Category Archives: Leadership Team

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

 

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Congressional Champions of Polio Eradication Reception

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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.  www.daretodreamfilm.com.

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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

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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

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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.

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

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

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

No more than two club meetings are required each month

Removed admission fees for new clubs

Attendance rules can be determined by individual clubs

Classifications are now optional

Minimum members to start a new club reduced to 20

Rotaractors can have dual membership as Rotaract and Rotary

Corporate memberships are now allowed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ALL About Hospitality Suites

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I’m just back from Chesapeake PETS where President-Elects from four Districts (7600, 7610, 7620, and 7630) gather to get trained to be a great Club President.  The Multi-District PETS is a massive operation with more than 200 PE’s getting the best training that Rotary can provide.  And they also get the best speakers.  The picture above shows RI President-Elect, John Germ, exhorting the PE’s to be “All-Stars.”  (Notably, this had to do with some nonsense about next year’s DG Class wearing red Converse All Stars sneakers in San Diego at the International Assembly.  Converse All-Stars?  Can you still buy them?  Has anyone ever heard of NIKE?) But the point was, as it is every year, that being a Rotary Club President is one of the best opportunities an individual can have to make a positive change their club, their community, and the world.

But I submit that despite the highly trained and motivated facilitators that volunteer to teach at PETS, and the professional curriculum for PE’s developed by RI for just this purpose, the very best training for Rotarians doesn’t occur in the breakout or plenary sessions.  The best learning occurs in a unique environment called “the hospitality suite.” Regardless of whether the hospitality suite is located at a Multi-District PETS, or located at a District Conference, if you want to find out what is REALLY going on in Rotary clubs in your District, Zone, or around the world, head immediately to the nearest hospitality suite, grab your favorite beverage, and listen to the conversation.

To prove this hypothesis, I bravely decided to shoot some video at the District 7620 suite this year.  You will note that many of the attendees have somewhat glazed looks in their eyes due to drinking a few too many margaritas.  (Another Note:  Yours Truly brought the margarita machine.  Special thanks to my partner behind the bar, Rotarian and soon to be First Husband to DGE Anna Mae Kobbe, Doug Newell, for helping to experiment with the ingredients until we ended up with the best margaritas of the evening.  Uh….we were actually serving the only margaritas of the evening.)  I think the video shows the incredible intensity of the Rotary information being exchanged.  You can see how productive everyone was until I showed up.

The next clip is a rare view of a District Governor-Elect motivating and educating her Club Presidents in the Hospitality Suite environment.  Here, 7620 DGE Anna Mae Kobbe, was in the middle of explaining how Rotarians can actually finish the job of achieving world peace when I interrupted her with this interview.  Unfortunately, even though Anna Mae had the answer to achieving world peace and prosperity by the end of the 2016-17 Rotary year, after she finished her margarita she forgot how to do it.  She does remember something about red sneakers, though….

Finally, another benefit of hospitality suites is that you get to interact with the very best and highly trained support staff that Zone 33 has to offer.  In this clip I was fortunate enough to capture our Zone Coordinator, Paula Mathews, explaining some of the most intricate and complex issues in Rotary to PE Brahm Prakash, who was desperately trying to understand Paula’s southern accent.

It’s really too bad that none of the Rotarians who attended the hospitality suite seemed to be having a good time.

Not that it matters, but the Rotary clubs in District 7620 are sponsoring seven (count-em) SEVEN hospitality suites at our District Conference.  If you want to learn a whole lot about Rotary, that no one will teach you in a classroom, that will change your life, AND have a whole lot of fun, you might want to find one of the hospitality suites and hang around with some interesting and knowledgable Rotarians.   TOO MUCH FUN!

 

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The Best District Conference Ever

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Thank you to Rotarian Darren Easton, Vice President and Creative Director of the Cyphers Agency, Annapolis, Md., for creating this amazing image.  How cool is this?

It’s getting on that time of the year where District Governor’s around the world, having finished their official Governor visits, now revisit their clubs to sell their District Conference.  DO NOT register for your District Conference because your DG signed a very expensive contract with a swanky hotel guaranteeing  the District will sell a minimum number of rooms at fancy hotel rates.  And don’t register because if the District doesn’t sell the minimum number of rooms the District will be obligated to pay many thousands of dollars in penalties with money that isn’t in the budget.  Pay no attention to the fact that the consequence of not selling enough rooms is the DG will be held in ridicule for the remainder of his or her Rotary career by everyone in his or her District.  Completely disregard that consequently the current DG will not be able to brag about his or her District Conference as a Past District Governor, to other PDGs who are also bragging about their District Conference, endlessly reliving the wild excitement of the event, while somewhat inaccurately inflating the attendance figures and generally claiming that theirs was the “best District Conference ever.”

