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.
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