Category Archives: Awards

It’s Time to Step Up to a Major Gift to The Rotary Foundation

I’ve just finished a three-part series of posts about recruiting young professionals to Rotary.  You know the story…we need their clear-eyed idealism, their boundless energy, their willingness to get their hands dirty with fresh ideas about how to solve problems in our community.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  Today’s post celebrates what I like to think of as one of the great benefits of having older Rotarians in our clubs.  And that, my friends, has to do with dirty, sweaty, money.

That’s right.  Those clear-eyed, idealistic young professionals typically don’t have much money.  And they are not quite certain (yet) how they will make their money.  Interestingly, entire generations of young Rotarians don’t seem to care about money in the same way that we (by “we” I mean older, more mature, but still vibrant, vital, and good looking baby-boomers) do.  They seem to be more interested in….wait for it…..being happy.  I know, I know.  I don’t understand a word of what they are saying either.  Which brings me to the target audience for this blog.  I’m writing to those of you who are ages 55 and older, have more money than you need to pay the bills, more money than you really need to leave the kids, and believe that having money creates a responsibility for you to do something meaningful with it over and above taking care of you and yours.  Something that will make a difference.

NOTE:  If you are not in this target audience, because for the most part older folks don’t read blog posts, please forward this post to someone you know who might fit this description. They will only hate you for a month or so, and then settle in to about year’s worth of indifference.

We (Rotarians) are all about doing good in the world.  You know the story.  World peace, 2.5 billion children vaccinated against polio, TRF’s six areas of focus, service above self, and so one.  We get it.  But perhaps you agree that it takes money to make Rotary’s world go round.  It’s money that funds our best and most important projects.  And its money that brings me to one of my favorites moments from one of my favorite movies, “As Good As it Gets.”  Here Greg Kinnear (Best Supporting Actor Nominee) and Helen Hunt  (Academy Award for Best Actress) find out from (Academy Award Winner for Best Actor) Jack Nicholson, that some people’s lives are about noodle salad. The punch line about “sweaty money” is just awesome.

If you have money, then you are probably used to people asking you to spend it, or invest it, or give it away.  We all deal with well meaning people who have a genius for asking us to make charitable donations in just the wrong way.  Which brings me to another of my favorite movie characters, Ned Ryerson, from the movie, “Groundhogs Day.”  We all hate to be “sold,” and Ned sure does a great job of reminding us just how pushy people can be when they are trying to sell you something.  Bill Murray as Phil and Steven Tabolowsky as Ned are perfect in this scene.

So, with great humility, let me take my turn as the “Ned Ryerson” of Rotary and talk to you about that sweaty money that is so crucial to funding the Rotary Foundation.  As we celebrate the 100 year anniversary of TRF, its time for those of us who can afford it to step up to a different level of giving to fund the good works that Rotary does in the world.  And to do that, I’m suggesting we become more familiar with how to make a Major Gift to TRF. To start, take a look at the fantastic piece from RI called, “Major Gifts, Major Impact – Rotary.”  (Just type it into Google and download the PDF.)   Here’s a few highlights:

Six pages on why TRF is one of the most interesting and important charities in the world. Followed by:

You can make a Major Gift with a minimum of $10,000.

You can make a pledge to fund a Major Gift over a three- year period with three equal payments of only $3,330. (The time period of your pledge is negotiable, as is most everything else in life.)

You can make a named gift to the Rotary Endowment Fund with a gift of $25,000 or more, or a pledge of $25,000 or more.  You have a lot of flexibility in determining what will be funded with the earnings from your gift.

You can make what’s called a term gift that gets spent immediately on TRF’s areas of focus, the SHARE program, Polio Plus, and the Rotary Peace Centers.

You get recognition for your entire gift in the year you make your pledge.  So if you are giving $5,000 per year for five years to the Endowment Fund to benefit the SHARE program, you get recognition for a $25,000 gift.  Which is, by the way, Major Donor +2 recognition.  (Your District only gets credit for the $5,000 you give each year.)

(ANOTHER NOTE:  Don’t take my word for any of this.  Contact the Major Gift officer in your District to get accurate and complete information.  I’m probably screwing up at least half of these details, but hey…I’m trying to make a point here.)

So here is a last thought to consider.  The Rotary Foundation is proudly celebrating it’s 100th anniversary at the International Convention in Atlanta in 2017 where Rotarians will congratulate ourselves for our amazing achievement of reaching the goal of $1 billion in our Endowment Fund.  At 5% per year the Endowment earnings will help fund $50 million of needed Rotary projects around the world.  But here’s an interesting statistic for you.  At $2 billion in value, the payout of $100 million per year WOULD EQUAL the annual contributions we make for Polio Plus, INCLUDING the Bill and Melinda Gates matching contribution.  Wouldn’t that be extraordinary!

So, as we enjoy the holiday season, and look forward to meeting next year in Atlanta, let’s make a promise to ourselves to look into a Major Gift to the Rotary Foundation.  And if we can’t afford to make that kind of commitment, then let’s remember that Rotary encourages all of us to give what we can afford.  Last time I looked, we still have a little work to do towards our goal of world peace.

