Monthly Archives: May 2014

Reinventing Your Rotary Club

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From L – R: Mt. Airy President, Tom Neff, AG, Mark Milby, Chris Ziomek, Immediate Past President, Paul Mahata, Scott Miles, Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin

Dunno if you’ve heard, but District 7620 is about to conclude one of our best membership years EVER.  According to District Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin, as of this writing we are about 125 net new members for the District, which means that after we account for all of the Rotarians who left Rotary this year, we STILL grew our membership at a time when Rotary membership in North America continues to stagnate.

The credit for this burst of enthusiasm belongs, of course, to the Rotary clubs who decided that if they didn’t grow their membership they were in danger of becoming an irrelevant force for good in their communities.  I’ve written in this space before about the magic that happens when someone in a Rotary club decides its time for a change.  Whatever it is, its happening again in our District in the Mt. Airy Rotary Club.  Mt. Airy inducted three new members this week and the club is “on fire” with new energy, new ideas, and new spirit.  As Nevin says, they are in the process of “REINVENTING” themselves.

Having given our Rotary clubs the credit for getting off their (you know whats) and making something great happen, I suppose, with great reluctance, I should send a shout out to our membership guru, Darrell Nevin.  It turns out that the club’s that follow Nevin’s “playbook” for membership growth succeed time and time again.  I recently tracked Darrell down and asked him to give me three tools and techniques for Rotary clubs that want to have a successful membership drive.  (He says he has about 50 of these but I told him he could only give me three for today’s post.  If you want to hear the other 47 I highly recommend you give Darrell a call.)  Here they are:

OK.  You can do that, right?  What’s next?

Got it.  Make a hit list.  Recruit a membership committee that meets on a systematic basis and holds each other accountable.  Next?

Sure…fireside chat.  Make sure new members are properly educated about Rotary AND your Rotary club.  Makes sense.

Congratulations to all of our Rotary clubs who put positive numbers on the board this year.  You know how the energy of the “newbies” is spilling over to everyone in your club.  Clubs that grow reinvent themselves with their new members.  Remember, the only limitation to how much good you can do in your community is a lack of imagination, and a lack of service-minded people to do the work.

Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin, mesmerizing the crowd with his special talent for….for…..elocution.


Abraham Lincoln lessons for Rotary


I just finished Doris Kearns Goodwin’s, Team of Rivals, which is a wonderful book for anyone interested in U.S. history, and especially for anyone who wants to learn the secrets of how to be a great leader.  While Lincoln is revered as a man of great principal, faith, and vision, one of the most important themes of the book is that he was a political genius who cobbled together a Cabinet that turned out to be one of the most productive leadership teams in American history.  Daniel Day Lewis played Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winning film, Lincoln, and he no doubt deserved it for his amazing portrayal of Lincoln that showed Lincoln’s humanity…something difficult to do with a historical figure as revered and as iconic as Lincoln.

I think this is probably the best known scene in the movie, where Lincoln is trying to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery.  While Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation  freed the slaves in the South by Presidential decree, slavery was still legal in the U.S. according to the U.S. Constitution.   This scene portrays Lincoln as a mighty and powerful leader who  almost bullies his followers into getting the votes he needs in Congress.  Remember this two minute clip from the movie the next time someone says they can’t do something in your club because Rotarians are just volunteers.  Wow….

The irony here is that the theme of the book is that Lincoln won virtually all of his political battles, including his nomination for President, by being…well….nice.  He was magnanimous to a fault.  He apparently had an endless capacity to forgive and forget. The character traits that seemingly most contributed to his success were humility, gratitude,  and patience…hardly the Lincoln in the clip proclaiming that he is wrapped in power. The book is full of examples of how Lincoln’s ability to stay focussed on the strengths of his team while looking past their flaws created an atmosphere where his Cabinet not only grew to respect him, they grew to love him.

 Oh, and the other huge tool Lincoln used to forge an effective team?  Humor!  His ability to spin endless funny stories and anecdotes about a variety of subjects diffused many tense situations.  The last president to be compared with Lincoln who had a talent for making his points through humorous stories was….wait for it….Ronald Reagan.  That’s right!

