Monthly Archives: April 2016

The COL Speaks….It’s Engagement in a Blowout! But Now What?

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The recent Council of Legislation (COL) has emphatically and resoundingly answered General Secretary, John Hewko’s, question, “What’s more important, attendance or engagement?”  The answer is now officially, ENGAGEMENT.  Having looked at the changes being made to the RI constitution and bylaws, and having had the chance to speak to several COL delegates from several districts, it’s easy to see that representatives were on a mission to remove many of our “old” and “antiquated” rules that acted as a possible headwind to growing our Rotary clubs.

Here a just a few of the changes that Rotary clubs “may” choose to implement:

No more than two club meetings are required each month

Removed admission fees for new clubs

Attendance rules can be determined by individual clubs

Classifications are now optional

Minimum members to start a new club reduced to 20

Rotaractors can have dual membership as Rotaract and Rotary

Corporate memberships are now allowed

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Some unimportant dude from Sri Lanka wearing a great tie (left) and District 7620 delegate and PDG, Pat Kasuda (right)

So, because I love to stir the pot, and because it seems to me the new rules throw down an extraordinary challenge for many of our clubs, and pose a variety of questions about what it means to be a thriving and successful Rotary club, AND because I’m a middle child and I’m convinced my mother didn’t love me as much as my siblings, I would like to pose the following question:

What if we agree that engagement is more important than attendance, but the evidence clearly suggests that many of our Rotary clubs simply aren’t engaging?  What if they are only fun for the current members and not prospective members?  What if they aren’t necessarily relevant in their own communities?  What if the reason that Rotary clubs don’t grow has nothing to do with cost of the meals and  the frequency of the meetings?  What if the reason Rotary clubs don’t grow is that they simply don’t have a compelling value proposition to offer prospective members, and/or to retain current ones?

There are many Rotary clubs who do the same projects, to benefit the same organizations, with a shrinking base of members, and have done so for decades.  What if the members don’t recognize their club’s deficiencies (it’s hard to recognize your own club’s deficiencies) and instead decide that the club’s value proposition is just fine, despite the evidence?  Instead of taking a hard look at how they do what they do, what if they simply decide to cut the number of meetings to two per month which will reduce the meal cost by 50%, and stop taking attendance because the COL says it isn’t important anymore?

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My guess is that unless Rotary clubs see this as a challenge with the greatest possible potential to grow their membership, and use the new rules as a catalyst to reengineer their club and reimagine what Rotary could mean to their community, then membership could actually decline.  Why?  Because for many Rotarians there is a rhythm and a comforting habit associated with attending weekly meetings.  For other Rotarians the weekly meetings allow them to engage in fellowship with members who they look forward to meeting once each week.  For those Rotarians who find great value in the fellowship at Rotary meetings, they might find that going to Rotary twice a month just doesn’t scratch their itch.  It isn’t too far from going a couple of times per month just for the fellowship, to not going at all.

This admittedly “glass half empty” view of cutting back on club meetings ignores the fact that the younger generation of Rotarians is clearly asking for:  1) lower costs, 2) more flexibility in meeting attendance, and 3) more focus on community involvement.

So here we go.  They (the COL) have given us the gift of passing the resolutions that needed to be passed in order for Rotary to move to the next level and reach a new generation of members.  OMG!  What do we do now?  One answer, of course, is to do nothing!  We certainly don’t HAVE to make any of the proposed changes in our own Rotary clubs.  Change is risky.  Actually, change sucks.  But, as the guy who writes a blog called, Ready, Fire, Aim, you might guess that I’m 1,000% in favor of the new COL resolutions.  Let’s get creative.  Let’s rattle some cages.

If you are out there and you are capable of thinking outside of the box, this would be a good time to speak up.  Your club needs your best ideas on how to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

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Dare To Dream, The most important Rotary story you’ve never heard.

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I am very proud to announce to my long suffering Ready, Fire, Aim readers that this blog post celebrates reaching the milestone of 1/4 of a million visits to RFA since October of 2013. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to visit.  In the 135 posts that I’ve shared perhaps the one theme I’ve been most enthusiastic about is the notion of “scaling”  Rotary to do bigger and more impactful projects.  I thought we could celebrate in style today by learning about one of the most  dramatic and intriguing stories in Rotary history.  If you don’t think that the only limit to what you can accomplish in Rotary is your own imagination, then this true story just might change your mind.  If you agree with me about the power of this tale, then I am going to ask you to join me in funding an important project that is uniquely important to all of us.

Prologue:  In 1923 the delegates to the RI Convention in St. Louis passed Resolution 23-34, which basically prohibited Rotary International from compelling individual Rotary clubs to participate in national or international service projects.  It also advised clubs not to seek publicity or credit for their service, but only the opportunity to serve.  This was the guiding principle for Rotary International for the next five decades….