Happy Holidays Everyone!





Is Rotary a Franchise Operation? A Random Conversation at the Zone Institute


RI President-Elect, Ian Riseley, who is an accountant by trade but a great guy anyway!

Just back from the Zone 33-34 2016 Institute where I had the opportunity to listen in and participate in a conversation between a Past District Governor and a Past RI Director. The two are long-time friends and the conversation took place at the lobby bar after everyone had attended their class dinner. I mention this because (in my case) enough alcohol was imbibed to lower inhibitions and keep the opinions flowing. Conversations like these are the reason I love showing up to Zone meetings in the first place. Where else do you get to hang out with Rotary wonks like these guys?

Since you couldn’t be there, I thought I would share my greatly condensed version of the ideas flowing around the table. I didn’t have a tape recorder running but I think I can pass along the gist of the conversation.  If it seems like the participants were  rambling and talking in circles, that’s because they were.

NOTE: In a typical business franchise the franchisor signs a contract with the franchisee that dictates how the business will run in great detail. The franchisee pays a fee to own a franchise to the franchisor. In exchange for these constraints, the franchisee often benefits from lower costs, business consulting, and regional and national advertising. Perhaps most importantly, they benefit from the franchisor’s brand recognition.


Rotarian A: No way Rotary is a franchise. Rotary clubs are completely different and Rotary International can’t make them do just about anything according to our bylaws. Clubs are independent entities and celebrate their ability to do things their own way.

Rotarian B: Oh really? Then why do we have a constitution and a manual of procedure and why does the COL meet every three years? And why do you think Rotary wants clubs to win the presidential citation? Rotary is trying to institute a certain set of standards that define a “vibrant club.” If every club is doing the activities required to earn the citation then our organization begins to look and smell like a franchise operation.

Rotarian A: I’m not sure that checking the boxes on the presidential citation makes a club vibrant. Do the Rotarians in each club really care about the citation standards? I don’t even know if my own club has won an award in the past few years. If a Rotary club is “doing its own thing” and is happy with their Rotary experience, then they are a vibrant club by the only standard that matters, which is their own.

Me: This reminds me of discussions about good parenting. Do good parents reward the child that tries the hardest but gets a C, or do you reward the child that gets an A, even though it comes easy to them? You seem to be suggesting that effort counts and RI can’t check a box for effort on an online application process.


RI Director Zone’s 33-34, 2016-18, and another all around good guy, Joe Mulkerrin

Rotarian B: Absolutely not. You reward the “A.” But using data that is collected online is terrible because you can’t tell which clubs are earning the “A.” The data stinks. It was much better when DG’s could simply tell RI which clubs should win based on their knowledge of what a club is doing. Now DG’s are totally out of the loop. DG’s should be able to add their own judgment when RI evaluates whether a club is eligible to win.

Rotarian A: If we really understand that Rotary is a member-driven organization, we will encourage and reward Rotary clubs for being happy with themselves. Where is the award for being the happiest or the most fun? And what if a club is satisfied but it doesn’t fit RI’s thinking about what is vibrant? I realize Rotary wants clubs to improve, but according to whose definition of improvement? RI Presidents change the citation every year.

Me: But if you could operate Rotary like a franchise, then you would have a better shot at defining our brand experience. Once consumers of “Rotary” get a uniform product experience, we could do a much better job of marketing Rotary. As it is, what are we selling? The customer experience for Rotary is a complete mess…you just don’t know what you are going to get when you walk in the door of any particular club meeting.


RI Trustee, Barry Rassin, reporting on the healthy state of the Rotary Foundation.

Rotarian A: What you get is a group of dedicated people doing community service and having a good time. The Rotary communications and PR team did a good job with describing us as Community Leaders, Exchanging Ideas, and Taking Action, don’t you think?

Rotarian B: Yes, but the clubs aren’t all on the same page. Wouldn’t it be better to have a group of clubs that are striving to achieve the goals set forth in the presidential citation? More foundation giving. More members. More diversity. More PR. If every club is striving to win the citation then we would have a much stronger brand identity…by definition.

Me: I joined AMWAY when I was in college. But I was introduced to the business by David Taylor, the starting left offensive tackle for the Baltimore Colts. I guarantee you that walking past Taylors’ trophy room on the way to our AMWAY meeting had a huge impact on my perception of the AMWAY brand. A pro athlete selling AMWAY? Really? Of course, the last people you would ever want to sell you laundry detergent are a bunch of college males who do their laundry once a month… but that’s another story. (laughter) My point is, what do consumers see when they attend different Rotary club meetings? Without any control from the franchisor, in many communities folks who are interested in Rotary learn about our brand by visiting clubs that could be a lot better.


Rotarian A: I’ve talked about the same thing but I use Starbucks as my example of a successful franchise and one of the most successful brands. How do people feel about themselves when they pay up to drink Starbucks coffee? It may be just a cup of coffee but it’s branding genius. Rotarians need to think the same way. What is the experience we offer when you join a Rotary club? If the current members are happy with the experience, then do the standards set in the presidential citation matter at all?

