Here they come. Excited. Nervous. Maybe a little unsure of themselves. They are coming as a guest Rotarian to visit your Rotary club. The purpose of their visit? They are coming to unabashedly promote their business and to meet you in order to expand their professional network and perhaps find a business mentor. You see, they joined Rotary in order to do community service and to build their business network, and they were told that in joining Rotary they were joining “the original social network.” And as their fellow Rotarian, you are a part of it. (Their new network, I mean.)
They will have their elevator pitch all shined up and ready to go when the Club President acknowledges them as a guest from the podium and asks them to introduce themselves. They are going to be very clear and professional as they promote themselves and why you should do business with them. Perhaps they work in the same business or industry as you do. Turns out they joined a new Rotary club that was just started in your city and they fully expect that one of the benefits of membership is to meet other Rotarians who might be able to help them build their business. In fact, the club they joined is full of young professionals, but none of them have the knowledge, wisdom, experience, and contacts that you do, by virtue of the fact that you’ve built your business over decades, and you are, in many ways, the successful business man or woman that they aspire to be.
So here they come. Will you say, “How dare they come to my club to promote themselves and their business. That’s not what we do as Rotarians. They haven’t “earned” the right to come to my club and give this business-oriented self-promoting speech. Rotary is a service organization, and we don’t self-promote around here.” Of course, you might not know that this young professional’s Rotary club probably does two to three times as much community service as yours, at least as measured by the amount of “hands on” projects they do. Their new club exists to do community service projects and to build business networks, and they might do as many as two service projects every month. In fact, they will probably be contacting your club to partner in a project that they’ve designed in the near future. They really have some great new ideas for helping people in need in your community.
Hopefully when this eager young professional comes to visit your club, you will do more than extend the usual gracious Rotary welcome. I hope you will actively search out this serious and dedicated professional after your meeting and give them some encouragement. Thank them for visiting. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them. Perhaps offer to meet them for lunch or breakfast to give them some advice. In short, give them a sense of just how valuable building a Rotary network can be to them, both in terms of business advice, and perhaps in time, personal advice as well. If you do this, word might just begin to spread among the next generation of possible Rotarians that this Rotary network “thing” is actually VERY valuable.
Maybe, just maybe, this new Rotarian will be a new member of your own Rotary club. It’s time for all of us to fully understand that growing a professional network is right at the top of the list for young professionals looking to join Rotary. We need their energy, ideas, and enthusiasm. Let’s make sure they feel welcome to our organization. Maybe we didn’t realize it before, but we are a big reason these young professionals joined Rotary.
Rotary’s leadership has clearly asked us (begged us?) to be creative in structuring the Rotary experience so it will be relevant to a new generation of Rotarians. Since creativity isn’t necessarily one of our organization’s strongest points, I thought I would pass along a few ideas about this subject. NOTE: I want to give a special shout-out to Rotarian Clarissa Harris and the District 7620 Young Professional team. Many of the ideas below are theirs, although I am admittedly going to take things to another level. It’s OK. They think I’m a lunatic anyway. Since they have already completed steps One through Seven below, I KNOW you can do it too.
Step One: Agree that this new, vibrant club is to populated by members of all ages, sexes, religions, etc., etc. However, we are going to build the club from the bottom up to be attractive to young professionals. Agree that your target market of young professionals is age 25 – 40, time constrained, obsessed with their careers, don’t have a lot of discretionary money, possibly new parents, possibly new home owners, highly educated, interested in community service, globally oriented.
Step Two: Go to the local four-year university and meet with the alumni director. Offer to do a joint project where they offer their alumni a chance to be involved with a great networking event that features the university as co-host, held on campus, with a service project to improve the neighboring community, in exchange for Rotary picking up any cost for the event (other than space), co-promoting, organizing, and managing the event. HINT: Canvas local Rotary clubs near the college or university to find Rotarians with contacts at the school. This is pretty easy. Even if you don’t have an “in,” alumni staff are typically young(ish) and looking for these kind of events. Another HINT: The key is the mailing list. If you can’t do this with an alumni association, find another group with an interesting list to partner with.
