Monthly Archives: August 2015

Rotary Sales 101: Selling “small” versus selling “big.”


It may be my particular curse to think that success in life, in Rotary, in just about everything, comes down to sales and selling.  I know.  I know.  There are a lot of important ingredients to success.  And for happiness.  But it seems to me that those people who have the knack for dressing up an idea into a sellable product and then professionally presenting it to folks inevitably meet their goals and objectives.  They get the girl.  They win the game.  And…they have vibrant, growing Rotary clubs.

One of the topics I’ve been covering with club leaders in my travels around the District has been the concept of “selling small” versus “selling big.”  Early in my financial planning career I worked for a behemoth financial firm and learned how to sell big firms to potential clients who were scared of working with a company that was too big for them. Then I left the big firm to start my own very small firm and had to learn how to sell “small” to potential clients concerned about working with a company too small for them.  Now my small firm is becoming a big firm and I’m engaged in teaching our team how to sell big.  It doesn’t matter whether you are small or big, you just need to know how to sell it.

Rotary clubs have the same challenge.  Small clubs have to learn how to sell “small’ to people interested in joining their club.  And large clubs have to learn how to sell “large” to their prospective members.  The rules are the same.  Large organizations need to be able to sell “scale” and “impact.”  Small organizations need to sell “flexibility,” being “nimble”, and being “personal.”

Before I give you my sales “pitch” for large and small clubs, you have to watch this clip of Chris Farley and David Spade in the most horrific sales pitch of all time from the movie, “Tommy Boy.”  No matter how bad you think you are at sales, I promise you that  you are better than Chris Farley in this clip.  Farley at his best….

OK.  Time to flip a coin to see which pitch I write first.  (NOTE:  Both small and large clubs are beautiful in the eyes of Rotary, and in the eyes of this DG.  So please don’t be offended when reading how to best position either kind of club.  Excuse me while I find a coin to flip….back in a second.  OK.  Tails it is.  Small clubs first.)


Bill/Mary, I am so glad you came to visit our Rotary club today.  As you spend this time with us, I ask you to see this club not how it appears today, but how it is going to look tomorrow and in the future.  That’s because we have a small and committed group of people here who really believe we can make our community a better place to live.  But we need to grow.  And when you join us you will find that we are small enough that your ideas, your energy, and your creativity can be immediately translated into action in our club.  It’s important that you fully understand that our small size lets us be nimble in incorporating new ideas in our club, and your new ideas are critically important to us.

You will find it easy to get to know everyone in our club because we don’t overwhelm you with a long list of members to get to know.  You are going to like the people you get to meet in our club, but equally as important, you will find that they are very interested in you.  Believe it or not, you will represent a significant percentage of our club’s membership….at least for now.   Your views count.  And your fellow members will care about your ideas.  I’m not sure what you think should be done to improve our town, but if you bring just a few friends with you to join our club you will find that you have an immediate impact on our Board.  And an immediate opportunity to lead.  Are you interested in being a leader in the community?  In just a few years that’s exactly what our club is going to be…and you have a great opportunity to be a leader among the leaders.  If you have a vision….this would be the place to find a means to express it.

Finally, I’m not sure where you are in your business life.  But we don’t have five of your classification in our Rotary club.  You will be the only representative of your business or industry in our club and you will find that our members will look to you for information about your field of knowledge.  And you will find that after some time doing community service together, our members will naturally want to do business with you if they can.  Why?  Because we all want to do business with people we know, and this club will give you the opportunity to get to know our members, and for us to get to know you, in ways that you could never experience in a larger organization, or in one of those horrific leads/networking clubs.

OK.  Are you sold on a small club?  Good.  Now let’s move on to a large club.


Bill/Mary, I am so glad you came to visit our Rotary club today.  When you visit, notice that even though there are a lot of people in the room, a whole lot of strangers are going to want to meet you.  You are going to be surprised at just how warm and fuzzy our club makes our new guests, and of course, our new members, feel.  Even though we are a large organization, we specialize in making all of our members feel welcome, and important.