Rotarian B: You are too much of a contrarian thinker! (laughter) The citation isn’t for the members and it isn’t really for the public. It IS for club presidents. If a club president wants his club to earn the citation then he or she can get it done. It isn’t THAT hard to win. An awarding winning club best represents our brand in any community around the world.

Me: Rotary really needs to understand that PR is just a subsection of sales and marketing. We need clubs to have a marketing chair, not just a public image chair.  If it’s true that club members and the public don’t know that clubs are winning this award, then that’s a marketing catastrophe. We have to get Rotarians to understand the power of this new brand identity.

Rotarian A:  And with that, gentlemen, it’s time for bed.

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(L) Geetha Jayram, one of District 7620’s two Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award winners.

(R)  Marni Nixon, Coordinator of Club and District Support for the Americas, absolutely radiant at the idea of not having to deal with me anymore.



Rotary Coordinator, Chris Jones, desperately trying to help us have stronger Rotary Clubs.

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(L) RI President-Elect Ian Riseley, (R) Marni Nixon, still thrilled that she doesn’t have to work with me anymore.

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(L) Past RI Director, John Smarge, 2010-12.   (R) RI Director-Elect David Stovall, with PDG’s Cyndi and Peter Doragh.

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(L) Previous boss, Charlene Hall, who encouraged me to write this blog post, with some guy named Robert who hangs out with her.  (R)  Another picture of the current boss of the Zone surrounded by flags and colorful banners.


RI President-Elect Ian Riseley with ANOTHER District 7620 Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award Winner, Peter Kyle.  (Just sayin)  Peter purchased the alcoholic beverages mentioned in this blog.  Thanks, Peter.



What I Won’t Miss Now That My Term is Over

7620 DG Anna Mae Kobbe and First Gentlemen, Doug Newell.

The past few weeks have not been profitable for the “smart money.”  First, the Brexit vote was horribly miscalculated by bookies who had the “stay” vote the heavy favorite. Pandemonium ensued.  Your RFA correspondent can now report that the bookies lost even more as the “over and under” bet on Yours Truly making it all the way until the end of his term was just as lopsided.  For Rotarians willing to bet against the odds, BIG MONEY was made when we peacefully transferred power to new District Governor, Anna Mae Kobbe, on July 1rst.   I won’t miss the Vegas crowd…that’s for sure.


The Vegas smart money crowd tries to cover their bets.

Another group that I will not miss is the District Governor’s secret service detail.  You may not know that Rotary provides a security detail to provide for the protection and safety of Rotary’s biggest  power brokers, namely District Governors.  Rarely seen, but incredibly effective, the Rotary secret service does not like it when the entire District leadership team is in one room at the same time. (For obvious reasons.)  I can now reveal just how stressful it was for Linda and I to put up with these guys for the entire year.   I’m looking forward to going out to dinner without the stupid dogs sniffing for explosives prior to my arrival.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have to admit I will mess flying in Rotary One.


Rotary One hovers in the background prior to one of my club visits last year.

There is one other group that I won’t miss as I pass the District’s leadership baton to Anna Mae, and that is the paparazzi.  While Rotary’s secret servants are annoying, the paparazzi that followed me around all year were downright rude.  If I would have known how intrusive they would be as they tried to photograph every aspect of my personal and professional life, I wouldn’t have accepted the gigantic groundswell of support and adoration that forced me to me accept the DG nomination last year.  Good riddance to all photographers.  Hey pal, If you want a picture of me going forward, you will have to see my agent!  Oh…and no more requests for autographs….please.


What WILL I miss?  I will miss helping  Rotary clubs achieve their goals as DG.  I will miss the seemingly unending goodwill of Rotarians everywhere who seemed so appreciative of the time and effort it takes to do the job.  I will miss representing RI President Ravi Ravindran, who’s theme for the year, “Be a Gift to the World,” was a gift to the rest of us.  As was his choice of class tie.  (Just sayin)  I will miss working with the leadership team in my District. I will also miss working with my Club Presidents.  As the year progressed it was impossible not to be impressed by the collective good that is done by our Rotary clubs.  I will also miss working with our Area Governors.  They made me look good, which was quite a feat.  And of course, I’m grateful to our District 7620 Rotarians.  They do all the work and they do it because they truly want to make a positive difference in the world.

What’s left for me, now?  Well first, its time to collect on my Rotary stock options.  On July 1 my options on Rotary’s stock, symbol BGIFT, vested.  BINGO!  Next I have to speak with my Rotary agent about my upcoming worldwide speaking tour.  (sigh)

Here’s a few photos from Anna Mae’s big night.  Enjoy!

