Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Very Successful Open House at Charles Co. La Plata

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Past President, jeweler, and super Rotarian Josh Joson wowing the guests at the Charles County La Plata Open House by telling his Rotary story.

Rotary membership seems to be floating to the top of the list lately as I ramble around District 7620 in my usual dazed and clueless fashion.  On Monday evening I attended Membership Chair Darrell Nevin’s terrific seminar on membership called, From Yawn to Wow!  (I will be writing about Yawn to Wow in the next Ready, Fire, Aim.)  What made it even more interesting was that two weeks ago I attended an Open House by the Charles County La Plata Rotary Club, and it went so well you would have thought they had attended Nevin’s seminar.  Now that I think about it…..they did.  And therein lies the beginning of my tale.

It turns out that Club President, Jamie Reidy, and President-Elect, Jim Cook, DID attend Darrell’s seminar last year, as well as attending all of the District training and conferences.  They reached the conclusion that it was time to do something about the fact that the club’s membership had fallen from a high of 50 members to a low of 39 members.  (Sound familiar?)  So, they took the idea of doing something about it to the club’s Board, and the idea for doing an Open House was born.  Notably, two long-time members, Dr. Barry Aron and Josh Joson took the lead on the project.

Here’s how they did it.  First they came up with an announcement to the local business community that the club was having a “Rotary Awareness and Appreciation Night” to be held at the Green Turtle restaurant.  The invitations were nicely printed formal cards.  Then they HAND DELIVERED the invitations to small businesses in the area.  As I understand the story, Aron and Joson dropped invitations off in the local business district while other club members invited people they knew and other business folk they met at local business networking events.   (Note:  Back in the days when dinosaurs walked the earth and I was a District Trainer, I used to tell the story of a club president who wanted to do an Open House.  To make a long story short, in my narrative I said the invitations would be mailed to local businesses.  A few years ago, Past RI President, Ray Klinginsmith, follows me to the podium and tells everyone not to mail the invitations, but to hand deliver them.  At the time I was thinking, “you may be a past RI President but you are nuts.”  Now I’m thinking, he was right…and I was wrong…..again.)  But I digress.

As a result of the inspired leadership of Aron and Joson, along with the participation of the rest of the club, they had between 15 – 20 guests show up during the course of the evening.  It’s a beautiful evening on the deck of the Green Turtle, the Rotary signage is prominently displayed,  the food is good, the drinks are flowing.  The program was Yours Truly talking for less than five minutes about Rotary International and the Rotary District,  followed by three different club members telling their Rotary story.  They were very compelling.

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L-R: Dr. Barry Aron, former Rotarian and guest Ray Dickerson, Lee Bridget, son of Dennis and Becky, Dennis Bridget, his wife, Becky Bridgett, and Richard Smyser, all enjoying a lovely evening.

What was the result?  How about two new members and two who are likely to join any day now!  My math stinks, but that’s about a ten percent increase in club membership due to one successful membership event.  AWESOME.

When asked, PE Jim Cook tells me they are now snowed under with planning for the club’s upcoming Lobster Fest, which is the club’s signature event where about 1,300 guests show up for all the lobster they can eat.  There will  be a “What is Rotary” table at the event as they combine some great PR, a great party, and a fundraiser that netted $63,000 last year for the Birthing Center for the University of Md. Charles County Regional Hospital.  (Note:  I just paid $12 for a four ounce tail along with my filet.  All you can eat?  Lobster? Really?  Linda and I will be there on the 28th to check it out.)

So, here is some completely unsolicited advice for the La Plata club, offered in the context of a teachable moment for all concerned:

Make sure you get the names of everyone who attended, everyone who said they would attend and didn’t, and all of the Rotarians who were their hosts, and create a spreadsheet with all of the information.  Follow up is key!

Next time you do the Open House have someone from the Hospital as a speaker talking about what Rotary means to them.  This is a great idea direct from the Darrell Nevin storehouse of amazingly good membership ideas.  Apparently having the charities that benefit from your work tell everyone how important you are to them is the most moving tribute to Rotary you can get.

I know you are busy planning Lobster Fests and Dictionary Projects, but put your next Open House on the schedule now.  Six months from now should do it.  Don’t lose your momentum.

Concentrate on integrating your new members into the club.  Make sure you do their Fireside Chat and have them follow the New Member Checklist.

Dear District 7620 Rotarians, the La Plata club is just one of several clubs in the District successfully running Open Houses and growing their clubs.  You can do this!  You CAN DO THIS!

Congratulations to President Jamie and PE Jim for taking the initiative to bring this to the Board and getting the troops “fired up.”  And congratulations to the rest of the club for taking action.  We don’t call this blog, Ready, Fire, Aim for nothing.

More on membership next week…..

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Nice crowd. Nice evening. People kind of flowed in and out after work.