So what does this have to do with Rotary?  Everything!  If you are trying to build a team in Rotary be the first one to give the credit to your club members and be the first to assume the blame for anything that goes wrong…even if it wasn’t your fault.  Be patient with those who disagree with your grand designs and make sure they know how much  you value their opinions.  Keep your eyes on the long-term plan and don’t let the inevitable squabbles and personality conflicts in your club deter you from doggedly pursuing your goals.  As Mrs. Solow is always saying to me, “be nice.”  And while your at it, poke some fun at yourself and let people know you don’t take yourself too seriously.  Go out on a limb and try to get a laugh or two.  Your team will appreciate it.  It turns out those simple lessons from the book are about as good as it gets if you want to get anything done in your Rotary Club.  And it also comes in handy if you need to pass a Constitutional Amendment.







A Culture of Service

Career day attendees from Hammond High School getting a photo before attacking the snacks on table just behind them.


One of the amazing things about Rotary is all of the service work we do that never makes it into the “stats.”  It’s hard to measure the value of the sweat equity from the service work we do in our communities.  Whether its volunteering at hospitals, food pantries, career days, junior interviews, elderly communities, or “other,” Rotarians put up phenomenal numbers.  And yes, sometimes as a District Leader I tend to quantify service in terms of how much money a club raised in a fundraiser, how much they distributed to non-profits during the year, or how much they gave to the Rotary Foundation.  Let’s face it, that is only part of the story.

When we volunteer our time and energy there is a connection to others that we simply don’t get from selling tickets or writing a check.  Not that writing a check isn’t an extraordinarily valuable thing to do for our local and international community, but I’m guessing those Rotarians who role up their sleeves and dive into a service project feel just a little differently about the value of service, and about those we serve.  Writing about it here is a little bit of “preaching to the choir” as I suspect my RFA readers already know exactly what I’m talking about.

Doing service work does a lot more than make you feel better about yourself.  It turns out that clubs that have a culture of service, meaning that they have a long list of service activities for club members to get involved in, have a much better record of member retention.  (OK…I just made that up, but I’ll bet its true.)  These clubs seem relevant because they give Rotarians a chance “to engage Rotary.”  In addition, there is NO BETTER networking then working beside someone while you are serving others.  Sure…you can go to a networking event.  But for developing business relationships it doesn’t hold a candle to working side by side helping others.  Relationships built on community service are the real thing and not the product of some cocktail hour verbal mumbo jumbo.

The photos here are from a recent career day at Hammond High School where Rotarians from the Columbia Patuxent club volunteered their time to help some high school students better understand their options for college and careers.  It wasn’t newsworthy to anyone but the kids and those of us who showed up.  This kind of event goes on all over our District in different clubs EVERY DAY.  Hopefully this is a good reminder to make some time for our service work.  After that…..PLEASE write a check to the Rotary Foundation.

Note:  If  your club has a “hands on” service project that you are proud to be a part of, send some photos and a two paragraph description to me at and we will feature it in the District’s Rotary blog, under the direction of PR Chair Dawn Wittfelt.

L-R Fearless leader, Interact Chair, Kelly Leggo, and Laurie Reuben
L-R Rotarians Doug Dribben and Pete Kunz
L-R, Pete Kunz, Darren Easton, Laurie Reuben, Dave Lerer, Yours Truly, Brad Meyers, Sherri Brogan, Doug Dribben  (You had to be there as Easton described parents as “Goobers.”)


But Don’t Take My Word For It……..

Fearless Leader, District Rotary Foundation Chair, Claude Morissette, gleefully approving grants


This Saturday was “Grants Day” in District 7620.  On Grants Day Rotary Clubs present their projects for serving the community to the District Grants Committee under the Direction of Foundation Chair, Claude Morissette, and Grants Chair, Andy Baum.

One of the more frustrating things in Rotary is how to explain that our donations to the Rotary Foundation don’t go to fund projects that are somehow conjured up by unknown Rotary droids at the “Rotary Mothership” in Evanston.  Instead the money comes here where our fellow Rotarians in the District decide how they can best “Do Good In the World.”

But don’t take my word for it.  Here are a few “THANK YOU’S from clubs who benefit from our collective generosity.  Each clip is less than 40 seconds but the work that these clubs do in their communities is ongoing.  Sound familiar?  I’ll bet your club has similar projects that you are passionate about.  When you contribute to the Rotary Foundation you are expressing your trust and confidence in your fellow Rotarians to do good in our collective community, and they are expressing the same trust and confidence in you.  Give generously.  I hope to see your club at next year’s Grants Day.



