Category Archives: Club Service Projects

How to Close a Rotary Deal

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I’ve written about this topic several times since RI President, Ravi Ravindran, visited our District and pointed out that the best way he knew to get a huge PR presence in our community was to do a large and impactful project.  When I later pointed out to him that our clubs didn’t know how to do large and impactful projects, he shrugged his shoulders and basically said it was time for us to learn.

As your Ready, Fire, Aim guide, spiritual leader, and all-round good guy, I am going to walk you through exactly how to close a deal in Rotary.  I absolutely guarantee that you can take the tips I’m about to share and double the impact your club has in your community.

Step one is for you to realize that your Rotary membership entitles you to “sell” certain benefits to business owners and stakeholders in your community.  These benefits are of great interest to others who want what we have to offer.  These benefits constitute our value proposition to non-Rotary partners and you need to learn them and keep them “top of mind” when talking about what we do.  Namely, Rotarians can offer 1) great brand, 2) great ideas, 3) manpower, 4) club/local Rotary Trust money, and 5) Rotary Foundation money.  Let’s take these one at a time.

Great brand:  You may not realize it, but there are very few impeccable brands out there that businesses would want to partner with.  Rotary is one of them.  Since 1905 we’ve been delivering objective, non-political and non-religious community service to communities all around the world.  It’s likely that the businesses and other stakeholders you will be speaking with will know Rotary,  if only because their father or uncle was in Rotary.  And while Rotary may still have (in some quarters) a reputation for being “old white guys,” the fact is we are thought of as “old white guys who get things done” in our town.  The opportunity for a business owner to put his brand or logo next to ours is a big deal.

Great ideas:  Great ideas close sales.  What is your big idea?  How can you help other organizations “think outside of the box?”  Your willingness to take a great idea out to the marketplace will attract the attention it deserves.  Think big.  Be enthusiastic.  Find a project that will make a BIG difference, or a SMALL difference.  You don’t have to do a $1 million project to have a large impact that will attract the attention of a business owner in town.  Just recognize that businesses ARE interested in your ideas for changing things for the better, especially in their home town.  They WANT to be associated with providing solutions to local problems, both for their employees and their customers.  What does your community need?  Who might be interested in helping you solve them? Most importantly, the idea you fund doesn’t have to be your idea.  What problem do the big and small businesses in your community want to solve?

(SPECIAL NOTE:  I think going to very large business to do deals is problematic, unless you know someone who is a decision maker there.  Once an idea has to be approved by “corporate” you are pretty much lost.  Find a business with 100 – 200 employees.  That is plenty big enough.)

Manpower:  Rotarians must understand that our ability to rally other Rotarians to a cause has value in the marketplace.  The secret is that it’s not just the Rotarians in your Rotary club.  How many Rotarians are in your neighboring clubs?  Let’s say you have five clubs in your county with an average of 30 members.  When you talk to Larry’s Automotive Repair and you tell them that you have 150 eager and anxious community leaders in Rotary that want to partner with them to solve “X” problem, Larry is going to be interested.   Whatever problem needs to be solved, it’s likely that you will have a lot more hands available to do the work than Larry, and that is a powerful negotiating tool. And don’t think for a minute that Larry isn’t thinking that he would like to get to know 150 new potential customers.

Money:  Yes, we have money.  Does you club do a fundraiser or two?  Do you support 3 – 20 charities and non-profits in your community? Every dollar you distribute to non-profits could be a matching contribution with another business partner to support the SAME charity.  When you go to Larry’s Auto Parts and say, “Larry, I have $3,000 to support a project we are doing with “X” charity, we want to partner with you IF you will match our $3,000,”  Larry will be intrigued.  It could be Laura’s Auto Parts but you get the idea.  Larry or Laura  is used to being begged for handouts.  He isn’t used to being asked to partner in doing a deal.  Every dollar you give directly to a non-profit without a community business partner is a dollar that could have been doubled if you just think a little differently.  Remember to let Larry know that if he doesn’t do the deal you have two or three other businesses in town that have already expressed interest.

Rotary Foundation money:  There is nothing more powerful when talking to a potential partner that discussing the opportunities we have to apply for and receive a local Rotary Foundation grant.  If your club, or another club who wants to partner with you, is eligible, then talking about a “matching grant” that is likely to be approved IF a business will partner with you is like talking about crystal meth to a Breaking Bad fan.  I promise you that if you submit a well-written grant proposal that includes a matching contribution from a corporate partner, it is going to be well received by your District grant committee. The best part is that you don’t have to actually have the grant.  You just have to remember to talk about it and apply for it.

Before I tell you how to structure the deal, it’s time to take a 3 1/2 minutes time out to watch an expert close a deal.  I’m not sure Vin Diesel in Boiler Room is the role model we should be aspiring to, but Rotarians need to understand that if we want to have more impact we need to learn how to close a deal.  (Notably, there are a lot of Wall Street movies out with similar scenes but this is the only one I could find without sixteen “F” words in the mix.)

To take your newfound knowledge about Rotary’s value proposition out to the market, you need to learn the power of the “IF” statement.  Here are a few of them for you to consider:

“Mrs business owner, if I could bring 100 Rotarians and $5,000 to the table, would you be interested in matching our contribution and being a 50-50 partner in a project that you’ve always wanted to do for the community to solve “x” but haven’t been able to get it done?”

“Mr Business Owner, if we formed a partnership to eliminate poverty, hunger, and sickness in our community, and if we could put your company logo along side of our Rotary logo so the 100,000 residents in our community would think you are the engaged and caring person you really are, would you be interested in being a 50-50 project owner?”

“Mrs Charity Administrator, we would like to solve your biggest problem, whatever it is?  If we could bring a corporate sponsor to the table, and if we could provide $10,000 in financing, and if we could provide the manpower to get it done, would you be interested?”