Our story begins:  1978-79 RI President, Clem Renouf,  created the Health, Hunger, and Humanitarian program which was meant to identify service projects that would be centrally funded and coordinated by RI.  This would provide a means to do service projects that could be much larger in scope than any one club could implement.  He was inspired by news that the WHO had recently eradicated smallpox at a cost of $100 million.  He asked why Rotary couldn’t do something similar.  The year before Rotary had created a fund to celebrate Rotary’s 75th anniversary in 1980, called the 75th Anniversary Fund. Rotarians had contributed $8 million to the fund which was designed to raise $12 million in two years and then spend it over the next five years.

Renouf called one of his District Governor’s, Dr. John Sever, who was chief of the Infectious Disease Branch, Institute of Neurological Diseases, U.S. National Institute of Health, near Washington, D.C., and asked his advice.  Sever was a colleague of Dr. Albert Sabin, the researcher who developed the live, oral polio vaccine.  After consulting with Sabin, Sever wrote to Renouf with his recommendation that Rotary consider eradicating polio for all the children of the world.

From the day Sever wrote the letter to Renouf, to the day when RI President, Carlos Canseco, announced what was then called the Polio 2005 Program, (now known as Polio Plus) in 1985, a few determined and visionary Rotary leaders steered our organization on a course that could lead Rotary to achieve one of the most important public health successes in history.   The results of their efforts are so staggering that we sometimes forget that in 1978-79 there were approximately 1,000 cases of polio every day in the developing world.  (As of this writing, so far this year there have been nine total cases.)

Shouldn’t we know more about the heroes of this amazing Rotary story?  On the eve of our most spectacular success, perhaps you agree with me that it is important to memorialize the men and women who cooked up this crazy idea.  What can we learn from them?   Names like Renouf, Sever, Canseco, Pigman, Stuckey, Dochterman, and many others, should be etched on Rotary’s own Mount Rushmore.  It’s a shame that most Rotarians have never heard of them.

Perhaps the best part of the story is…..it’s a GREAT story.  It is a truly INSPIRATIONAL story. Our Rotary history from this period was chock full of high drama. Conflicts get resolved. Challenges are overcome.  Who knew?  And the best part of telling this particular tale is that many of the heroes are still alive. We still have the opportunity to get first person accounts from them about  how we got from there to here.  I’ve heard some of these anecdotes and I believe it would be a tragedy if we lose this opportunity to record them for posterity.

With your help, the Rotary District 7620 Project Trust Fund, a 501(c)(3)  non-profit organization, is going to produce a documentary called, “Dare To Dream, How Rotary Decided to Eradicate Polio.”  Before I tell you more about the documentary and how you can help us fund it, take a look at the movie trailer:

 

Dare to Dream will be produced by Pixel Workshop, an award-winning production company owned by Dave and Ilana Bittner.  Dave is a Past President of the Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent.  Co-Producer, Ilana Bittner’s mother was a polio victim.  For both of them, this project is a labor of love.

We hope to raise $100,000(U.S.) to produce a one-hour “Ken Burns” style documentary. Our first goal is to raise $50,000 which would fund a 22-minute production, suitable for Discovery Channel, the History Channel, or PBS, as well as being suitable for club programs.  We are creating a “Kickstarter-like” campaign that relies on small donations from a large number of donors as our primary means of raising the funds we need.  The minimum donation is only $20!  Each donation has an incentive for giving.

Check out the website at www.daretodreamfilm.com    

Once we complete this phase of the campaign, we will create a Kickstarter campaign to fund post-production, if for no other reason than we want the hundreds of thousands of people in the Kickstarter community to see this trailer and learn more about Rotary.

Finally, I want to reiterate that although RI is fully aware of our project, this is a completely INDEPENDENT production.  RI is helping us with access to Rotary archives, coordinating international distribution, and helping us to meet celebrities that could help with the production.  But this film is NOT financially supported by RI and won’t be produced without your help.

PLEASE send the link to this blog post around to your Rotary friends, and to your non-Rotary friends, if you think they might want to invest $20 or more to help us spin a great yarn….which happens to be true….and which happens to be our own Rotary history.

One final note to Rotary clubs and Rotary Districts:  There are special incentives to Rotary clubs and districts who make a $1,000 contribution to the film.  We are offering the opportunity to have a custom 3 – 4 minute introduction appended to the beginning of the film with your District or club’s reasons for funding the project, and perhaps your personal request that your members continue to fund Polio Plus.  Also, please note that this contribution is tax deductible and is suitable as a grant from both Rotary Club Charitable Trusts and from Rotary District Designated Funds.

Thanks so much to all of you!  And now, everyone….let’s get back to working for world peace.

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Dr. John Sever shooting the trailer for Dare to Dream.

TO RECEIVE AUTOMATIC NOTIFICATIONS OF NEW RFA BLOG POSTS TO YOUR INBOX, CLICK ON THE SUBSCRIBE BUTTON TO THE RIGHT OF THE BLOG TEXT.  YOU CAN FOLLOW KEN SOLOW ON TWITTER AT @KENNTHRSOLOW.  PLEASE “LIKE” THE DISTRICT 7620 FACEBOOK PAGE.