Talking Past the Sale at Potomac Rotary

“Nuts!” – General Anthony Clement “Nuts” McAuliffe (July 2, 1898 – August 11, 1975) was the United States Army general who was the acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division troops defending Bastogne, Belgium, during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. He is famous for his single-word reply of “Nuts!” in response to a German surrender ultimatum. Nuts is also the speaker gift from the Rotary Club of Potomac.

Last week, prior to going to the District Conference, I had the pleasure of visiting the Rotary Club of Potomac to do my talk on the Rotary Foundation.  To put this talk into better perspective, the Potomac Rotary is consistently one of the most generous clubs in the District in terms of per capita giving to TRF.  Last year this twenty-five member club gave over $8,000 to the Annual Program Fund and AN ADDITIONAL $10,000 to Polio Plus.

With that kind of prior giving record I was worried about “talking past the sale.”  As anyone in sales can tell you, “talking past the sale” occurs when someone says they are ready to buy a product or service and the salesman keeps talking about it until they say something that changes the mind of the buyer.  I’m pleased to say that early reports indicate that I didn’t “talk past the sale” at the Potomac club last week and they are on track to write some big checks to the Foundation as we get to the end of the year.  I certainly hope so, because this club, like many clubs in the District, waits until year-end to turn in their contributions to TRF.  Their year-to-date giving is $105!  YIKES.

(NOTE TO ALL CLUBS THAT DO APF GIVING AT YEAR-END:  Come on people!  Let’s try to make this happen before the last month of the year where paperwork gets fouled up and everyone is trying to jam their contributions in at the last minute.)

I might add another relevant observation about the Potomac Rotary Club.  Our current District Rotary Foundation Chair and Esteemed Past District Governor, Claude Morissette, is a member of the club.  It is somewhat nerve wracking to do a Foundation talk in front of the boss!  If I would have messed up Morissette would have been reminding me about it for months (maybe even years) to come.  Fortunately he said I did OK.  Thanks, Boss.

Potomac Rotary recently changed venues to be a breakfast club, and President Don Harrison tells me that since they made the move there is a new energy in the club and a few new members in the pipeline.  Interestingly President Don shared with me that this is one of the few clubs I’ve visited that doesn’t do a fundraiser.  Apparently that is one of the things on the “to-do” list for this club’s resurgence going forward.  I can’t wait to see how they do.   (Special shout-out to Morris Gevinson who always goes out of his way to make me feel especially welcome. )

One last note….whatever else you want to say or not say about Potomac, they have one of the coolest speaker gifts ever.  Thanks, Potomac Rotary.  You were wonderful hosts and I appreciated the opportunity to talk about the Foundation!!!

L-R: Jenny Bartolomot, Marjorie Rothschild, Jean Bullock, Jan Brose, Sarah Torrence, Morris Gevinson, DRFC and PDG, Claude Morissette
L-R: Howard Lerch, Jim Harris, Pam Heir, Mark Gollub, Chris Goode
Yours truly and Club President, Don Harrison


“Wow.” “Just…Wow.” “Again.”


View of Camden yards from “The Naughty Nautical” Hospitality Suite hosted by District 7620 Rotaract Clubs

“Wow.”  “Just…Wow.”  “Again.”  Quote from DG Peter Kyle after the Four-Way Speech Contest, Anti-Bullying presentation by Beaufort High School students, Jack Andraka, high school student genius who developed a test for pancreatic cancer, and Teresa Scanlan, former Miss America, on Saturday morning at the District Conference.

If you missed the Conference this year, believe me, you were missed.  You are going to be hearing about how great it was from just about everyone who was there.  While all of the above were impressive, I’m embarrassed to say that for me, one of the best Conference highlights was the view from the Hospitality Suites down into Camden Yards during two Orioles wins.  Oh…I won a door prize!  Woooohooooo!!

On a more serious note,  I was given the privilege of giving the Invocation before the Saturday night banquet this year.  We were treated to a wonderful talk by our RI Rep for the Conference, Past RI President, Bill Boyd, who spoke about humility in Rotary.  The evening ended with District Governor, Peter Kyle, giving out numerous District awards.  I hope my words to begin our dinner help give some sense of what the District Conference is really all about.