“Mr Business Owner, if you partner with us and match our $5,000 contribution to this project, we will submit a grant to our District’s Rotary Foundation for an additional $3,000.  Your $5,000 will be leveraged to a total project of $13,000 and we will still consider you a 50-50 partner.  Does that sound interesting to you?”

The “If” question is where it all starts.  Notice that you haven’t committed to anything.  You are just asking whether they might be interested “if” you can make something happen. The power lies in the fact that once someone, anyone, in the deal answers yes to your “if” question, then you can tell others that they will be your partner, “IF” they participate as well.

There you go, folks.  Go out and close a deal!  You can do it.  If we all put together a partnership like this Rotary PR is going to become a whole lot easier….and so will membership.  Good luck.

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14 Steps to an AMAZING Community Service Project

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61.  The number of Official DG visits that this DG has completed.  Since it is also the number of clubs in District 7620, it means that I’m DONE.  Finished.  Toast.  Complete. Nothing left to do but mail it in.  Take a nap.  Write my memoirs.  And…file my expense report.  Or….maybe just have more time to cause a lot more mischief around here.  What fun!

61 is also the number of one of the most famous home runs ever hit.  Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record with his 61rst home run on the last day of the 1961 season, long before steroids made a mockery of home run stats.  I wanted to show you the clip of Maris’s home run here but I can’t get the YouTube clip to play, so instead, I present to you what is definitely, and without argument, the most amazing home run ever to grace a movie….Roy Hobb’s game winner in the Natural.  It just doesn’t get better than this.  It wasn’t Maris’s number 61, but it should have been.

OK.  I can’t help myself.  I hated this guy when he was with the Yankees, AND when he was with my beloved Orioles, but his home run in the 1971 All-Star Game was as close as you could come to Roy Hobbs in real life.  Off the transformer on the roof of Tiger’s Stadium! Unbelievable really.  (Only 46 seconds.  I promise to get to Rotary stuff in less than a minute.)  Too bad the camera man couldn’t track the ball hitting the transformer.

Back to Rotary.  I promised to get back into HOW TO actually plan and implement a community changing, high impact project, since this blog has focused on the subject more than a few times. Most recently, The Magic of Thinking Big in Rotary, featured a multi-District International project.  In my club visits I’ve been asked how do you do a LOCAL project that meets RI President Ravi Ravindran’s mantra, “Solve a huge problem in your community and your PR and membership problems will solve themselves”?

Here’s the answer in 14 startling easy steps.

  1.  Decide to make a huge impact on your community because as President Ravi says, “The time is now.  It will never come again.”  The next line is “Be a Gift to the World” but you already knew that.
  2. Go to your club’s Board and get them to agree that solving a major problem in the community should be the MOST IMPORTANT element of your strategic plan.  What is the VISION for you club?  What do you want to accomplish?  All of the other rubbish about growing by net one or two members will have to be revised upwards when you come up with an answer that your club is PASSIONATE about.
  3. Have a Club Assembly and inform your membership that the Board has decided it’s time to have a much bigger impact on your community.  Get the member’s feedback and support.  Sell them on a vision that is awesome, magnificent, and inspiring.
  4. Give your club no less than six months and as much as a year to assess your community needs and find strategic partners both in and out of Rotary.
  5. Meet with the largest private business in your town and find out what THEY think is the biggest problem is in your community.  They will probably have a full-time employee whose job is to be a community liaison.  Let him or her know your Rotary club  might want to partner with them to solve the problem THEY think is most important.  Develop a relationship with him or her.  (Your town will have many branch offices of businesses where the home office is located outside of your town.  Find businesses where the home office is located in your community.)
  6. Meet with the next two largest private businesses (public employers are OK too but not as good as private employers) in town and let them know what the largest private business thinks is the biggest problem in town.  Ask them, “IF OUR CLUB IS A PARTNER with the biggest business in town to solve this important community problem,  would you be interested in being part of the deal?
  7. If businesses one through three by size won’t meet with you (they will, but I’m just sayin) then keep going until you find businesses that WILL meet with you.
  8. Meet with city and local and government officials and find out what they think are the biggest problems in town.  Ask if they agree with the opinions of the largest businesses in your town.  Local clergy will also have some great ideas, as will lots of other people, but I don’t want to make this list too long so I’m cheating and mentioning them all here under #8.
  9. Meet with the local Rotary clubs in your area and get their opinions about community assessment.  IF OUR CLUB PUT TOGETHER A PARTNERSHIP with the biggest three businesses in town, would your club(s) want to partner with us to increase Rotary’s impact on the project?
  10. Call your new friends at the LARGEST business in your community and ask them, “would they consider a partnership with you to solve either a) the problem they wanted to solve, or b) the problem that you uncovered in your assessment, IF you could bring the two other prominent businesses AND three or four other Rotary clubs to the table?”
  11. Form a committee consisting of a public- private partnership of community leaders, including government, business, and Rotary, to develop a plan of action for your project.
  12. When designing your project, make sure to tick off the following boxes to accomplish ALL of your objectives.  1) Does the project solve an important problem in your community? 2)  Does your community recognize this as an important problem?  3) Will your project engage your Rotary members?  Will it give them a real “hands on” role that will spark their enthusiasm? 4) Can you promote this project and does it have the kind of “optics” that make for a good PR campaign? 5) Can you build a highly visible fundraiser or other event around this project to further promote Rotary in your community?
  13. You now have a project that offers Rotary’s expertise, sweat equity, and PRESTIGIOUS BRAND, alongside of a large company’s ability to obtain financing and provide PR, alongside of local government’s approval that this project is meaningful and impactful.
  14. Execute!

That was easy, wasn’t it?  Join Leaders.  Exchange Ideas.  Take Action.  Someone in your town is going to want to solve the biggest problems in your community.  Why shouldn’t your club take the lead in finding out who they are?  We can do this!