Why important?  Because we are a large organization with a large impact on our community.  We rely on our new members to step up to leadership positions in our committees, and because of our size each of our committees offers anyone who wants to be a leader a chance to step up and be one.  For many this is the one place they get to practice their leadership skills in a group large enough to make a difference.  Our club has the scale to do a variety of different projects in the community and we rely on our committee leaders, and our committee members, to make those projects relevant in meeting the needs of our neighbors.

If you join this club, you can immediately take pride in knowing that you are joining one of the most powerful forces for positive change in this town.  If you want to make a real difference, then this is the place to be.

I don’t know where you are in your career, but another thing our club offers to our members is a tremendous opportunity to network.  Due our size you will find community leaders from just about every aspect of our city, including business, government, and the non-profit world.  They will be as interested in meeting with you as you will be meeting with them.  In fact, we like to say that Rotary is the original social network.  You are going to be surprised at just how personal membership in a large organization can be.

Are you sold on a large club?  Good.  Mission accomplished.

Selling big and small is just one part of the sales and selling mission for your club.  What is your  UVP (Unique Value Proposition)?  Does everyone know your club’s particular elevator pitch?  Do they know your club’s mission in the community?  When someone asks, “why should I join your Rotary club?”  what will you say?  When everyone is on the same page with this, your work is done.  Your club will  grow like wildfire and you will smile at all of the good work that your club is doing in the community.  Good luck!




ROTARY S.W.O.T. Analysis in District 7620



Ask any Past District Governor (as I have) about the best part of being a DG, and they will, without exception, talk about how great it is to visit the Rotary clubs in their District.  Now that I’ve completed 29 official club visits I can absolutely confirm that they are correct.  It is TOO MUCH FUN to visit the Rotary clubs in our District.

But for me, the best part of the official visit is not the twenty minute program I do for the entire club, although putting on “the show” is something I look forward to.  For me, the opportunity to meet with the club’s leadership team either before or after the club meeting has been extremely interesting and  rewarding.  Why?  Because our conversation is something akin to a Rotary version of a SWOT analysis.  Business types will recognize the acronym as standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  To have an earnest and frank conversation with club leaders about their Rotary club is a privilege for any District Governor, but it is especially so for a Rotary wonk like me.  EVERY club’s leadership team is engaged in making their club better….whatever that means to them.  In our conversations club leaders have been extremely frank in their assessment of their clubs, and I’ve enjoyed sharing best practices from around the District with the team leaders.

I thought I would share some of the comments that I’ve been hearing repeatedly from many different clubs.  (I’ve put them in quotes but some of this is paraphrased.)  These comments come from very large and very small clubs from every geographic area of the District.  It turns out that many clubs are dealing with similar issues and have similar thoughts about what makes them unique in Rotary.  Like I said, the conversations have been positive and earnest.  Thank you to everyone who has participated so far!

Regarding “thinking big” about service projects that engage Rotarians and the local community:

“You just don’t understand what it’s like here in Howard County.  We have so many non-profits operating here that there really isn’t much left for us to do.”

“We have a unique problem here in Carroll County because of the number of non-profits serving the community.  It’s pretty difficult to think of a project that isn’t already being addressed.

“Have you ever looked at the number of non-profits in Montgomery County?  OMG!  There is no way to come up with a program that is unique and will engage the community with the kind of services already being provided in the community.”

“Howard County is so rich that if something needs to be built, the county government will build it.  The key is to find “holes” in the social safety net that county services don’t cover.”

Regarding what makes any particular Rotary club unique.  Why should someone join your club?

“Our club is unique because we have a lot of fun.  When people visit they can see that we are good people.”

“Our club is unique because of the fellowship we enjoy.  We do lots of things outside of Rotary that are fun.”

“We have a great group of people in this Rotary club.  That’s what makes us unique.”

Regarding challenges to growing the club:

“It’s been hard to get new members because we are a breakfast club and too many people simply aren’t morning people.  Also, potential members don’t want to have to rush to work after our meetings.  We would do better if we were a lunch or evening club.”