Dear Lord, 

Sometimes being a Rotarian is hard work.  We tackle the biggest possible job….Peace on Earth….and we do it with a tireless determination to do the best we can do within our limited time, money, and energy.  The “service above self” motto can be a tough one to live up to, and carrying the Rotary brand on our shoulders can be very heavy. 

But to be honest, sometimes being in Rotary is just too much fun.  And this District Conference is one of those times.  We thank you for reminding us that for most of us, Rotary is also about good friends, good times, great bands, hospitality suites, inspirational speakers, and a reminder that it is great fun to do good in the world with those people who we count as our good friends. 

If you want to know the truth about someone’s character, then see who shows up when it’s time to help someone else.  For us, that’s what our friendships in Rotary are all about. 

So Lord, we give our thanks for the opportunity to share this joyous time with Rotarians we like, we trust, and for whom we have such great respect.  It is our privilege to be in Rotary and it’s a privilege to break bread with such an outstanding group of people. 


Two of the ORchkids harpists from the Baltimore Children’s Orchestra
We were obviously eating health food while jamming to  Bosley Brown and his ten piece band at the Friday night Block Party. And no, gentlemen, I will not reveal who belongs to the legs in this picture.
It is one of my fondest wishes that everyone always has to wear a name tag.  Then people like me wouldn’t always be in terror of forgetting people’s names.

“Somethings Coming”


A couple of weeks ago Linda and I had the opportunity to scratch something else off my bucket list, which was to see West Side Story performed by a professional cast.  The production at the Hippodrome in Baltimore didn’t disappoint, and the choreography, music, and lyrics were luminous.  Of course, the music is by Leonard Bernstein, the choreography is by Jerome Robbins, and the lyrics were by an incredibly young and talented newcomer by the name of Stephen Sondheim.  Not too bad.

In the show, when we first meet our tragic hero, Tony, he is longing to find his destiny.  His song, “Somethings Coming,” is a classic.  (Of course just about every tune in the show is a classic, but I’m trying to make a point here.)  If you happen to have two minutes and thirty one seconds you might want to take a look at Richard Beymer’s performance from the movie.

What does this have to do with Rotary?  How about these lyrics?:

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

In Rotary something is ALWAYS coming.  And if it isn’t always great…usually it comes close. If you want a sneak preview of what’s coming very shortly to your Rotary club and Rotary District, here it is:

The District Conference is coming.  No, Not THIS YEAR’s District conference.  I mean NEXT YEAR’s District Conference.  Yup.  It’s already being planned and it is going to be quite a party.  You can find out more about it at THIS YEAR’s District Conference starting Friday.

Your new club President is coming along with a whole new slate of club officers.  July 1 is right around the corner.  I don’t know what your new leadership team has up their sleeves…”but it is Gonna be great!”

A new District Governor is coming.  That’s right…Bill Fine is waiting in the wings and I can already tell you his passion for Rotary is going to make for a phenomenal year.  Oh…his induction ceremony is Saturday June 28 at the National Electronics Museum.  Save the date!

What else?  Your brand new District PR and Marketing committee is just finding its legs and once Chair, Dawn Wittfelt, digs her crew out from under the District Conference you will be seeing lots of great content and PR ideas for your club.  Stay tuned.

Finally, lots of interesting commentary about clubs and happenings in our Rotary District will be going on right here at Ready Fire Aim.  So…spread the word and share a link on Facebook or elsewhere if you think of it.


Foundation Night at Pikesville-Owings Mills


L-R:  PE David Hess, Cynthia Pace, Tony Rubino, Aleli Frias, President Sonia Neumeier, Yours Truly

There are good problems.  And there are bad problems.  When I walked into the Pikesville-Owings Mills Rotary Club meeting last Thursday evening it was pretty clear that the club members and their guests would soon need to move to a bigger restaurant for their meeting.  Too many Rotarians?  Now THAT’s a GOOD PROBLEM!  Thankfully, the Double Tree Hotel has a larger space to accommodate them and the switch to the larger room is forthcoming.