Instead, register for the District Conference because Rotary District Conferences offer an extraordinary value proposition for those that choose to attend.  For most members, the Conference is a wonderful opportunity to see Rotary through a different perspective than the one they have from attending their club each week.   Interacting with Rotarians from around the Rotary District is generally educational, interesting, and fun.  That’s because, as surprising as it may seem, Rotarians themselves are generally (Four Way Test Alert…..I did say generally) interesting and fun….and sometimes educational.  Attending a District Conference is one of the best ways I know to learn from other Rotary clubs about the “best practices” that work for them.  Many Rotarians who attend the District Conference lean about best practices and other Rotary information from informed speakers and interesting breakout sessions.  Many other Rotarians find that the best time to steal….er…..borrow…..er…..discover  best practices is in the club-sponsored hospitality suites.  Here Rotary Clubs from around the District are busy offering free specialty drinks and desserts to Rotarians deeply interested in world peace.    After a couple of pops in the hospitality suites the true meaning of Rotary and frankly, life itself, is generally discovered by all concerned.  What fun!

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Special thanks to First Lady, Linda Solow, for creating this amazing image.  How cool is this?

As we get closer to District Conference season, be kind to your District Governor.  He or she may take on a rather crazed look as the Conference grows ever closer and the terror of missing room guarantees looms ever larger.  You may notice a slight drop of drool escaping the corner of his or her mouth or evidence of an even larger drop on a shirt or blouse. Pretend not to notice.  They can’t help it.  Most District Governors at this time of year have no interest in world peace or “Being A Gift To the World,” or any of that other Rotary stuff. They are, in fact, much like the Maytag Repairman, simply waiting and watching for someone….anyone…..to register for their District Conference.

Ol' Lonely Maytag salesman Hardy Rawls.2003 to present. about to be replaced

If you are a member of Rotary District 7620 you are hereby officially invited to attend the District Conference on April 8 – 10 at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Md.  If you are a RFA reader in the many foreign countries that follow this blog, you are also officially invited to attend the Rotary District 7620 Conference on April 8 -10 at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Md.  And if you are a random person who has never heard of Rotary, who stumbled over this blog post while doing a Google search for “how to spell “conference” and who is reading this missive by mistake or some other tragic accident, you too are officially invited to attend the District 7620 District Conference.

To attend Register Here

It’s going to be the best District Conference EVER!!!!!

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“Extending” a new Rotary club…”A Dive into a Pool of Positive Energy”

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You get to do a whole lot of fun stuff when you are a District Governor in Rotary.  But I don’t know if you get to do anything too much more exciting than “extending” or “chartering” a new Rotary club.  Nowadays, my DG classmates tell me its a lot easier to start “satellite” Rotary clubs than it is to start a club from scratch, and they are probably right.  But if you’ve ever watched a group of dedicated people come together to learn about Rotary, get to know each other, and figure out just what the heck their club is going to be, I promise you it’s a process that is amazing.  I recently had the opportunity to participate in the charter celebration for our District’s sixty-second Rotary club, the Rotary club of Downtown Silver Spring, and it was a joyous occasion.  NOTE:  Our District strategic plan calls for us to extend two new clubs each year.  Since I closed a club this  year does this count as one or am I still net zero?

I suppose what I like best about chartering a new club is that new Rotary clubs really “don’t know what they don’t know.”  Who or what is to stop these super enthusiastic Rotarians from making a gigantic impact on their community?  Why shouldn’t the members become life-long friends both in and outside of Rotary?  And why couldn’t they become true citizens of the world and become completely engaged with Rotary in all of its international majesty?  I will say it again…(sorry about this)….but there is no “Good Idea Form” to fill out in District 7620.  This group of 26 new Rotarians can do just about whatever they want to do to make downtown Silver Spring a better place, limited only by their skill, imagination, and willingness to work hard at making a difference.  Starting a new club is like taking a dive into a pool filled with positive energy.  At least for this one morning it seemed like there is nothing that this group of men and women can’t accomplish.

