, and Korwek figuring out why no one says Anne Arundel County in Anne Arundel County. They say “West County” or “North County.” But we know it’s still Anne Arundel County.


I had the opportunity to share some time with Area Governor, Peter Grayson, and three of his club leaders at Hellas Restaurant in Millersville on Tuesday evening.  Pete is one of our newer AGs and he was doing what excellent AGs do, which is to get his club Presidents and President-Elects talking about their clubs, sharing ideas, and thinking outside of the box.  Needless to say, I LOVE these kind of meetings.  (Are you kidding?  After all, the blog name is Ready, Fire, Aim.)  When everyone is willing to consider new ideas in order to break the status quo, you never know what interesting options can get put on the table.

The evening’s change agents….err… Presidents and President-Elects were BWI President Greg Hodges, (featured in RFA just a few weeks ago), Glen Burnie President Michael Sponheimer and President-Elect (and Past District Governor AND current District Club Extension Chair) Ray Streib, and West Anne Arundel County President-Elect Fran Korwek.  Joining them was Foundation Advocate Nancy Almgren.  Here is just one of the ideas they were pondering:

Isn’t it true that people who join evening clubs are generally looking for a completely different Rotary experience then those that join morning clubs?  Evening club people want to sit back and enjoy the meeting at their leisure.  It is their night out of the house and the meeting (and the cocktails) can last as long as folks feel like hanging around.  Morning club Rotarians see a morning time as a way to get their Rotary meeting in and not mess up their work day, and not mess up their family time in the evening.  It turns out that morning and evening clubs really don’t compete for new members at all, because folks looking for an evening club will probably never join a morning club and vice versa.

That being the case, why not join together and do a membership campaign in your community that includes morning, lunch, and evening clubs?  You can combine to create a great membership event where the cost is shared by several clubs.  Have a “menu” of club locations and meeting dates and times for guests to check out.  I’ll bet each club would get a few good prospects while sharing the cost AND doing a great job of introducing the community to Rotary.  The average citizen in your community probably doesn’t understand that you have multiple clubs in the same general area anyway.  Why not work together?

In fact, the theme of the evening was how to work together.  Give it a try.




RYLA 2014 – What a hoot

RYLA youth cheerfully waving to the old, bald guy fumbling with his camera phone.

I spent Monday morning at the RYLA 2014 Conference held at the National 4-H Youth Center in Chevy Chase.  (Note: if you have to drive to Chevy Chase on a Monday morning do it when the Federal Government is on holiday.  35 minutes from Columbia to Chevy Chase….are you kidding?)  What is RYLA?  It is the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, a program designed to train students in 11th or 12th grades in character, leadership, personal development, and good citizenship.  Our District’s RYLA program, under the direction of  RYLA Chair Judy Cappuccilli, and her capable committee members Mary Dudley, Ed Kumian, Rochelle Brown, and Navin Manchery-Villiappan, put on quite a show for close to 100 high school students there to learn about leadership.

I was joined on Monday morning by a large contingent of the district leadership team, including DG Peter Kyle, DGE Bill Fine, Yours Truly, and IPDG Bob Parkinson, and we were all amazed and delighted with the level of energy and enthusiasm that these young do-gooders applied to their task of working in teams to develop and present new and innovative community service projects.  The ideas were terrific.  Everything from creative ideas for providing services for the unemployed, the physically disabled, the hungry, the sexually and emotionally abused, and more.  The group was broken up into something like 16 different groups all competing in fun learning activities.  According to the program points were awarded for Funny, Hat, Hair, Wig, and Masquerade; Presentation of group mascot, Skit, and Cheer/Song, and their team presentation at the Sharefair.  The RYLA participants learned about teamwork and leadership, but they were also having a blast. The winning Sharefair group project had to do with teaching homeless youth to express themselves using poetry.  That’s right…POETRY!  I wish you could have seen their skit.

Along the way RYLA participants learn a lot about Rotary and it’s no secret that getting these young men and women into the program is a good way to get them interested in Interact and Rotaract, or in the case of Navin M-V, helping to start a brand new Rotary Club of Federal City in Washington, DC.  I couldn’t make it to the conference until Monday, and one of the main themes I was hearing from the participants was, “I’m tired.”  I’m sure they were since they had been going virtually nonstop since Saturday morning.  But if you were there with them you couldn’t help getting an infusion of energy and maybe a small reminder that its great to be young.

Why not find out more about RYLA for next year’s conference?  I’m sure you know some 11th and 12th graders that would benefit from the experience.

Intently listening to Sharefair presentations on how to make the world a better place.