Step Three: Find three or four sponsors that want to promote their business as being community-oriented, focused on young people and community service, where the sponsor gets to be a speaker about service-issues on an education panel about careers and service. Figure each sponsor is asked for $1,000 to $2,500 so you have a budget of $5,000 to $10,000 for the event. Once the local college or university is on board, finding sponsors will be relatively easy. “In-kind” donations will also be available if you put together a good event plan.
Step Four: Create an agenda for your event that includes a panel discussion about why community service will help your career. Have the speakers focus on that subject, both as community servants themselves, and potentially as employers (if your sponsor is a business owner.) Have the University President, or perhaps the Alumni Director, be a speaker. The panel discussion is a great way to invite questions from the audience. YP’s want to be engaged while learning. Then, after box lunches purchased at a big discount with sponsor money, create a service event that allows young folks to get busy with a hands-on project. Finally, the day ends with drinks at the bar….er….paid for again by sponsor money.
Step Five: Market the event through the alumni association. Use their mailing list to create an edgy ad that reads something like this:
LOOKING FOR TIME CONSTRAINED, CAREER-ORIENTED, COMMUNITY-SERVICE MINDED, YOUNG PROFESSIONALS, WHO WANT TO GROW THEIR PROFESSIONAL NETWORK WITHOUT WASTING MONEY ON EXPENSIVE LEADS GROUPS. (Find an image on Google or elsewhere that show a harried looking young professional in need of help.)
Join us for a spirited discussion about how to build networks, find mentors, and serve your community at the same time. And help to clean up the “XYZ Park”, and have a few drinks on us, while your at it. Followed by link to web site landing page.
OR – just let the Alumni Association come up with the ad.
Step Six: Figure on having 50 – 150 responses to your mail if the mailing list has 2,000 or more contacts. Ask the DG to distribute this ad to local clubs to distribute to their networks. Have your local young professional committee put the ad on social media. Figure 6 or 7 out of 10 people who RSVP’d will actually show up at your event.
Step Seven: Have a great event. Make sure to have excellent handouts about Rotary and make sure to get the contact information of the guests who post for the event. Let them know you will be following up.
Step Eight: IMMEDIATELY follow up after the event with all attendees and with the other prospects who didn’t attend. Have your committee preschedule a second service project within eight weeks of the first project. Also schedule a purely social “networking event” within four weeks of the first event held on campus. Announce these upcoming events at the first event. At subsequent networking events, meet at any local bar or restaurant that has parking to accommodate a large crowd of YP’s who are used to sharing business cards while having a few cocktails. BE SURE to ask everyone on the list to share these event announcements on their social networks.
Step Nine: After three months you will have shared the experience of at least two service projects and one networking event. Now its back to a venue for another (your second) networking event, AND a pitch to join Rotary. Here are a few key structural points for the new club.
A. The new club does NOT have meetings. The new club has networking events. Specifically, you meet twice a month for networking events. No bell. No pledge. At some point the members have to figure out how to have a short business meeting take place in a bar setting. They will figure it out. Committee work will be done elsewhere.
B. The new club does as many service projects as the members want to do. They are unlimited in terms of how often they do these projects and how they can help the local and international community. “Hands on” service is clearly understood to be different from “fundraising events.” Contributions to the Rotary Foundation are funded by fundraising events and members are not expected to fund TRF out of their pocket unless they can afford it. Of course, older members are expected to be leaders in this regard and step up to higher personal levels of giving.
C. Members pay RI dues and District dues. Other than that, maybe they chip in $40 a year to send the club president to training and that kind of stuff. Figure the total annual cost of membership to be about $200 per year. This is probably $300 – $600 LESS than YPs are already paying for unproductive networking groups that their business coach told them to join.
D. Make sure to have the proper membership paperwork available at the meeting and of course, online. Follow up IMMEDIATELY with everyone on the list – PERSONALLY – to ask them to join.