Here is a two minute video of Past District Governor, and District 7620 club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, giving the oath of office to the club’s officers.  You might note someone (possibly your RFA editor) calmly and politely asking Ray to hurry up with the speechmaking.  I might add that Ray has been involved with extending more than 20 Rotary clubs.  I might also point out that he doesn’t read from a script when he gives the oath of office….and neither should anyone else.

I think for once I am going to shut up and let the pictures tell the story here.  But I do hope that the new Downtown Silver Spring Friday morning breakfast club does not forget the culture of membership growth that allowed them to grow from a couple of people who wanted to learn more about Rotary, into a new club with 26 members.  I just looked it up and can report that the city of Silver Spring has a population of 71,000.  If we include the Silver Spring-Kensington lunch club we have about 40 Rotarians serving the needs of the city.  I’m just spitballing here, but I’m guessing that about 100 Rotary members would have a huge impact on the city, would get the attention of local businesses as partners, and would make an impression on city government.  Come on Downtown Silver Spring…you can do this!

Here is a quick interview with the new leadership of the Downtown Silver Spring club.  I wouldn’t bet against this club, would you?

 

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L – R  Charter President of the Downtown Silver Spring Rotary Club, Carson Henry, District Governor Nominee “Uncle” Greg Wims, and District Governor Elect, Anna Mae Kobbe.

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Club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, making certain that Club President, Carson Henry, doesn’t screw anything up during this important occasion.

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New members praying that the speeches will be over soon so that they can finally eat some breakfast.

And finally, the actual Club Charter.  You might note my signature next to some guy named Ravi.  We didn’t have the original at the ceremony so we gave them a cheap copy in a nice frame that Ray had laying around in his basement.  The real Charter will be safely in the hands of the club’s officers shortly.

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UNSUBSCRIBE

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No…No….Don’t unsubscribe to Ready, Fire, Aim for heavens sakes.  Unsubscribe to just about everything else.  I’ve decided to take a shot at reducing my email clutter.  Why not join me?

We learned long ago that one of the hardest things to do as a District Leader is to communicate by email with the Rotarians in the District.  One possible reason for this is that some Rotarians might not be interested in just about anything we have to say as a District Leader.  This might be because they are so involved with Rotary at the club level that the “District” has become at best a distraction, and at worst, an annoyance.  A second reason Rotarians might not be interested is because District Leaders don’t have much of anything interesting to say.  (I know this couldn’t possibly apply to me, but I’m just sayin….)  In other words, what if we really ARE sending spam out to the Rotarians in our District?  If that’s the case, then shame on us.

But I prefer to think that the reason its so hard to communicate with the Rotarians in the District is that they, like me, find themselves overwhelmed with email messages on a daily basis.  I know I get more than 200 emails per day and some of my friends just laugh because they get even more than I do.  In my case, I get emails from non-profits, retailers where I bought something in the past five years, investment research (I’m in the business), and yes….wait for it….Rotary emails.  Rotary emails come from just about everywhere, including Rotary International, Rotary Clubs, Rotary District Leaders, leaders from other Rotary Districts, Foundation appeals for projects from around the world, etc., etc., etc.  I realize that I signed up to be a District Governor so all of the Rotary email is just another part of the gig.  But for the typical, ordinary Rotarian, who is frantically digging through their mail so they don’t fall too far behind, then maybe, just maybe, reading a Rotary email is just a little too time consuming in the overall scheme of things.

NOTE:  I just was watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in Joe and the Volcano before dinner, and writing this post made me think about the two of them in You’ve Got Mail.  Sorry guys, but this is one of the classic “chick flicks” and if you can’t stand watching this scene, I perfectly understand.  Can you imagine WANTING to watch a movie called You’ve Got Mail? I know I’ve got mail, ….about 200 of them….every stinking day.  Anyway, watching this scene makes me weep.  It does.  Really.

 

Back to reality.  Here’s where this unsubscribe thing comes in.  Have you tried it?  It’s one of the most satisfying, entertaining, and thoroughly enriching experiences you can have.  I compare it to the feeling you get when you go through the easy pass lane on the freeway and watch the suckers waiting in a long line of cars to pay the toll.  Or the feeling you get when you go to Disney World and use your Fast Pass and walk right up to head of the line.  It’s glorious!