Chesapeake PETS, a Multi-District Club “Do Over.”


Chesa PETS
Assorted DGEs, DGNs, and Committee Chairs “making it happen” under the watchful eye of Chesapeake PETS Chair, Eric Grubb (far-end left) and training Chair, Jim Probsdorfer (far-end right) at a recent Chesapeake PETS meeting at the Hyatt Regency in Reston, Va.

Rotary changes its leadership throughout the entire organization every year.  For those who prefer to see the glass as half full, that presents a great opportunity.  Why?  Because every year our Rotary clubs get a “do over.”  Meaning, no matter what has happened in the past the new club leadership has the opportunity to reenergize a club with a new vision and new energy.  There are endless examples of a new club President inspiring a club to do great things.  We’ve featured several recently in Ready, Fire, Aim.

Our President Elects are trained at something called PETS, which is the acronym for President-Elect Training Seminars.  And yes, it’s always fun when a club visitor asks why the family dog or cat is being trained for Rotary.  (You get it, right?  PETS training?  Dogs and cats?….whew….tough crowd.)   In our District we participate in a multi-District training extravaganza known as Chesapeake PETS.  Four different Rotary districts participate in putting on a gigantic, combined, two-day training event (Feb 27 to March 1) that has become one of the more amazing examples of multi-District cooperation.

The Chesapeake PETS committee meets just about year-round on a monthly basis to discuss every aspect of the training.  You can probably imagine the issues with the venue, food, AV equipment, trainers and curriculum, guest speakers, finances, registration, etc.  And then, because four different Districts are involved, multiply the havoc involved by multiple times and you get some idea of what’s really involved with the planning.

Fortunately, the current Chesapeake PETS is chaired by the very able District 7630 Past District Governor, Eric Grubb.  (The past Chair was our own PDG, Rich Carson).  Along for the ride is every DGE, DGN, and DGND for each District, which means that when they convene a meeting there is enough brass in the room to set off the metal detectors at Dulles International Airport.  I mean….it is kind of like a bunch of Mafia Dons sitting around the table.  (Just kidding everyone….just kidding.)

Seriously there is a lot of passion, enthusiasm, and institutional knowledge sitting at the table, and the end result is that our new club presidents have a fantastic Rotary experience.  We are lucky to have DGE Bill Fine representing us this year, along with his team of Training Chair, Paul Frey, Yours Truly,  and DGD Anna Mae Kobbe.  Not to mention PDG Bob Grill who is the Chesa. PETS treasurer.

Of course, after PETS the PEs return to their clubs where there is often a titanic collision between our highly  motivated change agents (our newly trained PEs) and Rotarians who love the status quo.  What fun!  And it happens every year.  Stand by for more updates about Chesapeake PETS.


What do Great Rotary Clubs Sound like? LOUD!


L-R: Wendy Albertini, Karl Miller, PE Julian Mansfield, Joanne Irving, Tracey Hoston, President Barton Goldenberg, making big plans. HUGE plans.

One my new favorite movies is “Trouble With the Curve” with Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams.  In the movie Eastwood plays an aging baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves who is losing his eyesight.  His daughter (Amy Adams) helps him scout the Braves number one prospect.  Not to give away the ending, but Eastwood teaches his daughter to hear the sound of a well- hit ball and it all leads to a satisfying ending.

Baseball movies typically have little to do excellent Rotary Clubs, but in this case I think it does.  I recently visited the Metro Bethesda Rotary Club and I knew this club was sizzling long before the meeting started.  I could tell by the sound.  Successful clubs have a buzz about them as the members are happy to get together, share the news, and do whatever good is on the day’s agenda.  The air crackles with energy….you can feel it as well as hear it. The MBR club meets at the Redwood Restaurant in Bethesda and the wood and glass in a particularly beautiful room help to amplify the uproar.  It’s a happy sound to my ears and whenever you attend a meeting where the sound level is this high you know that good stuff is happening.

Metro Bethesda doesn’t disappoint.  Under the direction of President, Barton Goldenberg, MBR Rotary membership is soaring.  They are currently at 37 members and Goldenberg was pleading to get to 40 before his term was over.  I never did find out what evil awaits him if they don’t make it, but I don’t think he needs to worry.  This is one of those clubs where the demographic is young and professional.  There were plenty of guests on the day I visited.  And the laughter was genuine and ongoing.  They clearly enjoy each other’s company at MBR, and they certainly made me feel welcome.