Step Ten: Make sure everyone knows that the objective is to expand the club’s network to include older members who will be able to help mentor YPs and help them build business and non-business networks in the community. Twice a month the networking crowd should be getting OLDER. Members should also be encouraged to visit other local clubs to build their Rotary networks. Will older professionals want to join this networking group and do community service alongside energetic, idealistic, committed, and enthusiastic younger professionals who want to learn about life and business from them? You bet they will!!!
I suspect YPs will grasp the basics of this plan better than I do, because I stole many of the ideas from them in the first place and they know the networking technology like the back of their hand. Remember, Rotary benefits include 1) business development, 2) community service, and 3) fellowship. YP’s are probably most attracted to numbers 1 and 2. Older folks are more attracted to numbers 2 & 3. Target the benefits you offer to the demographic you are targeting.
And there you go. 10 steps to 100 new Rotarians in four months from your first event. They think of Rotary as networking events and community service. Maybe you will screw this up and it will take six months instead of just four. You can do it!
“If you build it, they will come.” Kevin Costner’s character in the movie, Field of Dreams, hears a mysterious voice with this message while walking in his corn field in Iowa. “Build it” refers to building a baseball diamond, and as James Earl Jones says in this iconic clip, if Ray Kinsella (Costner) builds the field, fans will come to watch the game. This is a three minute clip so skip it if you like, but this is truly one of the great scenes in a great baseball movie.
Anyone who knows anything about the business of major league baseball knows that baseball is wrestling with developing its next generation of fans. And while James Earl Jones speaks poetically about the timeless and somewhat old fashioned virtues of baseball, the sport is in a lot of trouble if they can’t market a better value proposition to a younger demographic. Rotary has much the same problem. We need to get serious about how to position Rotary as a great value for young professionals.
Which brings me (blessedly) to the subject of this post, which is share with you a creative event for recruiting young professionals to Rotary. Past President of the Dupont Circle Rotary Club, and well-known expert in recruiting young professionals, Clarissa Harris, and the District 7620 YP team, including Nomie Hamid, Katie Blyth, Tiffany Nesfield, and Justin Saltzman, are out to change the paradigm for how to recruit Next Gen Rotarians. Here’s the secret….they are not promoting a Rotary membership event. Instead they are “selling” YPs on how community service can help jumpstart their career. That’s right. It turns out that YP’s are looking for opportunities to build their network, be mentored, and practice leadership skills. And yes, they are very interested in doing “hands on” community service. NOTE: This does not mean selling tickets to fundraisers. Just sayin.
The event is called, Generation Lead. To be held on Saturday, September 17th, the agenda is a clever mix of information about leadership development in the morning and a service project in the afternoon. They have created a professional and informative website at www.serviceconnectsucceed.org. Please go there immediately to steal….er…..get the details. Here’s how the day goes: Participants do some basic warm-up networking and then participate in an interactive leadership workshop run by Sarah Alexander with the University of Md.’s Office of Community Engagement. Next is a panel discussion with John Hill, CEO of Pinnacle Advisory Group, Kristin Post, former Peace Fellow and researcher at the Marine Corps Culture Training Center, and Sarah Alexander, discussing how community service has an impact on who they hire, how community engagement impacts how they view their employees, and how community service has impacted their personal career development.
YP guru Clarissa Harris.
After the morning sessions on professional development, the YP’s are off to an interesting service project where they will be planting more than 5,000 bee friendly plants to support three new swarms of bees. The mix of hands on service and high quality information about professional development will clearly illustrate the unique value proposition of Rotary.
The economics of this event can be replicated by any club or District with an interest, although this particular event is funded by an RI grant. (You can substitute corporate sponsors for the RI grant and pull off a similar event.) They key is for sponsors to realize that they can have their company associated with a valuable demographic (YP’s) and also be seen by potential customers and current clients as supporting youth and community service….a powerful combination. In this case the District 7620 YP team found a powerful partner in the University of Maryland, who generously donated the space for the event on campus as well as busses to transport participants from the morning session to the afternoon service project. Perhaps more importantly, U of Md. is marketing the event to the U. of Md. Alumni Association’s Young Professional Group.