 

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The Magic of Thinking Big in Rotary

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When asked, “why doesn’t Rotary spend more money on PR?”, RI President Ravi Ravindran responded with the easily predictable answer, “We don’t have the money to do a massive media campaign.”  But what he said next was worthy of our attention.  Speaking to a Town Hall Meeting of forty District 7620 Club Presidents, he related the following advice.  “If you want to solve all of your membership and PR problems, find a solution to a major problem in your community.  We have many smart Rotarians in our clubs.  Come up with the plan and the sweat equity to get the project done.  Don’t worry about the money.  The money will find you.  When the community understands that Rotary helped solve an important problem in your town, all of your membership and PR problems will be solved.”

My initial thought upon hearing this advice, coming from a guy who built what…twenty two elementary schools and a hospital in his home country of Sri Lanka, was ARE YOU KIDDING?  Who is going to teach our clubs how to do deals like that?  But the more I think of it, the more I think he is exactly right. What important, impactful, community changing projects are we involved with in our Rotary clubs?  And how do you figure out how to do such a project?  Who do you partner with?  How do you assess the big needs in your community?  How do you get the funding?  I’ve come to the conclusion that we might not be thinking big enough in Rotary, at least at the club level.

While I’m on the subject of The Magic of Thinking Big, let me strongly recommend you read the classic book on the subject by David J. Schwartz.  It’s one of those books that might change your life.

Here’s a real life “big idea” story that just happened in Zone 33-34.  When the DG class of 2015-16 first got together as DGN’s, they took the measure of each other and realized that collectively they had a remarkable lack of ego.  As they got to know each other better the notion of doing a service project together was broached over an appropriate number of beverages at a hospitality suite at the following year’s Zone Institute in Asheville, NC.   After watching a spellbinding presentation by Marion Bunch, Founder and CEO of the  Rotary Action Group, Rotarians for Family Health and Aids Prevention (RFFHA), at that same Institute, Marion was asked a simple question.  Since we had 29 Districts in our Zone, and if hypothetically all of them contributed $2,000 of DDF to a project, and if we got matched by TRF dollar for dollar, then we would be dealing with a chunk of change of about $116,000. The question was, “hey…can we do a deal with you where we can fund a Rotary Family Health Day for about a $100,000 price point?”

Guess what?  The answer was yes and the Zone 33-34 Ghana Family Health Day project was born.  As it turns out, no one at Rotary International knows of another project that was funded (as it ultimately turned out) by 22 Districts.  Not clubs.  Districts.  Yes, different DGs in the Zone handled the fundraising in different ways, with some getting club contributions.  But most found a way to fund the project using District DDF.  The Ghana Rotary Family Health Day project benefited 40,000+ Ghanians.  The total cost of the project was $114,000.  My District’s investment in the project was $3,000 of DDF.  I hope you will take a second to watch this three and one half minute video about how this got put together.

NOTE:  The video itself was conceptualized, written, and produced, in about three hours at this year’s Zone Institute in San Destin, Fla.  The video itself is a tribute to how a big idea can come to fruition when you have motivated, talented, and passionate Rotarians involved.  We are rewriting the script to focus more on Rotary clubs and I will post the final version on RFA when its complete.  In the meantime, take a look at this.

If you happen to be looking for a great program for the month of November (Foundation Month), why not check out this award winning documentary produced by RI all about RFFHA and Family Health Days.  It’s twenty four minutes long and perfectly tells a story about a Rotarian who learned about thinking big.  (Click on About Us and then Documentary.)

Let’s try to take RI President Ravi’s advice and think bigger.  After all, there is nothing limiting the scale of the service projects we take on other than our own imagination, our skill, our ability to create partnerships, and our determination.  Since its Foundation Month, it might be a good time to remember that if you want to do a BIG project, the Rotary Foundation is standing by to help.   All you need is a great idea that falls into one of the six areas of focus, a bunch of qualified partner clubs who share your vision, a strong international partner, and someone who can write a grant.  Why not?  Let’s do this!!

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The Star Spangled District Conference is an Amazing Success!

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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.

 

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

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Friday service projects.
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More Friday service projects.

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Even more Friday service projects.

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

 

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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.

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Hospitality suite at the Delaplaine Arts Center

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

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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.

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


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

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

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

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The Comedy Pigs.  Wow were they funny.

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

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Dressing for success

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

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PDG Bob Grill winning International Service Above Self Award.

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

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

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                  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!!!!

 

YOU CAN RECEIVE NOTIFICATIONS OF NEW READY, FIRE, AIM POSTS DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING ON THE SUBSCRIBE BOX TO THE RIGHT OF THE BLOG TEXT.  YOU CAN FOLLOW KEN SOLOW ON TWITTER AT @KENNETHRSOLOW.  IF YOU ARE ON FACEBOOK PLEASE LIKE THE DISTRICT 7620 FACEBOOK PAGE.

 

Speaking at the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA)

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The good news was I had the opportunity to speak at the RYLA 2015 Conference last evening at the National 4-H Center in Washington, DC.  The bad news was I got caught in the freakish snow storm that blew in right when I was leaving and it took two and half hours to get home.  For those who don’t know, RYLA is a leadership program designed by Rotarians for high school students in grades 10 through 12.  Special thanks to RYLA committee members Rochelle Brown, Mary Dudley, Ed Kumian, Navin Valliappan, and Judy Cappuccilli, for another amazing job done.  Oh heck, I might as well let Judy explain what RYLA is all about:

 

As always, the energy and enthusiasm of the students who attend is impossible to resist.  I thought I would share my comments to the group last evening.  If you have an Interact club associated with your club, perhaps they would benefit from some of these thoughts about Rotary, Youth, Leadership, and Awards.

Saturday Evening Comment for RYLA 2015

 As I was thinking about this talk, I was struck that the name RYLA, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, is one of those great names that tells us much of what we need to know about your efforts here over the next few days.