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All About the Sandler Training Polio Fundraiser

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Apparently their is some confusion about District 7620’s Sandler Polio Fundraiser. For some startling reason, Rotarians seem to think this one day seminar, run by Sandler, is all about sales.  And that’s because Sandler runs one of the most well-respected sales trainings programs in the business.  Well, my dear RFA readers, think again.  This one day seminar is all about being a superior person, growing your ability to stand strong in the face of adversity, and about building your self-confidence, and the self-confidence of others.  It’s about how to manage your emotions, how to be more empathetic, and how to be a better communicator.  It’s about hiring better people and growing your business.  And yes, at some point during the day you will pick up a few tips about how to sell.  If you, or anyone you know, might want to improve at any of the above, you (they) really should consider attending.

In case you are slightly confused about the need for Sandler Sales Training, either in your business, in a business  that you know of,  or that is owned by your brother-in-law, I thought I would share a video of a recent sales call gone bad.  Just think, this guy could have gone to the Sandler Traing Seminar, closed the sale, AND contributed important money to fund our campaign to End Polio Now.

Pretty good, huh?  NOTE:  Chris Farley and David Spade, Tommy Boy (1995)  I love this clip but I’m glad I didn’t see the movie.

As I say, the one day seminar is not just for sales people.  If you know of  a small business that has employees that are in customer service, customer relations, or have management responsibilities, they would benefit.  My company, Pinnacle Advisory Group, is in the private wealth management business and we are sending seven employees to the all-day seminar on Wednesday, October 15th at the Charlestown- Erickson Conference Center.  Who are we sending?  Wealth Managers who are responsible for asking clients for referrals, client service staff, and two of our managers.  Why is this a good investment for our firm?  Because they could all benefit from the training, AND because we are getting world class Sandler training at a price point that is so inexpensive that it’s ridiculous.

Here is one of my favorite customer service clips.  Too bad this customer service provider obviously wasn’t a Sandler graduate:

In case you were wondering, the moral to this clip is that if you send yourself, or someone you know to our one day Sandler  Training seminar, we will raise money for Polio and whoever attends will never again have a problem with a car reservation.

OK….more details.  Charlestown has donated the space for the training, so every penny we raise from the seminar goes to fight polio.  The cost (after September 15th) is only $350 for the whole day including lunch.  Our donations are matched 2-1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so if we raise $20,000 from the Sandler event we send  $60,000 to the front lines of Polio Eradication.  If you need more information check out the flyer on the District 7620 website or call DG Bill Fine directly.

I know this is Rotary and we do everything at the last minute.  The last minute has arrived.  Let’s sell this thing out and raise big money for Polio eradication.

 

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Coming Soon…A District Communications Plan

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The best example of secure, effective communication ever devised, “The Cone of Silence.”

Back when dinosaurs walked the earth, and Peter Kyle was our District Governor, I was asked to help create a District Communications Plan.  Discerning RFA readers might ask, what is a District Communications Plan?  And, why do we need one?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s why.

If you have ever had the very good fortune to be a Rotary Club President, a position that I highly recommend, you would know that once Rotary gets a hold of your email address you become the target of an amazing amount of email.  If the sender is hooked into our District’s database, DACdb, then the email is called “pmail” (for no good reason that I know of.)  Either way, the avalanche of email or pmail is overwhelming.

Now, if you are a Club President who is incredibly organized and has every club officer and committee chair set up in the correct Outlook Groups, these messages are easily forwarded to the correct person in the club who immediately responds with a sense of urgency because they recognize that ALL Rotary correspondence is of high importance. The problem here is that when you are a Club President, as much as your heart wants to think that Rotary emails and pmails are not spam, after about the 5,000th mail your “delete finger” begins to move on its own accord.  This is completely understandable because for many of us getting to the end of the day’s email is a matter of survival.  In short,  for reasons that have little to do with the brilliant content of the messages that Rotary wants to send to club presidents, in many cases, in the eyes of the recipient, they begin to look like spam.  I suspect that we all know what spam is, but here’s a good definition, just in case:

The word “Spam” as applied to Email means “Unsolicited Bulk Email”.

“Unsolicited means that the Recipient has not granted verifiable permission for the message to be sent. Bulk means that the message is sent as part of a larger collection of messages, all having substantively identical content.”

To be perfectly clear about this, there is NO SUCH THING as Rotary spam.  We are not selling soap or soliciting for political contributions.  EVERY single word put into print about Rotary and sent to our clubs is of earth shattering importance and should take precedence over all other email messages.  (NOTE:  OK…well….maybe not.)  But assuming for a moment that the content being sent from the Rotary District to Rotary Clubs IS important and is not spam, then the  potential problem at the club level is that the messages either don’t make it to the proper destination, or they don’t get passed along on a timely basis, because of the incredible email and pmail traffic aimed at Rotary club presidents.

But….that’s not all folks.  Because District, Zone, and RI leaders know this is a problem, many messages get oversimplified and edited to overly short pieces that lack depth and explanations.  And many other important  messages don’t get sent at all for the simple reason that everyone is terrified that too much mail actually will result in spam, which as I’ve already stated, is impossible because Rotary news can’t be spam, by definition.