“We are a breakfast club but we don’t meet early enough.  There are a lot of defense contractors in this community and they come to work by 5AM.  Our 7:30am meeting time is too late for them.”

“Our problem is that we are a lunch club.  This is a bedroom community and local residents commute to work so there is no way they could join.  We would be better off as a breakfast or an evening club.”

“It’s hard to get new members because we are a dinner club.  People with families don’t want to tie up an evening with Rotary instead of being home with the kids.  We would be much better off as a lunch club or a breakfast club.”

“Younger people are not really interested in community service.  They are a just too busy raising families and starting their career.”

“We don’t want to be a bigger club because we will lose the special relationships we have with each other as a small club.”

“It would be exhausting to do a “hands on” service project each month.  We simply don’t enough people to do it and everyone is already burnt out.”

Regarding the Rotary Foundation:

“Yes we have a Foundation Chair.  …..No, not the RI Rotary Foundation.  “x” is our club’s Foundation Chair.”

“We were very disappointed to find out last month that our Club Treasurer didn’t properly submit our contributions to the Rotary Foundation.  We don’t know what happened to the funds.”

“We used to give to the Rotary Foundation but a few years ago they refused our application for a grant for our “x” project.  Jim got really pissed off and now we don’t contribute any longer.”

Regarding the club’s strategic plan:

“Yes we have a strategic  plan but we haven’t let anyone see it yet.”

“We did our strategic plan a few years ago.  ….No, I don’t know where it is.”

“I don’t think our members can clearly state the purpose of our Rotary club and what we do for the community.”

“We don’t have a strategic plan but our plan for each year is to win the Presidential Citation.”



Guess what?  Creating and maintaining a vibrant Rotary club ain’t easy.  But the best clubs in our District have at least a few of these things in common.  No surprises here, but here they are:

They have a clearly defined mission in their community.

They engage their members in hands-on projects.

The community recognizes the good works of the Rotary club.

The business community sees Rotary as a networking opportunity.

The club has clearly defined long-term goals.

They have a well structured leadership succession plan.

The club is well organized in terms of the Board.

Only 32 more visits to go!  If you ever get the chance to do this DG gig….THROW YOUR HAT IN THE RING!  You will be glad you did.











The Toughest Role Play in PETS Training – Engagement Part III





Back when dinosaurs walked the earth I used to serve the District by training club President- Elects.  My thinking for the decade that I volunteered to do it was that Rotary Club Presidents have all of the juice, so if you could get one or two of them “turned on” in PETS training you had a shot of really making a difference in the world.  Consequently we developed a lot of great training materials.  The funniest part of our training each year was to do a variety of role plays where we intentionally put our club presidents in hypothetical uncomfortable situations they might encounter during their year.  They all involved interpersonal conflicts that required a clear head, some wisdom, and great management skills, to navigate successfully.

We would either ask for volunteers or randomly pick our victims …er….PEs, who would act out parts in a variety of scenarios.  Each one had a carefully chosen teachable moment. For example, we asked one PE to play the role of club president and another to be a member who is bothered by another club member who tends to shout out wisecracks during the meeting “which isn’t appropriate for Rotary.”  The club president, mindful that the laughter is great for the meeting, must meet the aggrieved member’s objection.  Teachable moment:  It’s one thing to say “is it fun?” is the fifth part of our 4-Way Test, but club presidents have to know where to draw the line.  On other occasions we asked a PE to play the part of a speaker who refuses to stop speaking at the end of the meeting while the club president is trying to ring the bell on time.  We asked a Club President who needed to get a task accomplished to confront the Rotarian who didn’t complete the task, only to find the slacker was in danger of losing his or her job, or worse, had a sick child or parent to deal with.

The trainers would “coach” our role players by whispering suggestions that were either funny, or made the role play more meaningful.  Usually these unrehearsed skits ended up with the class in total pandemonium.  We could always count on the PEs coming up with some truly funny lines, and combining the laughter with teachable moments was a worthy endeavor for all concerned.  (Note:  The role players all got to choose a bottle of wine as their reward for humiliating themselves to benefit the class.)