Let’s start with Rotary. I sometimes wonder if our High School Students, Interactors and Rotaractors realize the size of this amazing organization called, Rotary. Imagine if you will, 1.2 million Rotarians organized into 34,000 Rotary clubs, in more than 500 Rotary Districts, and 34 Zones of Rotary Districts, in more than 200 countries around the world. I just came from my own District Governor training in San Diego, called the International Assembly, where every Rotary District Governor in the world is required to attend. I mention this because there were more countries represented at the International Assembly than there are at the United Nations. Amazing isn’t it?

What about Interact clubs? You might be interested to know that Interact has a membership of over 250,000 youth in more than 11,000 clubs worldwide. It’s one of Rotary’s fastest growing programs with clubs in over 120 countries and geographical areas.

Here in our District 7620, we have 63 Rotary clubs from as far north as Aberdeen, as far south as Lexington Park on the Chesapeake Bay peninsula, as far west as Frederick, and east to Annapolis. We have about 2,300 Rotarians in our District alone, all following Rotary’s 4-Way Test: 1) Is it the truth, 2) Is it fair to all concerned, 3) Will it build goodwill and better friendships, and 4) Is it be beneficial to all concerned. Rotarians hold their service projects to the standard of “Will it Do Good in the World.” All 1.2 million members are dedicated to the goal of world peace through humanitarian service, where we define the six areas of focus of our Rotary Foundation as peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention, maternal and child health care, clean water and sanitation, literacy, and economic development.

Last year the Rotary Foundation funded over $35 million of humanitarian projects. Our number one priority is the eradication of Polio, a disease that causes you to be paralyzed and has a terrible effect on children under the age of five. Rotary has been fighting this disease since the mid-1980’s and we’ve reduced the number of cases from more than a thousand  per day to just about 300 cases per year in only three remaining countries. Our partners in this effort are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, and UNICEF. As we like to say, we are “this close” to our goal of eradicating this disease forever.

But that’s not to say that Rotary doesn’t have its challenges. And one of them is that our organization is aging. Here is a recent statistic: 70% of Rotarians are age 50 years or older. So if Rotary is to remain relevant. If what we do is to remain important, we need all of you to join an Interact Club and then graduate to a Rotaract club either in your community or at the college you attend, and then eventually join Rotary at some point in your career of doing service for others.

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The next letter in RYLA is “Y” which stands for “Youth.” The Rotary “Youth” Leadership Awards. I would make the following comment about youth. When it comes to service, those you serve, for the most part, could care less about your age. It turns out that young people are amazingly creative when it comes to “hands on” service projects. Why? Because you ain’t got no money! You are not yet at that point in your life where your role is to provide the financing for service projects. This is when you DO service projects. In the eyes of the lonely, the hungry, the sick, the elderly, and the others who need your help, I promise you that they don’t see your age at all. All they see is what you are doing on their behalf…and as many of you already know, they are extremely grateful.

Here’s our secret though. Helping someone that you get to meet, someone who looks you in the eye and says “thank you,” someone who is going to immediately benefit from your time and attention, is an experience that gives us enormous personal satisfaction. I hope you get to experience this feeling.

The next letter in RYLA is, of course, Leadership. I’ve taught leadership to Rotary club presidents for more than a decade, and it occurs to me that one of the most important benefits of joining a service club, at any age, is the opportunity for personal development AND the opportunity for you to grow as leaders.

Here at RYLA, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try to assess what leadership skills you do best and what you need to improve. Public speaking, persuasion, listening, evaluating, project planning, motivating, team building, critical thinking, and leading by example, are all attributes of effective leaders. You will be able to translate these skills to every area of your life, including, of course, high school, college, family, and career.

When you eventually do matriculate from High School or Interact, to Rotaract, and then to Rotary club membership you will take these skills to a new level, and you will be able to practice and network with the Rotary leaders in your community who have years of experience and know how to get things done. That’s pretty good stuff…don’t you think?

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Finally, the last letter is “A” in RYLA which stands for Awards. It may sound cliché, but I can assure you that by virtue of the fact that you are here for this RYLA conference that you are all award winners already. But here’s the thing. In the real world you usually don’t get awards for doing the things that you do every day as a leader. The awards come from watching your team succeed, or from helping others to achieve their goals. As a true leader, you will get the most satisfaction when the people you are working with on your team win the awards. Here’s another cliché for you: Being a great leader is its own reward.

Lastly, I would share with you that at your stage in leadership development, I would give you an award that no one else is likely to give you, which is the “I tried to do something outside of my comfort zone and I failed” award. I would be thrilled to give you an award for failing because this is the time for you to explore new ideas, take risks,  and develop new skills. This is your chance to push yourself to try things that make you uncomfortable, and then fall on your butt, dust yourself off, learn something from the experience, and give it another try. I hereby challenge all of you to earn the “no one knows that I was terrified to try this” award over the next couple of days. Just remember, courage, in my opinion, is one of the most important attributes of great leaders, of ANY age.

So…mercifully for all of us I’ve run out of letters. I sincerely hope that your RYLA journey is a life-changing one for all of you. We ask all of you to eventually bring the leadership skills that you are developing here to a Rotary club in your community, wherever your life journey takes you.  We desperately need your knowledge, energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. As you head off to college, if you don’t have a Rotaract club in your community, or at your school, then please consider starting one. Make service an integral part of your life.

I will be encouraging club presidents all over the District in 2015-2016 to be open to doing joint ventures with our Interact clubs and Rotaract clubs, and to help you implement your projects.

Oh…I forgot one last letter than isn’t in RYLA, but should be. That letter is “F” which stands for FUN. I know you are all going to have an amazingly fun time over the next few days.

Good luck to all of you, and thanks for coming.