In terms of Rotary business, MBR is about to turn its attention to their Foundation giving. They are finishing up the financing for a $100,000 project in Russia where they’ve put together partnerships with several districts in the U.S. and around the world, AND several clubs in District 7620.  Now they are taking dead aim at our District’s $200 per cap annual giving goal.  Their campaign will include adding the donation to club invoices, pushing for PHS members, and developing a matching PH Recognition point program in the month of March.  Done and done!

If you happen to be in Bethesda and are looking for breakfast on a Thursday morning, make up at MBR.  Don’t show up unless you want to have a good time.

6 Great Ideas for Retaining New Members

New member dinner
L-R: Yours Truly, Lon Chesnutt (foreground), host Sam Krupsaw, new member Kalie Fishburn, Club Service Chair, Beth Thomas, Sandy Harriman, Darren Easton (in back), and Kelly Lego, all pretending to have a good time.

The Columbia Patuxent Club has a well-earned reputation for being, let’s say, irreverent. It is part of the culture of this particular Rotary club to be loud, boisterous, and hilarious, while at the same time doing  a lot of important service work in Howard County.  Recently I attended the club’s new member dinner where new members are invited to  meet with the club’s leadership, learn about the club’s various committees and community service projects, and begin to build relationships that hopefully will last a Rotary lifetime.

New member dinners are an important part of Columbia Patuxent’s determined efforts to retain their newest members.  In fact, the most successful clubs in the District follow a similar strategy to retain new members.  And make no mistake, retaining new members is just as important as recruiting new members.  The stats show that we typically lose an equal amount of members as we recruit each year, which is why it is so hard to grow NET new members.

Here are a few new member retention tips for your club to consider:

1.  Have a “fireside chat” with new members that helps them set proper expectations for Rotary membership.  Topics should include finance, the Rotary Foundation, attendance, club fundraising requirements, and other club issues and traditions.

2.  Have a “red badge” tradition that sets specific goals for new members to meet when they join your club.  Meeting all of the requirements results in a “stripping ceremony” that is fun for all.

3.  Make the membership induction memorable….don’t just read it.  Truly celebrate your new members.

4.  Have a new member dinner where club leaders “pitch” new members about their committees and new members get to meet everyone is a relaxed social atmosphere.

5.  Have new members attend RLI (Rotary Leadership Institute) and attend the District Conference.  Both will enhance their knowledge of Rotary and increase member retention.

6.  Encourage new members to have high expectations of club leaders and to be comfortable with sharing their ideas and opinions with the rest of the members.

If your club pays as much attention to keeping your new members as  you do to recruiting them in the first place, your membership efforts will be amazingly successful.  To learn more about member retention contact District Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin.


What the heck is “BWEE”


L-R: George Kazmarek, Bob Nichols, Rich Berger (with a fraction of his head showing), Pete Notari, President Greg Hodges, Erika Franz, Bruce Fink

I’m not sure if many Rotarians in the District are aware that we have a Rotary Club that takes its name from the BWI airport.  Unfortunately, as several of the members reported to me with glee, at times people ask them what “BWEE” means.  (Get it?  BWI?  Looks like it spells “bwee?”  I’m not making this up, folks!)  I had the opportunity to meet with this stalwart group recently and I can report that this club is determined to have a major impact in their community.  And like many of the small clubs I’ve visited, you can’t measure their enthusiasm to serve by the size of their membership.  The BWI club focuses much of it’s energy on meeting the needs of economically deprived elementary-level public school students.  They are passionate  in their desire to help North Anne Arundel students get much needed economic help.

Unfortunately, they know that their mission won’t be best served with the club at it’s current size and so part of the club’s agenda on the day of my visit was to discuss their upcoming “Meet and Greet.”  If “Meet and Greet” sounds  suspiciously like District 7620’s new “Open House” model of membership recruiting, it is.  In fact, club leaders have met several times with District Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin, in crafting their current campaign.  Sounds like they will be using direct mail along with some old fashioned networking to get some warm bodies in the seats.  If they can translate the energy I saw during my visit into a Meet and Greet “home run,” then this club will be off to the races.

My advice to the BWI crew, other than give to the Rotary Foundation, (which was the reason for my visit) is to target the fast-growing business community around the BWI airport for membership.  The key is for guests to see the BWI club as it could be.  And to do that, the current members will have to inspire their guests with a combination of  imagination and a lot of old fashioned hospitality.  When business owners see that they can have a dramatic impact on the local community by joining a small club, I think they are going to get excited.

When small clubs decide that they are going to make something happen, the results can be amazing.  It doesn’t take many new members to make the percentage growth numbers go vertical.  And when the membership starts to grow, so will this club’s impact on the local community.  So come on BWI…we are all rooting for you!