Monthly Archives: July 2015

RI President Ravi answers the question about the Rotary Chicken (new members) or the Egg? (member engagement)

 

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RI President KR “Ravi” Ravindran live tweeting a picture of his audience at the RYLA NA Conference in Washington, DC.

I was privileged to host RI President Ravi Ravindran and his wife, Vanathy, for two days last week as he was in town to give the opening address to the RYLA NA Conference in Washington, DC.  He didn’t know it, but he gave us some great insights into the question of “what came first, the rotary chicken or the rotary egg?”  (NOTE:  In this context we are NOT referring to the favorite dish of all Rotarians, Rotary chicken.  Rotary chicken as a meal means saving tons of money in meal costs by serving relatively low cost chicken at Rotary events just short of 100% of the time.)  Never fear RFA reader, I shall further explain.

RI President Ravi has named growing Rotary as the top priority of his year.  To get to the answer of the Rotary growth puzzle, it seems that there are two different schools of thought bubbling around about how to do it.  Let’s start with what I call the equivalent of the Rotary chicken.  This theory of growing Rotary focuses on the activities required to inform the public about Rotary and to recruit new members.  Rotary chicken people suggest that we need to do a much better job of educating Rotary clubs about how to do effective membership drives, and to do them in a systematic way.  Rotary chicken proponents also focus on “the club meeting as a show.”  In District 7620 we have taught a breakout session called, “Enhancing the Life of Your Club” for over a decade to our President-Elects in PETS training.  This class teaches Club Presidents that if you have boring meetings with lousy speakers you will never recruit new members, and never hold on to new members once you have them.  Finally, Rotary chicken-types ask that we do a better job of promoting Rotary in the community.  If we would do more PR then more prospective members would hear about Rotary and they will be more inclined to join once someone asks them to visit as part of the new club membership drive, and more inclined to stay in Rotary based on our new, more vibrant club meetings.

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RI President Ravi at “Rotary Town Hall” meeting with select Area Governors, Club Presidents, and guests.

But….I have to say I’ve become more of a “Rotary egg” person.  Rotary egg people suggest that while all of the above matters, it matters much less than our Rotary service “product” as the means to engage current and future Rotary members.  They say that until and unless Rotary clubs offer vibrant, important, relevant, and visible projects in their community, that inspire Rotarians and others, than Rotary chicken people are focusing on the wrong issue.  I’ve written before about the difference between fund raising projects, “hands on” projects, and “thank you” projects, where thank you projects put Rotarians face to face with the people they serve.  I maintain that the simple formula of having someone say “thank you for helping me” does more to make someone a Rotarian than the most engaging Rotary club meetings.  Proud “Rotary eggers” say that when Rotarians are engaged in this way, they will brag about Rotary without being asked, to anyone and everyone they know.  When that happens, and an entire club is engaged in serving others, then you have a small army of Rotary apostles telling our story and the need for stylized membership drives and PR campaigns fades.  Oh…and the best relationships among members are built when we are doing vibrant and significant service projects.  Having more fun is sure to follow.

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At the Caribbean Carnival at GW University University Yard the evening before the kick-off of the RYLA NA Conference.

When President Ravi was asked about why Rotary can’t do more to help us with our PR campaigns, he responded as I would have guessed.  “We simply don’t have the money” he said.  Then he suggested that the solution was to “go big” with our community projects. Partner with other institutions in our town to do a project so meaningful and significant that everyone would be asking “who or what is Rotary?”  Of course, President Ravi is a master businessman who has taken his company public and created some of the most successful Rotary/business partnerships ever.  He knows how to do a deal.  In fact, if you ask him (we did) he will tell you exactly how to negotiate a deal, AND he can tell you the differences in negotiating in different cultures.  The elements of the deals we need to do seem easy when he tells the tale.  Rotary supplies well thought out and skillfully designed projects along with the sweat equity or manpower, and local businesses or banks supply the money.  He continually says, “don’t worry about the money.  If you have a great project, the money will come.”  (Note:  There is the small matter that most Rotary clubs have little to no training in putting together these types of partnerships, but that’s a topic for another blog.)