Unsubscribing from an email solicitation feels even better, because it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Here’s the thing, though.  Don’t confuse unsubscribing to an email solicitation or newsletter by going down to very fine print at the bottom of the email, with clicking the unsubscribe button at the top of your email browser which “blocks” the mail.  (Anyway, thats what my twenty-four year old son told me and he is my personal tech support and I try to do exactly what he says.)  If you hunt through the microscopic small print at the bottom of the mail you will find something that says “click here to unsubscribe,” or “safe unsubscribe,” or “change your email preference.”  Any of the above allow you to click on a box that says unsubscribe.  Many times a quick quiz comes up and they want to know why you unsubscribed.  There is no option to answer, “I unsubscribed because I am desperately trying to recover at least some portion of my sanity and/or some portion of my life.” Therefore I just click on “I no longer want to receive this email.”  Direct, to the point, and absolutely accurate.  Just not dramatic enough for me, but again…that’s just me.

Every time you do it you feel great.  I mean, you FEEL GREAT!  You gotta try this.  Even so, I’ve been at this for a couple of weeks now and it still doesn’t seem like my email garbage is getting any better.  But sooner or later it will have an impact, right?  Once you make a dent, you will find yourself sitting back with your favorite beverage, with a half smile on your face, without a care in the world, opening and reading your Rotary email.  I promise to only send Rotary stuff that is life changing, like the last one I sent about attending my District Conference.  That’s not spam….that truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

No time stress while reading Rotary emails.  Doesn’t that sound great?

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YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE TO THE READY, FIRE, AIM BLOG BY CLICKING ON THE SUBSCRIBE BUTTON TO THE RIGHT OF THE BLOG TEXT AND RECEIVE AUTOMATIC NOTICES OF NEW POSTS.  YOU CAN FOLLOW KEN SOLOW ON TWITTER AT @KENNETHRSOLOW.  PLEASE LIKE THE DISTRICT 7620 FACEBOOK PAGE.

 

Steve Jobs and Rotary…reading things that are not yet on the page.

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I just got finished reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs.  The book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years, ever since I received it at our Rotary club’s gift exchange a couple of years ago.  We play that game where you can “steal” a gift from others up to three times, or you can choose from the gifts that haven’t been opened.  You know that game, right?   No offense to whoever wrapped this particular book but I’m pretty sure the book wasn’t exactly “new” when I opened it, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, with the release of the new Steve Jobs movie, I thought it might be a good time to finally get down to reading it.  So over the Christmas break I’ve been totally immersed in the incredible and compelling story of Steve Jobs.  As the Founder and CEO of Apple and Pixar, Jobs literally changed our world in more ways than I realized before I read his story. And, as your hard working RFA editor, I managed to find many lessons on Rotary leadership in the book.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Jobs about his views on customer satisfaction:

Some people say, “Give the customer what they want.”  But that’s not my approach.  Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.  I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.  That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

Here’s how this might relate to Rotary leadership.  When our task is to rethink how to make Rotary more relevant in our community.  How to reengage Rotarians in our clubs.  How to have more impact and make more of a difference in how we serve others, and how to attract the next generation to Rotary, perhaps the last thing we should do is to take a poll of our club members to see what they think the club should do.  It’s possible that they will say “they want a faster horse.”

Maybe what is needed is a leap in imagination. We need our Rotary leaders, at every level, to leapfrog what seems to be the desires of our customers (our current Rotarians) and create a vision that is so powerful that they realize that the new, bigger vision, for Rotary is what they wanted all along.

The Think Different ad campaign for Apple ran from 1997 – 2002.  To be honest with you I never paid that much attention to it before.  Think about Rotary as you listen to this message.  Breathtaking!  (By the way, that’s Richard Dreyfus doing the voiceover in this commercial.  Jobs also recorded the voiceover, but he decided not to use it for the commercial.  They played his recording at the memorial service for him after he passed.)

You might think I’m being overly dramatic, and maybe I am, but our organization allows us to do exactly this.  We have our own Steve Job’s right here in District 7620, and his name is Dr. John Sever.  What kind of dreamer…..or visionary…..or delusional person, would write a letter to the RI President, Clem Renouf, in 1979, and suggest that “we eradicate polio for all the children of the world?”  Sever, Renouf, and Cliff Dochterman, among many others, came up with a vision to eradicate polio more than thirty years ago.  They really did help the rest of us to Think Differently.  I wonder how they must feel today about what Rotary is about to accomplish?

Steve Jobs changed our lives.  Rotary, with our partners, is about to do the same worldwide.  It would be great if this year we all allowed ourselves to be “the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels…” Let’s reimagine Rotary this year.

 

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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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