What a fantastic Leadership Team.  From Left:  DGE Greg Wims, DG Anna Mae, and DGN Rich Glover.
Past DG’s from Left front, Raj Saini, Bette Lewis, Anna Mae, Pat Kasuda, Bob Hanson.  Top Left: Bill Fine, Bob Grill, Andy Baum, Claude Morissette, Ken Solow, Bob Parkinson, Ray Streib, Jay Kumar, Peter Kyle.
Immediate Past First Lady, Linda, affixing a well-earned Past DG pin.
Award Winning Columbia Patuxent Club President, Laurie Reuben, gets a IPDG hug.
DG Anna Mae finally collects her much coveted margarita machine.
PR Chair, Dawn Wittfelt, and Awards Chair, Larry Leahy, scheming on how to get 26 awards delivered in 30 minutes.
Three of my Rotary mentors, from Left:  PDG’s Bill Fine, Andy Baum, and Peter Kyle.
Can you see whose name sits atop this leadership org chart?  That’s right!  District Secretary Sherry Whitworth,


You can get automatic notifications of new Ready, Fire, Aim blog posts by clicking on the subscribe button to the right of the blog text.  You can follow IPDG Ken Solow on Twitter at @KennethRSolow.  Please “like” the District 7620 Facebook page.


Congressional Champions of Polio Eradication Reception


Dr. John Sever, the MC for the evening who is also THE Rotarian who formally recommended that Rotary undertake polio eradication as a world-wide challenge, and RI President-Elect, John Germ.

If you ever find yourself completely depressed about politics, politicians, the political process, and all the things that you see and hear about government that make you want to cringe, I suggest you find a way to wangle an invitation to the Rotary Congressional Champions Reception held each year at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The event honors the Representatives who best champion U.S. giving to the polio eradication effort.  I promise it will make you feel a lot better about the understanding, caring, and downright good stuff being done by our Representatives in Washington, DC.  The numbers are staggering.

According to Kris Tsau, my favorite head of Rotary’s advocacy efforts for polio eradication, here are a few facts that are sure to impress:  In FY 2016 the US provided US$228 million for the polio eradication activities of the CDC (US $169 million  – 10 million above the FY 15 level); and USAID ($59 million – level funding from FY 2015).  This a significant achievement considering an overall reduction to CDC’s budget.  Kris says we are asking for a total of $233 million next year: $174 million for CDC and $59 million for USAID.  NOTE: THIS IS A WHOLE LOT OF MONEY!!!

I’ll get to our Congressional Champions in a minute, but first, your intrepid RFA reporter was able to track down some of Rotary’s top leaders in our international polio eradication effort for an interview.  Here’s a gal you may have never heard of, but who does an amazing job for all of us:

Pretty interesting about finding the virus in the environment and treating it, isn’t it?  Director of Rotary’s Polio Plus Program……not too shabby.  Or, how about this guy?  (Note: These Rotary leaders seem remarkably cheerful even though they had to tear themselves away from the free food and open bar to do these interviews. I guess $228 million tends to cheer you up.)

Did you catch that?  Mike is the Chairman of the Rotary International Polio Plus Committee….another Rotarian who we might want to thank for his efforts.

Finally, I thought you should meet one of the most selfless Rotarians I know who travels the country teaching us about Post-Polio Syndrome.  Thanks, John, for everything you do for us.


About those Congressional leaders that we should be so proud of.  Here they are:

  • Senator Roy Blunt (M)), Chair of the Senate Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee
  • Senator Jef Merkley (OR)
  • Senator Brian Schatz (HI)
  • Representative Tom Cole, Chair of House Labor health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee
  • Representative Dave Reichert, Co-chair, House Global Health Caucus.

Other members who took the time to visit with us included:

  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9 – Represents the district that includes RI HQ)
  • Rep. Gary Palmer (AL-6, Member, Rotary club of Birmingham)
  • Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-2; Member, Rotary club of Columbia)
  • Senator Bob Corker (TN)
  • Senator Thad Cochran (MS) (Rotary Foundation Alum – Graduate fellowship scholarship in 1963).

So, we need to keep doing our part by giving to Polio Plus each year. Of course, I can’t let you go without reminding you that we are producing a documentary about the Rotary “founding fathers” who had the courage and foresight to put us on the road to polio eradication.  The documentary is called, Dare to Dream, and we really need some help with the funding.  So AFTER you cut a check to Polio Plus to help eradicate this terrible disease, please see if you can scrape up as little as $20 to honor the unsung Rotarians who deserve our recognition and our thanks.

Click on this link to visit the Dare to Dream page and see the movie trailer.

No reason for this picture at all but I thought it looked “arty”

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PDG 7620 and Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity awardee, Peter Kyle, with Past RI Director, Anne Matthews


L-R:  7620 Young Professional Task Force leader, Clarissa Harris, Rotary Peace Fellow, Kristin Post, Dupont Circle Membership Chair, Rachel Eisen, Kaiser Permanente Health Plan, Janini Ramachandran,  Deputy Director of the CDC, Anne Schuchat, and  Elliott Larson, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan

Champion's Dinner Sever

Dr. John Sever with his daughter, Valerie Kappler

Champions classmates

With DG classmates Janet Brown, DG 7610, and Alex Wilkins, DG 7570.  Notice that JB and Alex are rocking nifty DG pins.  Me….not so much.