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With the District Leadership teams of District’s 7610, 7620, and 7630.  NOTE:  The background is a picture hanging on the wall at the restaurant.  We really weren’t at a construction site. L-R standing: Yours Truly, 7610 DGN Ronnie Chantker, 7620 DGN Greg Wims, 7620 DGE Anna Mae Kobbe, and 7630 DGN Richard Graves.  Seated from left: DG Janet Brown, RI President Ravi, and 7610 DGE George Tyson.

So, I’m thinking that I’m a Rotary egg person, but you might disagree.  In fact, in my business of financial planning, the most recent studies I’ve seen on how to ask for a client referral sound distinctly “egg like.”  They say you don’t have to ask for referrals if you provide an amazing client experience.  My first reaction?….they are absolutely nuts!  We HAVE to ask for client referrals if you want to get them.  You can see the analogy, right? Apparently I’m an egg guy but have a foot in the chicken camp.

How about you?

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With 7620 Major Donors at a “high tea” at Edgars at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.  NOTE:  A high tea means you drink tea while eating a fantastic array of sweets, scones, chocolates, and other fattening stuff in small portions so you don’t feel guilty.  And no…you are not expected to keep your pinkie finger extended while holding the cup.  L-R Standing: Yours Truly, PDG Larry Margolis, PDG Claude Morissette, PDG Raj Saini, PDG Peter Kyle, PDG Rich Carson, and PDG Jay Kumar.  Seated from left:  Gaithersburg club president, Linda Hanson, RI President Ravi, PDG Rob Hanson, 

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Rotary Peace Centers – A “Stellar” Program of the Rotary Foundation

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Unless you are on the District Leadership Team you don’t get to attend Council of Governors (COG) meetings.  The COG is comprised of District 7620’s Past District Governors. Four times each year the poor District Governor has to drag himself or herself before this distinguished body of Rotary experts and try to explain why the District won’t be imploding any time soon.  I had my first interrogation….er….meeting with the COG early this week.  They were kind and encouraging and let me know, in their wise and twinkly-eyed way, that every single new idea our current team has ever had about Rotary had been tried before in our District…typically with great success.

So I’m minding my own business and wondering if I can eat the sticky buns and juice at the back table without getting icing on my hands and messing up my notes, when I see Past District Governors (PDG’s) Peter Kyle, Larry Margolis, and Rob Brown, in earnest discussion somewhere between the coffee and the sweet rolls.  Because the three of them have collective resumes in and out of Rotary that are extraordinary, and because I had nothing else to do at the moment, I sidled up to listen.  It turns out that all three are heavily involved in one of the most exciting programs in Rotary that you hardly ever hear about.  So I asked them, politely, and deferentially, bowing and scraping before them, if they would permit me to interview them for RFA about the Rotary Peace Fellow Program.  After consulting with their agents, all three agreed to sit for a brief interview after the COG meeting.

(NOTE:  As you will see, all three of these Peace Fellow experts were determined to get their message across to the RFA audience.  I tried to get them to understand that you, my much appreciated readers, are used to me publishing pure Rotary nonsense, but they didn’t seem to get it.  So here is an unusually useful, productive, and educational piece on the Rotary Peace Centers.  I will get back to publishing my typical stupid stuff next week.)

OK.  So let’s get this right.  PDG Kyle chairs the committee.  PDG Margolis is reading the Peace Fellow applications, and PDG Brown is screening the applications before they get to the committee.  Clearly these young men know what they are talking about.  Let’s listen further.

The “stellar program” of the Rotary Foundation?   Six premier universities around the world?  Peace and Conflict Resolution curriculum?  Got it.

I’m sorry.  Did he just say $80,000 to $100,000.  Better watch this again.  I’ll get right back to you.  Yup.  Two years Master program worth $80 to $100k.  That’s real money.

Are you kidding?  In this clip I throw these guys a comedy softball.  I’m talking comedic gold here, and what do they do?  You saw it.  They fairly fall over themselves trying to give each other credit for being the hardest worker or being the most important.  Next time I will coach them a little more so they have some better material.  Oh well…what can you expect from a Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award winner (Kyle), a Federal Judge (Margolis), and an Arch Klumph Society Member (Brown)?

Seriously, the Rotary Peace Centers Program has to one of the most fantastic programs offered by the Rotary Foundation.  It’s just another proud moment for District 7620 to have such committed Rotarians working so hard to make this happen.  Thanks Peter, Larry, and Rob for your service.  If you want to learn more about the Rotary Peace Fellows Scholarship Program and the Rotary Peace Centers, check it out at Rotary.org.  Or you can download the Rotary Peace Center Program Guide.