And, because we have a variety of messages for clubs about membership, Foundation, PR, scholarships, RYLA, Interact, Rotaract, PETS training, etc., etc., we ask that all of the District Chairs send messages through the District Governor, who hopefully has the best 30,000 foot view of how much pmail traffic is heading down to the clubs at any point in time.  This leads to somewhat frustrated District Chairs, as well as frustrated DGs and Club Presidents. And did I mention that Area Governors are typically copied on all of the above?  Sheeesh!

Now you know why we need a District Communications Plan.  The very good news is that we are very close to putting the final touches on a plan that will remove the bottleneck of communications at both the Club and District level.  The new plan will allow for more direct communications between District and Club Chairs, and allow for better communication…meaning the content will be meatier with more ideas, depth, and detail.  We believe that the new Plan will ultimately have a positive impact on how Rotary Clubs are organized and how Club Chairs are empowered to get things done at the club level.  Stay tuned for more details.

I can’t close this missive without a reference to one of my favorite examples of clear, succinct, and secure communications, brought to you by the geniuses who brought us the original TV series, GET SMART.  The show was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry….nuff said.  Here Don Adams, as Maxwell Smart, and Ed Platt, as Chief, demonstrate how to use “the cone of silence.”  3 minutes of nostalgia.  Enjoy.

 

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The RFA Short-Course about Rotary Youth Exchange

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Youth Exchange experts Karin Jones from the Dupont Circle Rotary Club and District 7620 Youth Exchange Chair, Chris Perlick, desperately trying to educate me about Youth Exchange programs in our District.

The first thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it is, by all accounts, a life changing experience for the students, for the host families, and for the student counsellors.

The second thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it isn’t nearly as big a program as it could be, or should be, in our district.

And the third thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it is a complicated program to administer.   I mean…it’s REALLY complicated.  We are lucky in our District to have Chris Perlick as our Youth Exchange Chairman.  He’s been involved with Youth Exchange since the mid 1990’s and he’s an expert on the subject.  Since I like to hang out with experts, I recently spent the morning at Panera Bread in Silver Spring with Chris and Outbound Youth Exchange Chair, Karin Jones, a former Peace Corps volunteer and more importantly, a former youth exchange student to Denmark, AND a member of the Dupont Circle Club.  The morning’s  agenda was to try to give me the short course in how the program works.

I have two pages of notes, including some indecipherable line charts showing the relationship between the State Department (yup…that’s the United States of America State Department), Rotary International, an organization called the Eastern States Student Exchange, or ESSEX, Rotary District 7390, our Rotary District 7620, our Rotary clubs, individual counties in the State of Maryland, individual school districts in the state of Md., and ..well…I think you get the picture.  The bottom line is that Chris and his committee of one, Karin, are committed to continuing to send 3 – 5 high school age students abroad for the school year and to hosting the same number of students here in the District.

Here’s just a few facts about the program that you might find interesting:

Typical Exchange Student stays are from August until June

Each county in the State of Md. has its own regulations about exchange students that must be navigated.

Exchange students typically stay with three different host families during their stay.

90% of host families are non-Rotarians.

On average it costs about $5,000 to send a student overseas for the school year.  Many clubs provide financial aid if needed and District 7620 has a small scholarship fund to help out as well.  Turns out this is one of the least expensive exchange programs out there.

Any student can go overseas…including the children of Rotarians.

Each exchange student has a host counselor that is different from their host family.

We’ve had about 15 different Rotary clubs that have served as host clubs for host families.

Inbound students in the state of Md. have to be proficient in English (something here about passing TOEFL tests, (Test of English Foreign Language) but our outbound students do not have to be proficient in foreign language.

When I asked Chris and Karin why the program isn’t bigger, the answer seems to be we need to find more host families.  Here is Chris’s take on why your club might want to be more involved with youth exchange.  NOTE:  Sorry for the Panera Bread background noise.  Try to pay attention!

Since I had successfully negotiated with Chris’s agent in terms of getting him on video without his usual fee, I thought I would ask him some additional questions.  In this two minute clip, Chris responds to the important issue of why you should consider hosting a youth exchange student.  He then tackles some spoof questions from your intrepid RFA reporter about how to handle exchange students who are much smarter than their host families,  why deal with annoying teenagers when you are finally rid of your own, and how to persuade youth exchange students to do chores around your house.  VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:  Chris was serious in answering question number 1 and was a good sport about trying to answer the questions that follow with a straight face.  RFA readers will recognize my sophomoric attempts at humor and appreciate Chris’s valiant attempts to provide cogent answers to my stupid questions.  I think I can accurately report that Karin (off-camera) was chuckling at Chris’s responses.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  PLEASE do not consider hosting a youth exchange student in order to get chores done around your house.

Here’s what I do know.  We are all very lucky to have Chris running the Youth Exchange program for our District, and he is lucky to have Karin join his committee.  If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with Youth Exchange as a counselor, host family, or just as a member of Chris’s committee, give him a shout at cperlick@hotmail.com.

 

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