Let The Force Awaken Your Rotary Club


I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve been caught up in last weekend’s Star Wars mania.  I haven’t.  However, I do think someone needs to point out that Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewy, were actually Rotarians in a Galaxy Far Far Away.  Yes, it’s true.  And I have the video to prove it. I present to you the final scene of Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope, where Luke and Han receive their Paul Harris medallion from District Governor Leia.  It’s notable that even though Chewy gave enough to the Foundation to qualify for his Paul Harris, Director, George Lucas, did not include his award in the final cut.  Many Star Wars fans have been puzzled (well…pissed off is a better term) by this for years.

Most of us could learn a few lessons from Princess Leia in regards to the awards ceremony itself.  I’ve been to countless awards ceremonies in Rotary clubs in our District, and I’ve yet to hear a John Williams score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, while pinning a Paul Harris pin, or a new member pin, or any other pin, on one of our members. Why not?   The least we could do is crank up some sounds as background music from someone’s smart phone.

Also notable is the fact that the Paul Harris pendant awarded to Luke and Han Solow….er Han Solo, is attached to a ribbon that she gracefully puts over the head of the recipients who slightly bow to receive their medal.  This is much preferred to the awkward fumbling that almost always occurs when affixing pins to men and women’s clothing.  Virtually all male District Governor’s live in abject fear of having to affix a Paul Harris pin, or new member pin, on a female Rotarian wearing any kind of a low cut dress.  For me, wisdom and self preservation require simply handing the pin to the woman and letting her put the pin on by herself.  I recently had the misfortune of putting a Paul Harris pin on a man’s suit coat only to have him whisper to me that I owed him for a new coat because I did not put the pin in the suit’s lapel slot.  Oy!

Check out this ceremony.  Awesome.

I might add that if you go to see Episode VII, The Force Awakens, don’t expect to see these characters looking anything like the characters in this clip.  Instead you will see these characters after they’ve aged enough to be… your Rotary Club!  That’s right!  Luke, Han, and Leia have aged to be the exact demographic of our average Rotarian.  As you watch them on screen it will occur to you why all Rotary clubs need to be thinking about their next generation of Rotarians.  It’s not that we can’t get it done any more, but one look at this bunch will confirm that their club definitely needs to “awaken.”  In fact, new members are “THE FORCE” that can awaken a Rotary Club.

So, If you haven’t already seen it, (you probably have), check out the newest Star Wars movie about aging Paul Harris Fellows and how they need a new generation of Rotarians to awaken the Force.  Too much fun!!!



The Star Spangled District Conference is an Amazing Success!



Frederick Rotarians were determined to put on a great show for the rest of District 7620 when they hosted the District Conference this year.  They wanted to brag on their historic and beautiful hometown of Frederick, Maryland, AND they wanted to show the rest of the District how the Frederick clubs work together to do joint projects.  Under the Direction of Past District Governor, Andy Baum, man….did they ever!  District Governor, Bill Fine, was proud to hold this year’s conference in Frederick for good reason.  There must be something in the water in Frederick County.  The four Frederick Clubs include two of the District’s “big five,” including the Rotary Club of Frederick (196 members) and the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek (166 members.)  The two smaller clubs, Southern Frederick County ( 33 members) and Fredericktowne (38 members) also do a great job in serving the community.  Together the four clubs represent an AMAZING 19% of all of the membership in District 7620.

Now I don’t know what you particularly like to have at your District Conference.  For many, they want low cost and a short conference that doesn’t kill the budget or their schedule. Others rank fun, education, good speakers, good fellowship fun, and fun, high on the list.  All I can say is: check, check, check, check, and check.  By having the Conference hosted at Hood College in Frederick instead of a hotel venue, the costs of attending was affordable for all.   Attendees could stay the night at a local hotel, crash at the home of Frederick Rotarians who graciously volunteered to host, or commute to the Conference, depending on their preference.  And because of how it was structured by DG Bill and PDG Andy, and the support of District Rotarians, the District did just fine financially this year.

Friday featured a whole lot of different events that weren’t officially part of the Conference.  You had your choice of playing golf at Musket Ridge Golf Course (interesting two lowest net score format which let you play your own ball.  And yes, Musket Ridge kicked my butt…..again), participating in service projects sponsored by the different Frederick Rotary Clubs, attending a New Member Forum for new Rotarians, or taking a variety of walking tours of Frederick City.  Then the Conference officially kicked off Friday evening with a memorial service and “Barbeque  Bash” at the Bandshell in Baker Park, where The Original Booze Brothers Band rocked the house…er….Park.

NOTE:  Special thanks to Carroll Creek member and Past President, Connie Philips, for the link to Dropbox for the following pix.  Far too many to be included here.  To the many Rotarians where I’ve posted your picture without your name…forgive me.



Yours Truly about to hit the ball straight right into the woods.


Friday service projects.

More Friday service projects.


Even more Friday service projects.


Standing center:  PDG’s Bob Parkinson and Claude Morissette, not sure where but        apparently prior to serious drinking.



Great band played at the Bandshell Friday night picnic.