What about Rotary involvement? The YP team is directly emailing to Rotary Alumni. (Yes, the data on that list is a little sketchy.) Additionally, each club in the District is invited to send up to five YP’s to the event. Each participant will be strongly encouraged to visit their sponsoring Rotary club after the Generation Lead event. Rotary clubs are also asked to provide volunteers for the day to serve as potential mentors to participants, further demonstrating the value of Rotary as a career building move for YPs. 7620 DG, Anna Mae Kobbe, has written several times to her Club Presidents asking them to participate, and now the YP committee has committed to making follow-up calls to certain clubs making certain that they get the message.
Current attendance is 100+. The goal is 200+. Clarissa and her team have built an extraordinary opportunity for Rotary Clubs to reach out to their local business community and invite young professionals to attend a free event. Generation Lead would benefit any business owner interested in furthering the development of their young professional employees. Why wouldn’t they send them to a free seminar sponsored by Rotary?
Another question might be, why isn’t the event sold out already? (By the way, having 100 registered two weeks prior to an event is somewhat short of amazing considering this is Rotary after all.) Here are a few obstacles to be overcome:
Rotary Club Presidents are now focused on their own agenda as its still very early in their year.
Rotary Club Presidents are getting bombarded with a variety of messages from their DG and from RI and this is just another thing on the list.
For this to work best, Rotarians should be reaching out to the local business community to find YP attendees. Rotary clubs ain’t so good at the “reaching out” part.
Many Rotary clubs don’t recognize the need to get younger. They are fine talking to each other about the grandkids every week.
Rotary clubs think they should be sending their own YPs to this event, as opposed to PROSPECTIVE YPs to this event. If they don’t currently have YP members they think this event doesn’t apply to them.
Well….they apparently built a baseball field in an Iowa corn field and people came to watch baseball played by ghosts. Now the question is, “If you build a fantastic recruiting event so that Rotary clubs can get younger, will they come?
I have written in this space more than once that being a District Governor comes with a variety of perks. (NOTE: If you EVER get the chance to do this DG gig….do it!) Being able to speak at RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) is certainly one of them. In our District, Rotary clubs will sponsor one or two delegate to RYLA. Many of them come from the club’s Interact club and some don’t. All of the delegates are full of smarts, energy, and fun. If you spend time with them I promise you will feel better about our future leaders. These high school students are terrific!
Most of the time short video clips speak louder than words, and this is one of those times. Before you check out the clips of these extraordinary young men and women, let me thank this years District 7620 RYLA committee members, Rotarians Judy Cappuccilli, Ed Kumian, Mary Dudley, Rochelle Brown, Navin Valliappan, and Jimmie Gorski. They do amazing work every year, handle all of the catastrophes that occur on a regular basis with perfect calm and understanding, and most importantly, manage to bring this program in on budget. (Sorry….I’m a DG…..I couldn’t help the last comment.)
Enjoy the clips of the delegates:
Just one more. These young leaders are amazing, aren’t they. Definitely more mature than the Rotary District Governor taking the video!
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I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve been caught up in last weekend’s Star Wars mania. I haven’t. However, I do think someone needs to point out that Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewy, were actually Rotarians in a Galaxy Far Far Away. Yes, it’s true. And I have the video to prove it. I present to you the final scene of Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope, where Luke and Han receive their Paul Harris medallion from District Governor Leia. It’s notable that even though Chewy gave enough to the Foundation to qualify for his Paul Harris, Director, George Lucas, did not include his award in the final cut. Many Star Wars fans have been puzzled (well…pissed off is a better term) by this for years.
Most of us could learn a few lessons from Princess Leia in regards to the awards ceremony itself. I’ve been to countless awards ceremonies in Rotary clubs in our District, and I’ve yet to hear a John Williams score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, while pinning a Paul Harris pin, or a new member pin, or any other pin, on one of our members. Why not? The least we could do is crank up some sounds as background music from someone’s smart phone.