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YOU CAN GET NOTIFICATIONS OF NEW POSTS OF READY, FIRE, AIM DIRECTLY TO YOUR INBOX BY CLICKING ON THE SUBSCRIBE BUTTON TO THE RIGHT OF THE BLOG TEXT.  YOU CAN FOLLOW KEN SOLOW ON TWITTER AT @KENNETHRSOLOW.  IF YOU ARE A FACE BOOKER, PLEASE “LIKE” THE DISTRICT 7620 FACEBOOK PAGE.

“Just tell me where to write the check.”

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This quote is from ex-Rotarian, Bobby A., who was famous for listening to the details of some new and exciting service project, and then rolling his eyes and saying, “just tell me where to write the check.”  Bobby always got a laugh when he delivered this line, but now that I think of it, I guess its no surprise that Bobby is now an “ex” Rotarian.  The picture above is not of Bobby A.  It is Bill Murray as Phil in the movie, Groundhog Day.  Further explanation to follow.

Not that there is anything wrong with writing checks, mind you.  Last evening I bumped into an old friend of mine who worked with the broker dealer I dealt with back in the day.  He is now running his own non-profit and wanted to set up a lunch with me to pitch why Rotary should fund his non-profit.  I told him he could buy me lunch but what I was really looking for was a service project for Rotarians where they personally connect with people in need.  I didn’t want to engage Rotarians in just another exercise in writing a check.  He looked at me in horror.  His organization desperately needs the money.  It reminded me that non-profits in our communities depend on our generosity and the checks we write have real meaning to the organizations we fund.

I thought, in light of the holiday season, I would share this clip of Scrooge uttering some of the most contemptible but memorable lines ever written about turning down an opportunity to write a check to help others.  ….  “Tell me spirit – are these the shadows of things that must be, or the shadow of things that MIGHT be?”  They can remake this all they want to…the 1951 version is the best.  Alistair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge?  Priceless.

Still, I am beginning to think that one of the real problems we face in Rotary is that our members do not have a culture of service, even though we claim we do.  As important as fund raising can be, writing checks just doesn’t do it.  Stuffing backpacks, stocking pantry shelves, and other similar activities don’t really do it either.  They are activities that don’t involve writing checks, but they don’t involve being face to face with the people you serve, either.  What’s needed are those service projects where you can personally connect with people who need our help.  I’m becoming convinced that those encounters are the most fulfilling, the most engaging, and the most likely to help recruit new Rotarians, and the most likely to help retain current Rotarians.

Time out for a clip from one of my all-time favorite movies, Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray relives Groundhog Day over and over and eventually is redeemed by embracing service and becoming a great guy.  He also finds love with the beautiful Andie MacDowell, as Rita.  Note to Rotarians: Please do not expect to find love with Andie MacDowell by embracing community service.

Interestingly, one of the most popular service projects in our District is the dictionary project.  The dictionary project is an effort to give every third grader in a local school system a dictionary where club members go to the schools, distribute the dictionaries at a school assembly, and get to explain a little about Rotary to the kids.  Why is the dictionary project so popular?  I suspect that it’s not because third graders need a dictionary, even though a surprising number don’t have access to dictionary.com and the dictionary itself is a valuable educational tool.  Nope, I suspect the project is so popular because it puts our members directly in touch with a bunch of third graders who are happy to learn about Rotary and whose excitement about receiving our dictionaries is contagious.  Anyone who has had the experience of talking with the kids is touched by it.  It matters to them.  Anyone still talking about selling their fourth fundraiser ticket?

Check writing clubs tend to describe their club service in the context of the club’s fundraising activities.  In may cases, clubs with signature events raise the majority of their funds at one event, held in one day or one evening.  For some clubs this is an “all hands on deck” event where every club member is involved and the planning takes weeks or months.  But for many other clubs, far fewer members are actually engaged in doing the work.  And even though big money is raised for charity, the question becomes what do club members do the rest of the year?  When a club member says their favorite day of the Rotary year is the day they give out the checks to charities, my antenna goes up and I immediately wonder what other service projects the club is doing?  Can planning and executing a fund raiser and giving out the funds ever come close to the feeling you get when someone you’ve helped thanks you for caring about them?  I’m beginning to wonder.

What if every club became expert at developing and organizing creative “hands on” projects that get Rotarians face to face with real people?  Feed the hungry at a local homeless shelter and then actually take the time to talk to them and learn their stories.  Visit sick people at the hospital or at a facility for the elderly.  Start a mentoring program in your club.  Ask every non-profit you fund if there is an opportunity for your members to volunteer in a way that allows them to develop a relationship with those they are serving. If you are looking for some good ideas, check with your local Interact or Rotaract Club.  They typically don’t have any money to start with so they are amazingly creative with their projects.  Learn from them…or partner with them.

I suspect that the “culture of service” we develop in our Rotary clubs is one of the most important boxes to check for a successful, happy, energized, growing, and relevant club that means something important to our community.  Not that writing the checks isn’t important, because it’s critical for the charities we support.  But why not take another look at what kind of service projects your club does?  If they don’t involve getting to know the people you serve, even if its just for a little while, then maybe it’s time to gather the wagons and come up with a few new idea.

What are some of your club’s best “hands on” AND “face to face” service projects?  Let us know.

 

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When a Fundraiser is Not About the Food

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L-R: Event organizers Past President, Mary Cain, and Club Service Chair, Beth Thomas, happily celebrating another successful fundraiser.

One of the best things about being on the District Leadership Team is the food.  Most Rotary club meetings are structured around a meal.  Some of the best food you can find is at club fundraisers in our District.  I’m thinking Oyster Fests, Crab Feasts, Crab Festivals, Bull and Oyster Roasts, Barbecue, Lobster Fests, etc.  I know.  I know.  World Peace and all of that stuff is important.  But I’m talking some of the best food on the planet, right here in District 7620.