Then it was off to the hospitality suites. Cleverly, the hospitality suites were strategically located where you could actually learn about the city of Frederick, including The Frederick Visitor Center, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, the C. Burr Artz Branch of the Frederick County Library,  The Museum of Frederick County History, The Visitation Academy, and the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center.  Thank you to all of the clubs that hosted the hospitality suites this year!  It was great.  The only negative I heard was that the weather was so perfect that everyone wanted to walk between the hospitality venues and it made it harder to keep your buzz.


Hospitality suite at the Delaplaine Arts Center


DG Bill and First Lady Kathleen morphing into insects Fri. eve.


Myself, Member Chair Rich Glover, and Young Professional team of Clarissa Harris and Justin Saltzman…strategizing.

Saturday kicked off with our traditional Four Way Speech Contest, followed by a performance by the Comedy Pigs, an improv group that got the audience roaring.  Next up were some fantastic breakout sessions, including a session on attracting young professionals hosted by Clarissa Harris and Justin Saltzman, a session on how to use social media taught by District PR Chair Dawn Wittfelt,  a breakout for how to dress for success, brought to you by Leslie Kinkaid, and a critically important session called, Prohibition is Over, Let’s Make Beer, hosted by Ed Wrzesinski.  Last but not least, there was a session on Wellness by Mimi McLaughlin and our usual breakouts for Interact and Rotaract clubs.

The luncheon featured DG Bill Fine and District Awards Chair, Larry Leahy, making the presentations to clubs that won RI President, Gary Huang’s, Presidential Citation.  Our lunch speaker was George Wunderlich, an expert on civil war medicine, who thankfully decided that an after-lunch discussion about blood and guts might not be the best choice, and regaled us with stories about the City of Frederick instead.  After breaking for more tours (or in my case a nap), it was back to Hood College for a banquet featuring more prestigious awards including long-time District Polio Chair, Raj Saini, winning the Rotary International Award for a Polio Free World, PDG Bob Grill winning the Rotary International Service Above Self Award, and IPDG, Peter Kyle, winning Citation for Meritorious Service for the Rotary Foundation.

But perhaps the highlight of the evening was the presentation by RI Rep, Dean Rohrs, who spun some inspirational, and terrifying, tales of her childhood in South Africa and her long journey of Rotary service.  Her talk was so personal, and so emotional, that you could hear a pin drop while she spoke.  Rotary will be in good hands when she matriculates to the RI Board of Directors.

With the Conference officially adjourned, it was off to the Weinberg Center to see a Broadway quality show called, The Rock Tenors.  All I can say about them is OMG.  Their standing ovation and multiple encores were well deserved.

So…thank you to all of the Frederick Rotarians who made this Conference an overwhelming success.  Thank you to the over 460 registered guests who made the Conference a success.  And…thanks to Frederick City for being so beautiful, along with the weather, which also contributed to making the Conference a memorable and fun event.


                                   DG Bill thanking Md. State Police Honor Guard Friday Eve.                                                 Alternate caption: slapping the cuffs on DG Bill Fine


                         His Honor, Mayor Randy McClement, welcoming all to Baker Park.


Rotarian Mark Milby failing the dress code.  With Connie Phillips.


Four-Way Test speech contest finalists.  Wow were they good.


The Comedy Pigs.  Wow were they funny.


                     Half of Clarissa Harris and Justin Saltzman, our Young Professional Summiteers.


Dressing for success


                   President Joe Van Deuren picking up Presidential Citation for South AA County Rotary


PDG Bob Grill winning International Service Above Self Award.


            They said this show was going to be good.  But who knew is was going to be THAT good.


                       IPDg Peter Kyle wins Citation for Meritorious Service for the Rotary Foundation.


                  Frederick Rotarian, John Fieseler, handled the MC duties all weekend with perfect ease.  Great job, John!


If you missed attending the District Conference this year.  No worries!  We will be having another one next year on April 9 – 10 at the Hyatt Regency at the Baltimore Inner Harbor.  Save the date!!!!




I Love My Rotary Bling



This an auspicious post for RFA as it is the 100th post since I started the blog a year and half ago on October 27, 2013.  This experiment in building a Rotary audience with entertaining content continues to amaze, with total visits as of today of 90,256.  After plateauing for a while, something seems to be happening lately as visits are noticeably growing.  For example, the post two weeks ago, “Rotary by Design – Not By Default” set an all-time RFA record for one-day visits with 3,713.  This week’s total visits is 5,000+, again a record.  The total number of countries that have visited, according to WordPress, is a staggering 159 countries.  So…if you are wondering whether you can build a loyal audience with systematic, entertaining, and educational Rotary content, I guess the answer is YES.

I thought in order to celebrate RFA’s 100th post I would author a hard hitting treatise on an important and controversial subject that would rock the Rotary world with new insights about Doing Good in the World.  Something that would literally change our Rotary lives. Soaring prose that could fundamentally change the paradigm of what it means to be a Rotarian and solve most, if not all, of the world’s problems.  Naaaahhhh!

Instead, I offer you a Rotary poem.  This is my first effort at writing poetry and my wife, Linda, has strongly suggested it be my last.  Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy this poem about our Rotary bling.