I always thought the toughest role play was one where the Club President needed to get an important task done during his or her Presidential year, and appointed a very capable club committee chair to get the task done.  The club president tasked the Chair with engaging a committee of club members to accomplish the task.  The role play takes place when the Club President finds out that the task was accomplished perfectly, on time, and in line with all expectations, but the Committee Chair did all the work by his or her self.  The Committee Chair who did the work is congratulated by everyone in the club, but the Club President knows that Rotarians in the club were not engaged in the work.  In the role play the Club President is asked to review with the Committee Chair that getting the work done was not the only goal they were trying to accomplish.


I can tell you that the PE’s who played the part of the Type A’s had a ball with this one.  They acted shocked and surprised that the Club President wasn’t thrilled with their work.  After all, it was great work!  But our poor PE’s that had to play the Club Presidents were always stuck.  And why not?  What DO you say to the Type A who does all the work by his or herself, and does high quality work to boot?  In fact, the context for the conversation was that every other time the Club President delegated work in the club it resulted in disappointment that the work didn’t get done.  In this situation, the work finally DOES get done, but in a way that doesn’t accomplish the President’s goal of engaging all of the members.

Hmmm.  Since we’ve been tackling the issue of engagement and participation versus attendance, I thought I would throw this thought experiment your way.  What would you say to the Committee Chair who is accomplishing the goals, but is doing it “the wrong way?”  Is there even such a thing as “a wrong way” to get our tasks accomplished in Rotary considering that we are a volunteer organization that is always challenged to get anything done at all?   In a world of Rotarians who are volunteers is the Club President simply expecting too much in this scenario?  Should they count a completed task as a victory, no matter who does the work?  In the context of being smart enough to “fight the battles worth fighting,” is risking a disagreement over something that was essentially a victory worth it?

Just my opinion (it is my blog after all) but my answer is yes, no, no, and yes.  Engagement is everything if you want to build a vibrant Rotary club.  Type A’s doing all of the work don’t allow anyone else to participate.  The more club members who actually do the work, the healthier the Rotary club.  It IS worth risking that a task isn’t completed if the “cost” is Rotarians who were not asked to participate.  This discussion means that a Club President believes that engagement is MORE important than a completed task when it comes to a vibrant Rotary club.  And THAT my friends, is asking a heck of a lot of any Club President. NOTE:  There are ways of managing around this so it isn’t a win-lose situation.  All of you personal coaches and management consultant types…please take a deep breath.  I’m trying to make a point here!

Before finishing up,  I have to share one of my favorite clips about management style.  Tom Hanks is brilliant in this scene from “A League of their Own.”  Warning…there is some adult language in this PG rated clip.

One other note worth mentioning here.  Accomplished Type A’s who get things done by doing the work themselves are not used to delegating work, and often don’t know how to do it effectively.  For these overachievers, who are used to earning accolades for “making things happen,” learning to be an effective delegator might be the next big step in their personal and professional growth.  Delegating is a learned skill that needs to be practiced and Rotary is the perfect place to do it.  The irony here is that in this situation the Type A doesn’t see the need to change.  They resent being told that their good work isn’t good enough.  And they will often accuse anyone who interferes with their “do it yourself” behavior as being a “micro-manager.”   In short, while personal and professional growth might be important, they might not agree that it applies to someone who is “the only one getting anything done around here.”  YIKES!

Do you disagree?  Is completing the task more important than engaging the club?  Give it some thought and let me know your thoughts.



The Elephant in the Room, A Letter about Rotary Engagement


The topic of Rotary Engagement versus Rotary Attendance seems to be at the top of everyone’s list of Rotary conversations of late.  Last week’s RFA post, The Rotary Chicken and the Rotary Egg, took on the subject.  I’ve heard Rotary General Secretary, John Hewko, ask his audience at this year’s International Assembly in San Diego, AND this year’s International Conference in Sao Paulo, “what is more important, Rotary attendance or Rotary engagement?”    And you can bet that our New Generations Summit, fondly known as our Young Professional Summit, to be held at the Howard Community College Health Science Bldg, on Saturday, September 12th, from noon to five PM, at a cost of FREE, for Club Presidents, Club Membership Chairs, and up to two “connectors in your Rotary club, will be wrestling with this subject all afternoon.