Also notable is the fact that the Paul Harris pendant awarded to Luke and Han Solow….er Han Solo, is attached to a ribbon that she gracefully puts over the head of the recipients who slightly bow to receive their medal. This is much preferred to the awkward fumbling that almost always occurs when affixing pins to men and women’s clothing. Virtually all male District Governor’s live in abject fear of having to affix a Paul Harris pin, or new member pin, on a female Rotarian wearing any kind of a low cut dress. For me, wisdom and self preservation require simply handing the pin to the woman and letting her put the pin on by herself. I recently had the misfortune of putting a Paul Harris pin on a man’s suit coat only to have him whisper to me that I owed him for a new coat because I did not put the pin in the suit’s lapel slot. Oy!
Check out this ceremony. Awesome.
I might add that if you go to see Episode VII, The Force Awakens, don’t expect to see these characters looking anything like the characters in this clip. Instead you will see these characters after they’ve aged enough to be…..in your Rotary Club! That’s right! Luke, Han, and Leia have aged to be the exact demographic of our average Rotarian. As you watch them on screen it will occur to you why all Rotary clubs need to be thinking about their next generation of Rotarians. It’s not that we can’t get it done any more, but one look at this bunch will confirm that their club definitely needs to “awaken.” In fact, new members are “THE FORCE” that can awaken a Rotary Club.
So, If you haven’t already seen it, (you probably have), check out the newest Star Wars movie about aging Paul Harris Fellows and how they need a new generation of Rotarians to awaken the Force. Too much fun!!!
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Growing the membership of your Rotary club is all about the value you provide for prospective members. The value equation is relatively simple and looks something like this: local and community service + networking and business development + professional growth and leadership opportunities + fellowship + fun / cost of membership = Value of Rotary. We tend to focus on the numerator in this equation all of the time. ( er…the numerator was all the stuff before the divisor “/” sign.) Today we are going to focus on the denominator, for the good reasons of 1) cost of membership is cold and lonely and we just don’t talk about it enough, and 2) it is the quickest way to improve the value equation.
The good news is messing with the denominator of membership cost has a huge impact in the membership value equation. The bad news (depending on your point of view) is that solving the cost issue often goes directly to the issue posed by Rotary General Secretary, John Hewko, ” What’s more important…Rotary attendance or Rotary engagement?’ As you will see, the cost solution often runs directly counter to many of the best known techniques for bolstering attendance. So if you are a traditionalist who believes that attendance is one of the fundamental core values that Rotary has promoted for more than 100 years and therefore unwinding tools and techniques that promote attendance is a big mistake, you ain’t gonna be happy with some of the suggestions below.
So…here’s what I suggest. If you are a traditionalist you may find that the following ideas bring your blood to a boil. In fact, your reaction might be quite similar to this scene from the movie, The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. If you find yourself responding to this post in a similar emotional state, try taking four deep cleansing breaths and then repeat a calming statement like, “I am a calm and reasonable Rotarian.” I just learned this technique at our District’s Peace and Conflict Transformation seminar this week….not that I particularly needed to attend…
See if any of these ideas might work for your club. We all understand that the value equation has a lot of inputs in the numerator, but if you can reduce your club’s cost of membership your club will immediately offer better value for potential new members.
1) Unbundle your meal costs from your dues. “Prepaying” for meals by adding them to member dues payments is a great way to encourage attendance, but it’s a lousy way to encourage engagement and higher membership. Pay as you go meals takes financial pressure off of members who could save $100 in costs if they miss five meetings at $20 per meal. If you think that isn’t a lot of money, you are correct. But the optics of having to pay for meals when you can’t attend are terrible.
2) Closely following number 1, once you unbundle meals you can now discuss your dues without including meal costs. “Our dues are $350 per year. Oh yes….and you pay for your meals when you attend the meetings.” That sounds a lot better than “our dues are about $1,000 per year.” Traditionalists say this encourages members not to attend. Engagers say you will gain 20 new members at a lower price point and if the meetings are interesting then all members will attend. If the meetings stink, then paying for meals in advance isn’t going to rescue the club anyway.
