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

  1. Ken, your what if scenario is spot on. Clubs must recognize who they are and collectivly agree to embrace these new guidelines to provide greater service to their communities and mankind. We must embrace the future of Rotary in our communities. Great job as usual.

    Your Rotary friend,
    Roger

    1. Thanks, Roger. I’m hearing a lot of Rotarians who are nervous about the recent COL changes. Now the ball is in our court. Hopefully we will rise to the occasion.

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