Last week a flurry of mails hit our DG inbox as Zone 33-34 District Governors were treated to a fantastic letter on the subject of engagement versus membership.  Most Rotarians can’t get their hands around the notion of a Rotary District, much less a Rotary Zone.  But our two Zones 33 & 34 are comprised of 29 different Rotary Districts!  And I can tell you that the DG’s in this group are the very best, if you measure them by Rotary passion, knowledge, ability to get things done, and generally making me proud to hang around with them. Yes…this is the group that is currently applying for a Rotary Family Health Days TRF grant for the country of Ghana that will be funded by the Rotary Foundation in partnership with ….wait for it…  unprecedented TWENTY TWO different Rotary District’s in Zone’s 33 and 34.  And yes, you will be hearing a lot about this when the grant is approved.


But I digress.  Terry Weaver (DG7750) is one of those District Governors in our Zone that “gets it.”  Normally I wouldn’t like people like Terry because they are generally annoying. You know the type.  He’s the quiet one we knew in school who was secretly laughing at the rest of us because he or she already got their homework done weeks ago.  He is some kind of idiot savant when it comes to databases, mining data, using technology, and that kind of thing.  Whatever Terry has…I ain’t got it.  (I personally think Terry cheats because his wife, Pam, is his District’s secretary/administrative coordinator, and she knows more about Rotary than all of the rest of us so she makes him look REALLY good.) Anyway, Terry recently weighed in on the topic of engagement versus attendance in a letter that was so absolutely fantastic that I begged his permission to reprint it here.

I am pleased that Terry said yes and I get to share his letter with you.  I’m sure you will enjoy it.  Thank you, Terry!

“Hello, Lisa,

     I’m writing club secretaries, presidents and presidents-elect to clarify a misperception several clubs have told me is getting in the way of membership growth.
The elephant in the living room?   ATTENDANCE
    Let’s step back.  Several years ago, the Council on Legislation (Rotary’s governing body) declared almost ANY legitimate Rotary activity as a makeup.   This includes not only attending another club’s meeting, but also a committee meeting, working on a project (some clubs say for at least 1 or 2 hours), a Board meeting, etc.   Etc. means anything that can reasonably be called a Rotary service activity.  Now, of course to get “credit” for a makeup, the member has to report that qualifying activity to the club secretary.   Most clubs use a sign-in sheet at a committee meeting or project and then forward the whole list to the secretary.
    Why did the COL do that?   Because the point of tracking attendance is not to make people come to meetings.   When measured this way, it’s a measure of engagement — a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of how your Rotary club is doing at involving members in Rotary activities.   Believe me, we have the data to prove that when a member isn’t engaged and involved in the club, it’s a short trip to a resignation letter.    Look at your members’ attendance percentages.   Those at the bottom of the list are thinking about resigning.  What can you do to get them engaged, involved, and hopefully passionate about something the club is doing?
    More importantly, tracking engagement (attendance is a surrogate) is an important way of ensuring that members get the return on their Rotary investment they deserve.  Members who don’t show up for club activities aren’t getting the benefit of Rotary, and if we can identify those folks early, we can intervene and get them involved in something they’re interested in.
    So, let’s not only treat attendance as a KPI for engagement, but let’s explain it the same way to prospects.   Rather than “You have to attend 4 meetings a month”, say, “We expect you to participate in some Rotary activity 4 times a month — you pick the activity that works for you, and you pick the time.”    I think that’s a whole different message, and actually what we’re attempting to promote and measure.   It’s not about making people come to meetings.   It’s about offering them a platform where they, in their own ways and based on their own preferences, can Be a Gift to the World.
Terry R. Weaver
District Governor, 2015-16″