Last month the Rotary Club of Columbia-Patuxent, demonstrated, once again, that when it comes to having fun, they are a tough club to match.  Their fundraiser, A Night on the Riverboat, wasn’t as much about the food.  It was about gambling!   That’s right, the club offered guests extremely high stakes gambling where thousands of dollars were won and lost on a single roll of the dice or spin of the wheel.  (Not really…you may have heard that actual gambling is heavily regulated in the state of Md.  This is kind of “fake” gambling.  The kind that doesn’t get you arrested.)

Before I get into the details, I want you to know that it’s hard to choose the best video clips for a gambling post on RFA.  Hollywood has stepped up to the plate with some of the best possible scenes.  How to choose from the blizzard of James Bond casino scenes, or Matt Damon in Rounders which some say is the best poker movie ever made.  Then, of course, there’s Rainman, 21, Maverick, and even Road to El Dorado, all with scenes that come close to capturing the real world drama of Night on the Riverboat.  Here’s my first choice….James Bond (Sean Connery) in Diamonds are Forever, with the beautiful Lana Wood playing Plenty O’Tool.  There was a lot of this kind of action at the craps tables at Night on the Riverboat.

 

 

The secret of Night on the Riverboat is that the players don’t play for cash.  Instead they are given “house” money that can be exchanged for tickets used to win all kinds of prizes.  The more tickets you have the more chances you have to win the prize you want.  You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how quickly the “play” money begins to feel like real money.  There was plenty of shouting at the tables as winners howled in triumph at winning thousands of …tickets.  Craps, blackjack, and roulette, were all paying out the fake bucks with plenty of action.  However, I’m guessing the cash wheels were the big money makers for the evening.  Combined with a variety of raffles, a silent auction, and other chances to win stuff during the evening, I’m hearing the total net raised was over $30,000.

Time for another classic scene.  I have to go with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in this iconic scene from Rainman.  Do you remember this scene?

 

 

Not content to just have fun at the Night on the River Boat event, the Columbia Patuxent club also took time to honor the winner of  their Service Above Self award, Chaya Kaplan, of A-OK Mentoring and Tutoring.  The club awards $5,000 to the winner of the award each year who then donates the prize to a charity of their choice, subject to the approval of the Club’s Foundation Trustees.  Chaya reports that this year’s prize, donated to A-OK, will purchase science kits, children’s books, and other educational materials.  The size of this award is beginning to gain the attention of the do-gooder community in Howard County.  Great publicity for Rotary and the club.

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Chaya Kaplan, Executive Director of A-OK Mentoring and Tutoring, accepting her Service Above Self award with Club Trust Chair (Grand Dame Poobah) Joan Athen, looking on.

Here’s the good news.  Amazing night.  Lot’s of fun.  Over three hundred guests.  A large screen running all night showing highlights of the Rotary club and reminding everyone that this is a Rotary event.  Oh…and did I mention?  Preliminary reports are more than $30,000 raised.  Not bad.  On the other hand, fundraiser organizers were heard muttering that not enough attention was given to the awards, too many tickets were purchased by club members, and not enough extra cash was spent on gambling.  It seems our guests only wanted to “lose” the play money they were given at the beginning of the evening.  Never fear, the club, like many clubs in Rotary, is already figuring out how to “fine tune” the event so it will be even better next year.  Too much fun!

My observation is that clubs all over the District, and all around the world, are working hard to raise money in support of their local communities.  Let’s make sure everyone hears about it.  It really is a powerful effort when you think of the size of our combined efforts.  Care to share any tips you can think of for promoting your club’s fundraiser to the community?  You can comment below.

OK…I can’t help it.  One last clip.  Here’s Mel Gibson, and a cast of thousands, drawing for a royal straight flush in the movie, Maverick.  Only in Hollywood…

 

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District 7620 Membership Chair, and Col Patuxent member, Darrell Nevin, is his famous, ” don’t you trust me?” pose at the cash wheel. Notably, the cash in Darrell’s hand used to belong to me.

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Past RI VP Anne Talks a Little SEC Trash at the 7620 Foundation Dinner

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Past RI VP Anne Matthews and Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award Winner, Geetha Jayaram, making District 7620 proud!

I suppose that Past RI VP Anne Matthews is something of a legend in Rotary Zone 33.  We were blessed to have her take time out of her extraordinarily busy schedule to be a featured speaker at the District 7620 Foundation Dinner.  If you missed it, you missed one of the highlights of the entire Rotary year.  And let me say…for those of you attended….you clean up REALLY nice.  The guys in tuxedo’s?  You rooked Maavelous.

Many of us have heard Anne speak before, but her message is just as vibrant and relevant as ever.  And when she held up a glass of clean water and asked us to think about our own lives compared to the millions who don’t have access to something we take for granted, not a person in the room wasn’t moved.  You all know that I am far too immature to get right to the point about the many awards and accomplishments we celebrated during the evening, so here is a little test.  Why am I including this clip from the movie, “Stranger than Fiction,” where IRS auditor, Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrell, finds himself the subject of a narration that only he can hear?  Pay attention.

Did you notice that Will Ferrell’s character wasn’t running the water while he was brushing his teeth?  Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has heard Anne speak about the Rotary Foundation, and our need to conserve water, will never let the water run while brushing our teeth again.  Here’s Anne, along with District 7620 Foundation Chair, Claude Morissette, with a quick comment about the Rotary Foundation:

 

As you may know, Anne is a fanatic fan of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks football team.  As your intrepid RFA reporter I’m sad to speculate that Anne must have burst a gasket as South Carolina lost to Tennessee last weekend, 45 – 42.  It’s clear from her comments that if it was up to her, coach Steve Spurrier’s job would be in jeopardy.  In fact, she’s ready to step in and coach the team herself.  Here’s something you don’t get to see every day…..RI VP Anne Matthews talking more than a little trash about SEC football with 7620 Foundation Chair, Claude.  Two things to note:  First, Claude is thoroughly entertained by Anne’s smackdown of Big 10 football.  Second, in the background you can hear IPDG Peter Kyle trying to censor the press while I valiantly  try to get this important story on video.

