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

  1. Wow – I think I have feet in both camps here. I do like his attitude that it’s about the significance of the project and its impact rather than the amount of $$$ thrown at it.

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