“If you build it, they will come.” Kevin Costner’s character in the movie, Field of Dreams, hears a mysterious voice with this message while walking in his corn field in Iowa. “Build it” refers to building a baseball diamond, and as James Earl Jones says in this iconic clip, if Ray Kinsella (Costner) builds the field, fans will come to watch the game. This is a three minute clip so skip it if you like, but this is truly one of the great scenes in a great baseball movie.
Anyone who knows anything about the business of major league baseball knows that baseball is wrestling with developing its next generation of fans. And while James Earl Jones speaks poetically about the timeless and somewhat old fashioned virtues of baseball, the sport is in a lot of trouble if they can’t market a better value proposition to a younger demographic. Rotary has much the same problem. We need to get serious about how to position Rotary as a great value for young professionals.
Which brings me (blessedly) to the subject of this post, which is share with you a creative event for recruiting young professionals to Rotary. Past President of the Dupont Circle Rotary Club, and well-known expert in recruiting young professionals, Clarissa Harris, and the District 7620 YP team, including Nomie Hamid, Katie Blyth, Tiffany Nesfield, and Justin Saltzman, are out to change the paradigm for how to recruit Next Gen Rotarians. Here’s the secret….they are not promoting a Rotary membership event. Instead they are “selling” YPs on how community service can help jumpstart their career. That’s right. It turns out that YP’s are looking for opportunities to build their network, be mentored, and practice leadership skills. And yes, they are very interested in doing “hands on” community service. NOTE: This does not mean selling tickets to fundraisers. Just sayin.
The event is called, Generation Lead. To be held on Saturday, September 17th, the agenda is a clever mix of information about leadership development in the morning and a service project in the afternoon. They have created a professional and informative website at www.serviceconnectsucceed.org. Please go there immediately to steal….er…..get the details. Here’s how the day goes: Participants do some basic warm-up networking and then participate in an interactive leadership workshop run by Sarah Alexander with the University of Md.’s Office of Community Engagement. Next is a panel discussion with John Hill, CEO of Pinnacle Advisory Group, Kristin Post, former Peace Fellow and researcher at the Marine Corps Culture Training Center, and Sarah Alexander, discussing how community service has an impact on who they hire, how community engagement impacts how they view their employees, and how community service has impacted their personal career development.
YP guru Clarissa Harris.
After the morning sessions on professional development, the YP’s are off to an interesting service project where they will be planting more than 5,000 bee friendly plants to support three new swarms of bees. The mix of hands on service and high quality information about professional development will clearly illustrate the unique value proposition of Rotary.
The economics of this event can be replicated by any club or District with an interest, although this particular event is funded by an RI grant. (You can substitute corporate sponsors for the RI grant and pull off a similar event.) They key is for sponsors to realize that they can have their company associated with a valuable demographic (YP’s) and also be seen by potential customers and current clients as supporting youth and community service….a powerful combination. In this case the District 7620 YP team found a powerful partner in the University of Maryland, who generously donated the space for the event on campus as well as busses to transport participants from the morning session to the afternoon service project. Perhaps more importantly, U of Md. is marketing the event to the U. of Md. Alumni Association’s Young Professional Group.
What about Rotary involvement? The YP team is directly emailing to Rotary Alumni. (Yes, the data on that list is a little sketchy.) Additionally, each club in the District is invited to send up to five YP’s to the event. Each participant will be strongly encouraged to visit their sponsoring Rotary club after the Generation Lead event. Rotary clubs are also asked to provide volunteers for the day to serve as potential mentors to participants, further demonstrating the value of Rotary as a career building move for YPs. 7620 DG, Anna Mae Kobbe, has written several times to her Club Presidents asking them to participate, and now the YP committee has committed to making follow-up calls to certain clubs making certain that they get the message.
Current attendance is 100+. The goal is 200+. Clarissa and her team have built an extraordinary opportunity for Rotary Clubs to reach out to their local business community and invite young professionals to attend a free event. Generation Lead would benefit any business owner interested in furthering the development of their young professional employees. Why wouldn’t they send them to a free seminar sponsored by Rotary?
Another question might be, why isn’t the event sold out already? (By the way, having 100 registered two weeks prior to an event is somewhat short of amazing considering this is Rotary after all.) Here are a few obstacles to be overcome:
Rotary Club Presidents are now focused on their own agenda as its still very early in their year.
Rotary Club Presidents are getting bombarded with a variety of messages from their DG and from RI and this is just another thing on the list.
For this to work best, Rotarians should be reaching out to the local business community to find YP attendees. Rotary clubs ain’t so good at the “reaching out” part.
Many Rotary clubs don’t recognize the need to get younger. They are fine talking to each other about the grandkids every week.
Rotary clubs think they should be sending their own YPs to this event, as opposed to PROSPECTIVE YPs to this event. If they don’t currently have YP members they think this event doesn’t apply to them.
Well….they apparently built a baseball field in an Iowa corn field and people came to watch baseball played by ghosts. Now the question is, “If you build a fantastic recruiting event so that Rotary clubs can get younger, will they come?
Let’s hope so!