   I Love My Rotary Bling

I’m dressing up to represent,

Rotary’s praises I will soon sing,

Pins and badges tell their story,

Oh how I love my Rotary bling.


Rotarians will be wearing shades,

Today’s club program is the DG thing,

Eyes shielded from the brilliant glare,

The awesomeness of Rotary bling.


We get our theme pins every year,

Affixed too quickly ouch it stings,

Ordered 1,800 from Russell Hampton,

Add to our collection of theme pin bling.


The closet drawer is over flowing,

To each pin’s message I tend to cling,

I know they’re old I just can’t trash them,

Too precious is my Rotary bling.




If not removed before security,

At the airport alarms will ring,

Too much metal for the detectors,

There are risks to wearing Rotary bling.


Club President is a pin to covet,

Some say it’s Paul Harris wings,

Past President is a pin to long for,

Arch Klumph is ULTIMATE  Rotary bling.


It’s panic time if I can’t find one,

Until it’s found sweaty hands will wring,

Check one more time in yesterday’s pockets,

More time spent looking for Rotary bling.


At big events it’s not polite to stare,

At lapels lavishly adorned in Spring,

How to fit them on your jacket?

There’s no manual for wearing Rotary bling.


Doing Good in the World is first and foremost,

As Rotarians Service before Self is king,

Eradicating Polio is within our reach,

Our journey continues wearing our Rotary bling.



Whose Afraid of the Big Bad 2015-16 Presidential Citation Award?


NOTE TO READERS:  This post is about winning the 2015-2016 Presidential Citation.  It’s not to late to submit this year’s 2014-15 Presidential Citation award application to your District Governor.  The deadline is March 31, 2015.

I wouldn’t describe myself as being motivated by awards.  I’m pretty much self-motivated. Several therapists have told me this is because my mother didn’t love me as much as my older brother and younger sister, but that’s not the point.  The point is that for Rotary Clubs winning awards serves several useful purposes that make winning awards worthy of being included in a club’s strategic plan.  First, the Presidential Citation is one the most prestigious awards a club can get from Rotary.  While most of us are “legends in our own minds” and believe our Rotary club is phenomenal, winning the Presidential Citation is an objective and persuasive piece of evidence that your club REALLY IS phenomenal.  I understand that this according to RI-President 2015-2016 Ravi Ravindran, who only gets to see the results of 34,000 Rotary clubs…so perhaps his opinion means something.  The award lets you affirm to your members that they are in a “Presidential Citation” club every single meeting.  It allows you to promote your club to prospective new members in the same way.  It is newsworthy to your community and will garner articles about your club in the local press.  In short, winning the award is worth our time and effort.

I am now going to show you how your club can win the Presidential Citation next year.  We covered this at our PETS with Club President Elects and the verdict is…We Can Do This!  (Note:  We are about to discuss how to win the award, which is different from improving your club.  It’s kind of like the difference between studying to ace a test versus wanting to actually learn.  Two different things.  This is all about WINNING the award.  I’ll bet you will improve your club along the way, but that’s another matter.)

Before showing you how to win the award, this blog title got me thinking about the origins of “The Big Bad Wolf” which is obviously referenced in the notion of the “Big Bad Presidential Citation.”  According to Wikipedia, The Big Bad Wolf’s origins go back to folklore that probably had to do with the real danger of wolf attacks in ancient Europe.  Aesop’s Fables (The Boy who Cried Wolf, The Wolf and the Crane, etc. and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, etc ) are probably best known.

However…here is a Disney take on Big Bad Wolf Daddy that is just incredible.  I always wonder who the studio musicians are who record this stuff for cartoons.  For them this was just another day at the office.  The art is fun…but the soundtrack is awesome.  I’m not kidding.  Turn the sound UP for this.

OK.  Back to business.  Winning the Presidential Citation.  You can download a PDF about the 2015-16 Presidential Citation at My Rotary, Learning and Reference, Awards.  Which brings me to my first point.  This business about using online tools making the award hard to win is just nonsense.  It’s a huge advantage for anyone who has heard of this brand new technology called The Internet.  This blog is written online, Outlook 365 is online.  My Salesforce calendar is online.  Using online tools is usually easy…and this is no exception.  All the handwringing about using online tools?  PLEASE.

There are only two mandatory activities for the PC (Presidential Citation…but you knew that.)  They are 1) Enter 15 goals in Club Central, and 2) Pay your dues on time.  Any requirement, like entering goals, that does not involve a committee, the community, other clubs, a vote, or more than 15 minutes of effort, is just too easy.  It really is the easiest one on the list.  Club Presidents just do this and that’s all she wrote.  NOTE:  Checking this off does not mean this is how clubs should set meaningful goals, but we already covered this “in it to win it” thing earlier.  Oh..and paying your dues on time?  Duh!