3) Get rid of all fundraising commitments. Some Rotary clubs ask members to sell tickets and sponsorships to the club’s fundraiser, with the provision that if the member doesn’t sell a specified minimum number of tickets, they must pay for the difference themselves. Engagers say that if your members won’t sell tickets, then don’t bother with a fundraiser. Fundraising commitments are nothing but a giant negative to membership growth where the costs of Rotary membership may already be daunting. If the non-profits in your community need your club’s financial support, then rally your membership and have a great fundraiser. If no one sells any tickets then you might want to rethink why you are doing a fundraiser in the first place.
4) Rule of 35. The Rotary Club of Washington DC offers special discounted dues to members who are younger than age 35. The 50% discount comes with the expectation that younger members are active participants in “hands on” Rotary projects. Rotary clubs can choose any age they want for offering discounted dues, and they could create their own rules for who is eligible for discounts. Discounts don’t necessarily have to be based on age. Use your imagination. For me, any negotiation that exchanges service work in the community for lower dues payments meets the spirit of choosing engagement over attendance.
5) Have your club schedule a busy season of service projects that can take the place of club meetings. What if your club scheduled one service project each month and encouraged members to make up at these service oriented events? As long as the club takes attendance at the service project they will get the double barrel benefit of reducing the cost of membership as members don’t pay for a dozen meals during the year, AND they get a much healthier Rotary club that is seriously engaged in doing service work in the community. RI tells us service projects count as makeups. Why not take advantage of the rules as a part of your club’s financial structure?
6) Reduce the cost of your meals. I personally love Happy Hour clubs. Happy Hour clubs are a lot like dinner clubs, with the exception that 1) the happy hour menu is a lot cheaper than buying dinner, 2) you don’t have to order anything if you don’t want to, and 3) the meetings are finished a lot earlier in the evening so members with children get home in time for family commitments. Breakfast clubs have a similar advantage. Have members bring their own coffee and bagels twice a month and save on meal costs. Yes…you have to negotiate with the restaurant where you meet, but reducing meal costs is doable if you are committed to growing your club and prioritizing engagement over attendance. Maybe mix in a Happy Hour meeting instead of dinner once each month? Be creative.
7) Corporate memberships are an interesting way to reduce Rotary costs. No…businesses can’t be Rotary members. But the Columbia Patuxent Rotary club offers businesses the following proposition. They ask the owner/CEO to join and pay full dues, including meal costs. Since the owner is worried about attendance, he or she can name two other employees to be members of the club where they only pay RI and District dues. In this structure, all three employees are Rotary members, and any of the three can attend the meetings. If junior employees attend at the same time as the CEO then they are charged for the meal. Oh…in exchange for this offer Columbia Patuxent asks the company to make a contribution to the club’s fundraiser. This is a great deal for younger members of the business who should be getting involved in community service and promoting the business locally anyway.
8) Ask members with deep pockets to “sponsor” a new member by offsetting 50% of their membership dues for one year. The sponsoring member is recognized by the club and the new member is expected to attend all service projects and club social projects during the year.
Maybe it’s time your club challenged some long held ideas and made a serious dent in the cost of membership.
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It may be my particular curse to think that success in life, in Rotary, in just about everything, comes down to sales and selling. I know. I know. There are a lot of important ingredients to success. And for happiness. But it seems to me that those people who have the knack for dressing up an idea into a sellable product and then professionally presenting it to folks inevitably meet their goals and objectives. They get the girl. They win the game. And…they have vibrant, growing Rotary clubs.
One of the topics I’ve been covering with club leaders in my travels around the District has been the concept of “selling small” versus “selling big.” Early in my financial planning career I worked for a behemoth financial firm and learned how to sell big firms to potential clients who were scared of working with a company that was too big for them. Then I left the big firm to start my own very small firm and had to learn how to sell “small” to potential clients concerned about working with a company too small for them. Now my small firm is becoming a big firm and I’m engaged in teaching our team how to sell big. It doesn’t matter whether you are small or big, you just need to know how to sell it.