Of course, the main stars of the evening were the many award winners for Foundation contributions in our District.  Geetha Jayaram, of the soon to be chartered Howard West Rotary Club, was recognized for winning the prestigious Rotary Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity award.  David Hillery (Parole Annapolis)  and Donald Walter (Lake Shore – Severna Park) were recognized for achieving Major Donor Level 2 .  Not to embarrass them, but to reach Major Donor Level 2 you must give $25,000 to the Rotary Foundation, a true statement of their commitment to Rotary’s goal of world peace through humanitarian service.  And yes, we honored several Rotarians for achieving Major Donor Level 1 status, including Frank Andracchi from Lake Shore, Bea Carson from Annapolis, and John Ramos from Lexington Park.  To reach Major Donor Level 1 you must have total contributions to the Rotary Foundation of $10,000.  Congratulations to all!

Special recognition was given to new Bequest Society members (3), new Paul Harris Society members (17), District Grant Scholars (4), and our Global Grant scholar, Sarah Dobson. We also recognized the 15 clubs that were awarded District Grants for the 2014-2015 Rotary year.  And yes, because we needed to parade even more well-dressed men and women to the podium,  we recognized the South Anne Arundel Rotary Club, the College Park Club, and the Lake Shore-Severna Park club, as having the highest per capita giving in the District.

The bottom line is that the Rotary Foundation is our Foundation, and it felt great to all concerned to spend an evening to celebrate our commitment  to the cause…even if it did mean that we missed the first half of the Ravens-Pittsburgh game.  (If you are a Raven’s fan the game stunk anyway.)

Thanks to DGN, Anna Mae Kobbe for putting on a terrific show along with our hard working and long suffering District Secretary, Sherry Whitworth.  And as always, thanks to DG Bill Fine for leading the troops this year.

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South Anne Arundel County club President , Joe Van Deuren,  happily representing the club as being the number 1 club in the District for per cap giving to TRF with a total of $480 per cap.  WOW!!!!  Obviously Joe has never been in sales where a great year like this is rewarded by increasing your quota.
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Dave Hillery with a death grip on his award for achieving Major Donor Level 2 status.

IMG_0886L-R, DG Bill Fine, RI VP Anne Matthews, Level One Major Donors, Frank Andracchi (Lake Shore-Severna Park), Bea Carson (Annapolis), and DRFC Claude Morissette, all obviously looking at the wrong camera.

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L – R: District 7620 DGN and a major force in having a successful event, Margarita drinker, and new wife of Doug who has all of the good pictures, Anna Mae Kobbe, PDG and current Club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, and PDG and next year’s Grants Chair, who will sweating next year’s dinner, Bette Lewis.
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These photos are for Past RI VP Anne to make her feel better about losing to Tennessee.
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This was obviously the “before” picture. Just kidding Past RI VP Anne. We love you, and even though there’s a lot of  Maryland Terps fans around here, we’ll  keep a warm spot in our heart for the Gamecocks.  Thank’s for coming to our dinner and celebrating with us.

 

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After 40 Years, Rotary Finally Achieves It’s Goal!

 

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A great looking bunch of young men and women at the Gallaudet Awards Luncheon…. and the students looked pretty good, too. What a privilege it was to get to know them.

Sorry, if you were thinking that Rotary finally eradicated Polio, unfortunately we’re still “this close.”  I was speaking of Rotary District 7620’s goal of funding a $500,000 Rotary scholarship fund to support the education of students at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.  Many know Gallaudet as the leading educational institution in world for the deaf.  I was proud to attend this year’s awards luncheon, where District Governor, Bill Fine, announced that we reached our goal.  Here’s some background on this incredible achievement:

The Rotary District 7620 Gallaudet scholarship fund was founded in 1974 and has supported the education of more than 250 students.  Former PDG, J. Roland Cumberland served as DG in 1973-1974 and former Rotarian, Henry Tate, member of the Potomac Rotary Club, served as the founding Chairman of the Endowment.  In addition to seeing the development of the scholarship program, Henry led the District in funding an educational center on campus.

Over the decades the endowment for Gallaudet has been supported by many individual clubs in the District and for the past three years the District has provided $10,000 in matching funds to help meet our goal.  This year’s banquet program lists 26 different clubs as donors.  This was my second year attending the annual awards luncheon, and I can report that it is simply not possible to be around the scholarship recipients at Gallaudet without being amazed at their enthusiasm and accomplishments.  Instead of me trying to explain the excitement of the moment, here is PDG, and long-time Scholarship Chair, Pat Kasuda, giving you her take on the proceedings:

For me, a highlight of the luncheon, other than getting to know the scholars, is the performance of the Gallaudet Dance Company.  These woman are amazing dancers.  When you consider that they dance without being able to hear the music….well….it’s truly remarkable.  Here is a short clip of Gallaudet dancers Emily Catalfamo, Pershea Jefferson, Rhiannon LeLievre, Jessica Nortey, Janejera Rungreang, and Tanisha Russell, performing “Singing in the Rain:”

I thought perhaps the best way to give you an idea of just how great this event is, is to give some of the scholars a chance to say thank you to Rotary on video.  So here are three of this year’s fourteen scholarship recipients, Jazzmin Washington, Kyle Murphy, and Lucy Upah, telling you in their own words (signs) about their journey at Gallaudet.  (Translations provided below each clip.)

“Hello,  My name is Jazzmin Washington.  I am a sophomore at Gallaudet University.  I’m pursuing a double major in Biology and Chemistry.  My inspiration comes from my mother, who has suffered from leukemia since I was 7.  Due to this, I have an aspiration to attend medical school and become an anesthesiologist.  When I’m not studying, I am reading, or participating on the Gallaudet women’s basketball team.  I also work as the Hours Program Student Assistant in my free time.”