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I mean this in the nicest way…but YOU’RE FIRED!

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I have been privileged to go around the District over the past two weeks in order to fire current Club Presidents.  It’s not that they did a bad job or anything like that, and I’m sure they didn’t deserve to be fired.  But fire them I did.  I have to tell you most of them took it very well….maybe a little too well.  In fact, virtually every Club President that I fired over the past two weeks seemed positively gleeful to receive the news.  Perhaps they were so happy because along with firing them, I was hiring their replacement for the 2015-16 year.  And perhaps they were happy because they were in incredibly good company.

In fact, I informed  them that they joined a parade of about 34,000 Club Presidents all around the world that got fired.  And they were joined by over 500 District Governors that got fired.  And they were joined by this very nice guy from Taiwan, who we all grew to love last year, who asked us to “Light Up Rotary.”  That’s right, RI President Gary Huang got bagged last year as well.  There is some new guy now who wants us To Be A Gift To the World.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often wondered about Rotary’s determination to commit corporate suicide every year by firing our leadership team….just when they finally get the hang of the job.  From the perspective of trying to execute a strategic plan, where having continuity of leadership is critical, I can’t imagine anything more dumb….OK….less productive.  Why do we do it you ask?  I have a few ideas about this, but first….I thought I would share a couple of clips about getting fired.  Here’s the gentle “your fired” clip from the very intelligent movie, The Invention of Lying.

 

Here are three reasons to change Club Presidents every year.  You may not agree with them, but heck…it’s Sunday evening on Fourth of July weekend and I have the microphone.  Here you go.

First, it’s hard to imagine this now, but back in the day being a community’s Rotary Club President was one of the most prestigious positions in town.  There was too much competition for the job to allow any one person to have it more than one year.  Those days are sadly gone now, but it is an interesting thought experiment to wonder what we have to do in our Rotary Clubs to get back to those days.

Perhaps you agree that that reason Number One doesn’t seem to resonate, so let’s go on to reason number two.  Being a Rotary Club President, or a member of a Rotary Club Leadership Team, presents an enormous opportunity for personal and professional growth.  We don’t talk enough about it, but for many of us we will never again have the opportunity to lead in the same way.  Being an effective Club President requires someone to employ numerous skills, including public speaking, planning, recruiting, persuading, engaging, being an expert in peace and conflict resolution, and being a visionary for their Rotary Club.  Why not give everyone the opportunity to give it a try?  Ask Past Club Presidents what they learned during their Presidential year from the perspective of professional and personal growth (as I’ve had the pleasure to do many times) and you will get a long list of really cool stuff.

Before I get to reason number three, I thought I would share a scene from the movie, “Jobs.”  You have to cringe as this is a VERY bad firing.  Fortunately, we have an orderly and cordial change of leadership in our clubs, and I’m using the words “your fired” in order to get a laugh and elicit some thought.  Anyway….let’s hope this never happens to you!

“But Ken, he was the best Club President we ever had, and you just fired him.”  I DON’T CARE.  HE (or She) IS ALREADY FIRED!!!!!

OK.  It’s time for reason number three that we “fire” our Club Presidents every year.  How about this?  There is no better opportunity to change the world for the better than being a Rotary Club President.  Just about every great Rotary club program begins with a great idea from someone in a Rotary club, that usually gets nurtured and implemented by an effective Club President and Club Leadership Team.  As I like to say, there is no “good idea form” in District 7620.  If you have a good idea to improve your club, your local community, or the global community, then the only barriers to your success are your own imagination, skill, capacity for hard work, and determination.  Can you imagine a better job description than that?  With that kind of capacity to promote positive change in the world, then doesn’t it make sense to give as many Rotarians as possible a shot at it?  I think so, even if it means that strategic planning is more of a challenge. Smarter people than me obviously figured out a long time ago that it makes sense to turn the gig over every year so everyone gets a chance.

RI President, Ravi, asks us this year to “Be A Gift to the World.”  Thanks to all of our outgoing Club, District, and RI leaders who served us so well.  And thanks to all of you who stepped up and volunteered to be a leader of your Rotary Club.  It’s your turn to shine.

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