Next: Membership Development and Retention.  There is no denying that for many clubs any kind of net gain in membership is a stretch goal.  If you get net 1 for small clubs and net 2 for large clubs congratulations on a great effort.  But this percentage change thing for member retention is curious.  If you have a 20 member club at the beginning of the year and you don’t recruit any new members but lose 3 during the year, you end up with 17 members and a retention rate of 85%.  If you lose 2 during the year the retention rate is 90%.  I don’t see how you can’t do better than 1% retention gains.   (NOTE:  If you want to read a great blog on Rotary membership and other great Rotary stuff check out Retention Central, written by retired Zone 34 Membership Coordinator, PDG Jim Henry, at  He writes about calculating membership retention in his March 1, 2015 post.

You might also notice that we get credit for recruiting net new female members, which is curious because we are/ or should be, doing that anyway if we want to have excellent Rotary clubs. Editorial Comment:  Could we still be having this conversation about female members? You’ve got to be kidding.  It’s embarrassing that we are still talking about the gender of our members instead of the energy, talent, and enthusiasm of our members.  (sigh!)  Anyway, the good news is the net gain in female members counts towards your overall net membership gain goal.  Heck…you could be losing overall membership and hit the 1 net new female member goal.  You need three out of four here.  Hit the overall net gain number and everything else will fall into place.

Next: Foundation Giving.  2 of 4.  Have the club give $20 to the Rotary Foundation.  REALLY? A TOTAL club giving goal of $20?  Another possibility is increase Paul Harris Fellows by at least one.  Yup…you got this.  SOMEONE in your club is hanging around within a few hundred dollars of their first Paul Harris.  And you might consider using recognition points to match a new members contribution as an incentive to give.  Just sayin.  Here’s another one.  You need 10% of the club to do recurring giving.  Have members bring laptops and handhelds to a meeting and take ten minutes to get everyone who chooses to give online signed up.  You see….this is really isn’t so hard.

Online Tool Adoption.  2 of 4.  Have 50% of club registered in My Rotary.  This doesn’t mean they have to know anything about My Rotary.  They just have to register on My Rotary.  Do this the same time you do your recurring giving.  EASY.  Post one initiative on Rotary Showcase.  Total time for this one is 15 – 30 minutes depending on who is doing it.  CHECK.

Humanitarian Service.  3 of 7.  Here’s an easy one.  Have a member join a Rotary Action Group. There are lots of Rotary Action Groups (RAGs) worthy of your time.  I’m particularly fond of RFHA (Rotary Family Health Days and Aids Prevention.)  To join go to and fill out the online form.  Total cost for annual membership..ready?…$25. If you don’t like RFHA go to My Rotary and check out the other choices.  EASY.  Here’s another easy one. Have a member attend a grant management seminar.  Get this…your MOU training counts!  Awe come on.  Last…you need 75% of members to participate in a hands on project. one of your club meetings instead of the usual fare do a service project.  Get 75% of your members to attend.  It’s your normal date and time for your meeting so the attendance goal shouldn’t be too hard.  Make sure your members know this is for the PC in advance.  You got this one, too.  And you might even have fun and do some good in the community while your at it.

New Generations.  2 of 4.  OK…I’ll give you this one.  If your club doesn’t already sponsor an Interact Club or Rotaract Club this is going to be a challenge.  Mentoring 3 Rotaract or Interact students requires a simple phone call to your District Interact or Rotaract Chair or to your Area Governor to find out local clubs that DO sponsor clubs and ask to partner on mentoring.  But let’s face it, if your club hasn’t sponsored a New Generations club it’s time you did anyway.  If you already sponsor a club, this is a done deal.  If you don’t….get to work on it starting now.  You have until April 1, 2016 to sponsor a club.

Public Image.  1 of 2.  1) Update your website or 2) update your brochure using Rotary’s new brand center tools.  This is just a gimme because New Generations might actually take some work.  This is no different from designing a golf course with a short Par 3 after a long and difficult par five.  President Ravi is just feeling sorry for us with this one.

So there you go.  Your club is now a legitimate Presidential Citation winner with official bragging rights to claim your club is truly a superior, amazing, excellent, Rotary-Leading club.  It really IS doable.  Get the Club’s Board together and go for it.  YOU CAN DO THIS. Here’s the not-so-secret sauce…along the way….while your club is doing what you need to do to win the award, you are going to be getting members interested in all of the tools and techniques of being a great Rotary club.  The result is going to be a more vibrant, fun, Rotary club.

I’m sorry, but I can’t close today’s missive without one more clip.  This is Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs performing “Lil” Red Riding Hood.”  The Pharaohs also had the smash hit Wooly Bully, which I remember as part of the soundtrack for the Tom Hanks movie, Splash.  This was recorded in 1966 and I was 9 years old when this hit the charts.  I’m ashamed that I still remember it.  In fact, to all the younger Rotarians who are about to watch this clip…I’m ashamed that this was recorded at all.  This is so unbelievably bad. (This clip goes out to current Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent President, Tom Allen, who was attending U of Md. College Park at the time ….and tells me he remembers the first U. of Md. co-ed dorms being opened during his college career.  Yes, younger Rotarians…Tom is very old.)  This clip features bad music, the worst lip-syncing in fifty years, real live authentic Go Go girls in the background, and an almost R-Rated cartoon Red Riding Hood.