Rotary clubs have the same challenge. Small clubs have to learn how to sell “small’ to people interested in joining their club. And large clubs have to learn how to sell “large” to their prospective members. The rules are the same. Large organizations need to be able to sell “scale” and “impact.” Small organizations need to sell “flexibility,” being “nimble”, and being “personal.”
Before I give you my sales “pitch” for large and small clubs, you have to watch this clip of Chris Farley and David Spade in the most horrific sales pitch of all time from the movie, “Tommy Boy.” No matter how bad you think you are at sales, I promise you that you are better than Chris Farley in this clip. Farley at his best….
OK. Time to flip a coin to see which pitch I write first. (NOTE: Both small and large clubs are beautiful in the eyes of Rotary, and in the eyes of this DG. So please don’t be offended when reading how to best position either kind of club. Excuse me while I find a coin to flip….back in a second. OK. Tails it is. Small clubs first.)
SMALL CLUB PITCH:
Bill/Mary, I am so glad you came to visit our Rotary club today. As you spend this time with us, I ask you to see this club not how it appears today, but how it is going to look tomorrow and in the future. That’s because we have a small and committed group of people here who really believe we can make our community a better place to live. But we need to grow. And when you join us you will find that we are small enough that your ideas, your energy, and your creativity can be immediately translated into action in our club. It’s important that you fully understand that our small size lets us be nimble in incorporating new ideas in our club, and your new ideas are critically important to us.
You will find it easy to get to know everyone in our club because we don’t overwhelm you with a long list of members to get to know. You are going to like the people you get to meet in our club, but equally as important, you will find that they are very interested in you. Believe it or not, you will represent a significant percentage of our club’s membership….at least for now. Your views count. And your fellow members will care about your ideas. I’m not sure what you think should be done to improve our town, but if you bring just a few friends with you to join our club you will find that you have an immediate impact on our Board. And an immediate opportunity to lead. Are you interested in being a leader in the community? In just a few years that’s exactly what our club is going to be…and you have a great opportunity to be a leader among the leaders. If you have a vision….this would be the place to find a means to express it.
Finally, I’m not sure where you are in your business life. But we don’t have five of your classification in our Rotary club. You will be the only representative of your business or industry in our club and you will find that our members will look to you for information about your field of knowledge. And you will find that after some time doing community service together, our members will naturally want to do business with you if they can. Why? Because we all want to do business with people we know, and this club will give you the opportunity to get to know our members, and for us to get to know you, in ways that you could never experience in a larger organization, or in one of those horrific leads/networking clubs.
OK. Are you sold on a small club? Good. Now let’s move on to a large club.
LARGE CLUB PITCH:
Bill/Mary, I am so glad you came to visit our Rotary club today. When you visit, notice that even though there are a lot of people in the room, a whole lot of strangers are going to want to meet you. You are going to be surprised at just how warm and fuzzy our club makes our new guests, and of course, our new members, feel. Even though we are a large organization, we specialize in making all of our members feel welcome, and important.
Why important? Because we are a large organization with a large impact on our community. We rely on our new members to step up to leadership positions in our committees, and because of our size each of our committees offers anyone who wants to be a leader a chance to step up and be one. For many this is the one place they get to practice their leadership skills in a group large enough to make a difference. Our club has the scale to do a variety of different projects in the community and we rely on our committee leaders, and our committee members, to make those projects relevant in meeting the needs of our neighbors.
If you join this club, you can immediately take pride in knowing that you are joining one of the most powerful forces for positive change in this town. If you want to make a real difference, then this is the place to be.
I don’t know where you are in your career, but another thing our club offers to our members is a tremendous opportunity to network. Due our size you will find community leaders from just about every aspect of our city, including business, government, and the non-profit world. They will be as interested in meeting with you as you will be meeting with them. In fact, we like to say that Rotary is the original social network. You are going to be surprised at just how personal membership in a large organization can be.