“Hello, my name is Kyle Murphy. I’m a grad student from Baton Rouge, Louisiana studying for my master’s in social work. I want to thank all of you for the Rotary scholarship and for supporting Gallaudet University and our community.”

“Hello, my name is Lucy Upah.  I am from Nigeria in Africa.  I am here as a 2nd year student of MPA in Gallaudet University.  I am very happy to receive the Rotary award.  It’s a huge help/support for my studies.  Thank you, Rotary!”

So what do you think of these students?  And what do you think of our District accomplishing our objective after FOURTY YEARS!  It kind of makes you feel a little better about committing to a three-year strategic plan in our Rotary clubs, doesn’t it?

Thanks to everyone who helped to fund this project over the years.  And thanks to our hardworking scholarship committee, who meets to carefully evaluate the scholarship applications each year.

DG, Bill Fine, in his remarks at the luncheon, said that for him, this event is one of the highlights of the year.  It’s easy to see why.  So…now that we got this Gallaudet scholarship program out of the way, can we lick this Polio thing once and for all?

 

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A Very Successful Open House at Charles Co. La Plata

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Past President, jeweler, and super Rotarian Josh Joson wowing the guests at the Charles County La Plata Open House by telling his Rotary story.

Rotary membership seems to be floating to the top of the list lately as I ramble around District 7620 in my usual dazed and clueless fashion.  On Monday evening I attended Membership Chair Darrell Nevin’s terrific seminar on membership called, From Yawn to Wow!  (I will be writing about Yawn to Wow in the next Ready, Fire, Aim.)  What made it even more interesting was that two weeks ago I attended an Open House by the Charles County La Plata Rotary Club, and it went so well you would have thought they had attended Nevin’s seminar.  Now that I think about it…..they did.  And therein lies the beginning of my tale.

It turns out that Club President, Jamie Reidy, and President-Elect, Jim Cook, DID attend Darrell’s seminar last year, as well as attending all of the District training and conferences.  They reached the conclusion that it was time to do something about the fact that the club’s membership had fallen from a high of 50 members to a low of 39 members.  (Sound familiar?)  So, they took the idea of doing something about it to the club’s Board, and the idea for doing an Open House was born.  Notably, two long-time members, Dr. Barry Aron and Josh Joson took the lead on the project.

Here’s how they did it.  First they came up with an announcement to the local business community that the club was having a “Rotary Awareness and Appreciation Night” to be held at the Green Turtle restaurant.  The invitations were nicely printed formal cards.  Then they HAND DELIVERED the invitations to small businesses in the area.  As I understand the story, Aron and Joson dropped invitations off in the local business district while other club members invited people they knew and other business folk they met at local business networking events.   (Note:  Back in the days when dinosaurs walked the earth and I was a District Trainer, I used to tell the story of a club president who wanted to do an Open House.  To make a long story short, in my narrative I said the invitations would be mailed to local businesses.  A few years ago, Past RI President, Ray Klinginsmith, follows me to the podium and tells everyone not to mail the invitations, but to hand deliver them.  At the time I was thinking, “you may be a past RI President but you are nuts.”  Now I’m thinking, he was right…and I was wrong…..again.)  But I digress.

As a result of the inspired leadership of Aron and Joson, along with the participation of the rest of the club, they had between 15 – 20 guests show up during the course of the evening.  It’s a beautiful evening on the deck of the Green Turtle, the Rotary signage is prominently displayed,  the food is good, the drinks are flowing.  The program was Yours Truly talking for less than five minutes about Rotary International and the Rotary District,  followed by three different club members telling their Rotary story.  They were very compelling.

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L-R: Dr. Barry Aron, former Rotarian and guest Ray Dickerson, Lee Bridget, son of Dennis and Becky, Dennis Bridget, his wife, Becky Bridgett, and Richard Smyser, all enjoying a lovely evening.

What was the result?  How about two new members and two who are likely to join any day now!  My math stinks, but that’s about a ten percent increase in club membership due to one successful membership event.  AWESOME.

When asked, PE Jim Cook tells me they are now snowed under with planning for the club’s upcoming Lobster Fest, which is the club’s signature event where about 1,300 guests show up for all the lobster they can eat.  There will  be a “What is Rotary” table at the event as they combine some great PR, a great party, and a fundraiser that netted $63,000 last year for the Birthing Center for the University of Md. Charles County Regional Hospital.  (Note:  I just paid $12 for a four ounce tail along with my filet.  All you can eat?  Lobster? Really?  Linda and I will be there on the 28th to check it out.)

So, here is some completely unsolicited advice for the La Plata club, offered in the context of a teachable moment for all concerned:

Make sure you get the names of everyone who attended, everyone who said they would attend and didn’t, and all of the Rotarians who were their hosts, and create a spreadsheet with all of the information.  Follow up is key!

Next time you do the Open House have someone from the Hospital as a speaker talking about what Rotary means to them.  This is a great idea direct from the Darrell Nevin storehouse of amazingly good membership ideas.  Apparently having the charities that benefit from your work tell everyone how important you are to them is the most moving tribute to Rotary you can get.

I know you are busy planning Lobster Fests and Dictionary Projects, but put your next Open House on the schedule now.  Six months from now should do it.  Don’t lose your momentum.

Concentrate on integrating your new members into the club.  Make sure you do their Fireside Chat and have them follow the New Member Checklist.

Dear District 7620 Rotarians, the La Plata club is just one of several clubs in the District successfully running Open Houses and growing their clubs.  You can do this!  You CAN DO THIS!

Congratulations to President Jamie and PE Jim for taking the initiative to bring this to the Board and getting the troops “fired up.”  And congratulations to the rest of the club for taking action.  We don’t call this blog, Ready, Fire, Aim for nothing.

More on membership next week…..

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Nice crowd. Nice evening. People kind of flowed in and out after work.

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