I was there to help celebrate Rotary Foundation Night, a presentation of four Paul Harris Fellow awards to deserving club members and “soon to be” club members.  Aleli Frias, Michelle Mendez, Cynthia Pace, and Tony Rubino were the awards recipients and it was my privilege to lead the award ceremony, and then have the opportunity to say a few words about the Rotary Foundation.  To say the Pikesville Club is engaged in international service is an understatement.  Eleli Frias takes the lead on the club’s Mobile Clinic Project to deliver medical care to impoverished villages in the Philippines.  Michelle Mendez is a Rotary Peace Scholar and Peace and Conflict Resolution certificate graduate from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand (not to mention Georgetown Law), Cynthia Pace is a “Leadership Guru” and club leader for their medical mission to the Philippines, and Tony Rubino is the club’s “Environmental Guy” and long-time club activist.  All in all a pretty distinguished group!

After the meeting I chatted with club President, Sonia Neumeier, about some of the best practices for Foundation giving around the District.  For example, many clubs use Foundation points as an incentive for Foundation giving, so instead of giving first time Paul Harris Fellows 1,000 points they might match the first $500 of a member’s contributions.   We went over the Club Recognition Summary report for the club (found in Rotary Club Central) and discussed those members with lots of individual PH Recognition points that, with the contributing Rotarian’s permission, could be used for a year-end incentive program.  And finally, we discussed that if the club had only two Paul Harris Society Members contributing $1,000 per year to TRF that would meet almost 50% of our new goal of $200 per cap giving for the District.

Full disclosure….the conversation with Sonia took place while I was in receipt of several envelopes full of generous Foundation contributions from the club, club members, and even guests.  To say that I was in a good mood was an understatement.

So come on, Pikesville.  You are located in one of the busiest and well known communities in Baltimore.  It’s time to make use of that additional space and share with the rest of the community the great stuff going on in your club!

L-R, Michelle’s mom, Margarita, Michelle Mendez, Rotary Peace Scholar, Yours Truly, and Aunt Cecilia



Speaking gig at District 7630


District 7630 is in the state of Delaware and the Eastern Shore.  I’m no expert about Delaware, but I do know a few things.  For example, I know I get mad paying Delaware tolls on the drive from Maryland to South Jersey.  I know (I looked it up) that the state takes its name from Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, an English nobleman and Virginia’s first colonial governor.  I know that half the  people I know either own a home, or want to own a home, along the Delaware beach on the Eastern Shore.  I know that if you visit Rehobeth you had better like Grotto’s Pizza because there is one on every corner, and I know the state is full of GREAT Rotarians.  Last Saturday I was invited by DG Dan Houghaling to be speaker at the 7630 District Conference.  It was my job to get the Conference kicked off on Saturday morning so I thought I would play some of the video clips I’ve been sharing with my RFA readers.  I tried to make a few points about Rotary Leadership and at the same time get a few laughs.  I’m pleased to report that no one threw rotten fruit at me during my talk and I think that, all in all, I earned my keep.

Since I can no longer help myself, here’s a 58 second clip on leadership that I didn’t share at the Conference, but it cracks me up every time I look at it so I thought I would share.  (Forgive me but I’ve lost all control amusing myself with these video clips.)

Yup…Madagascar.  Teachable Moment:  If you have stand up and tell people that you are the leader, then somewhere along the line you screwed up.

It occurs to me that many Rotarians don’t really understand the size of the organization that they belong to.  I don’t just mean 1.2 million Rotarians internationally.  I mean that there are more than 500 Rotary Districts around the world organized into 34 Zones.  For those of us in District 7620 we have three Districts in our immediate area, 7630 in Delaware, 7610 in Northern Virginia, and 7600 which goes all the way south to Norfolk.   District 7630 encompasses most of the state of Delaware and has more than 1,500 Rotarians as members.  At the conference I saw a “family tree” of 7630 clubs where the grandaddy of them all was the Wilmington, Delaware club.  The club was chartered in 1915 and was the 148th club in Rotary International.  The chart showed how many/most of the clubs in District 7630 could trace their roots to this one club.  How very cool.

So thank you to all of the Rotarians who were so kind to me at the District 7630 Conference, and who laughed at my jokes…which makes them, to my mind, the very best Rotarians around.  My classmate, DGN Rob Hemmen, DGE Jen Reider, and of course, DG Dan, couldn’t have been better hosts for my brief visit.  Our District Conference for 7620 is right around the corner, and I’m looking forward to being entertained.  It’s gonna be a hoot.

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