Are you sold on a large club? Good. Mission accomplished.
Selling big and small is just one part of the sales and selling mission for your club. What is your UVP (Unique Value Proposition)? Does everyone know your club’s particular elevator pitch? Do they know your club’s mission in the community? When someone asks, “why should I join your Rotary club?” what will you say? When everyone is on the same page with this, your work is done. Your club will grow like wildfire and you will smile at all of the good work that your club is doing in the community. Good luck!
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The topic of Rotary Engagement versus Rotary Attendance seems to be at the top of everyone’s list of Rotary conversations of late. Last week’s RFA post, The Rotary Chicken and the Rotary Egg, took on the subject. I’ve heard Rotary General Secretary, John Hewko, ask his audience at this year’s International Assembly in San Diego, AND this year’s International Conference in Sao Paulo, “what is more important, Rotary attendance or Rotary engagement?” And you can bet that our New Generations Summit, fondly known as our Young Professional Summit, to be held at the Howard Community College Health Science Bldg, on Saturday, September 12th, from noon to five PM, at a cost of FREE, for Club Presidents, Club Membership Chairs, and up to two “connectors in your Rotary club, will be wrestling with this subject all afternoon.
Last week a flurry of mails hit our DG inbox as Zone 33-34 District Governors were treated to a fantastic letter on the subject of engagement versus membership. Most Rotarians can’t get their hands around the notion of a Rotary District, much less a Rotary Zone. But our two Zones 33 & 34 are comprised of 29 different Rotary Districts! And I can tell you that the DG’s in this group are the very best, if you measure them by Rotary passion, knowledge, ability to get things done, and generally making me proud to hang around with them. Yes…this is the group that is currently applying for a Rotary Family Health Days TRF grant for the country of Ghana that will be funded by the Rotary Foundation in partnership with ….wait for it…..an unprecedented TWENTY TWO different Rotary District’s in Zone’s 33 and 34. And yes, you will be hearing a lot about this when the grant is approved.
But I digress. Terry Weaver (DG7750) is one of those District Governors in our Zone that “gets it.” Normally I wouldn’t like people like Terry because they are generally annoying. You know the type. He’s the quiet one we knew in school who was secretly laughing at the rest of us because he or she already got their homework done weeks ago. He is some kind of idiot savant when it comes to databases, mining data, using technology, and that kind of thing. Whatever Terry has…I ain’t got it. (I personally think Terry cheats because his wife, Pam, is his District’s secretary/administrative coordinator, and she knows more about Rotary than all of the rest of us so she makes him look REALLY good.) Anyway, Terry recently weighed in on the topic of engagement versus attendance in a letter that was so absolutely fantastic that I begged his permission to reprint it here.
I am pleased that Terry said yes and I get to share his letter with you. I’m sure you will enjoy it. Thank you, Terry!
I’m writing club secretaries, presidents and presidents-elect to clarify a misperception several clubs have told me is getting in the way of membership growth.
The elephant in the living room? ATTENDANCE
Let’s step back. Several years ago, the Council on Legislation (Rotary’s governing body) declared almost ANY legitimate Rotary activity as a makeup. This includes not only attending another club’s meeting, but also a committee meeting, working on a project (some clubs say for at least 1 or 2 hours), a Board meeting, etc. Etc. means anything that can reasonably be called a Rotary service activity. Now, of course to get “credit” for a makeup, the member has to report that qualifying activity to the club secretary. Most clubs use a sign-in sheet at a committee meeting or project and then forward the whole list to the secretary.
Why did the COL do that? Because the point of tracking attendance is not to make people come to meetings. When measured this way, it’s a measure of engagement — a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of how your Rotary club is doing at involving members in Rotary activities. Believe me, we have the data to prove that when a member isn’t engaged and involved in the club, it’s a short trip to a resignation letter. Look at your members’ attendance percentages. Those at the bottom of the list are thinking about resigning. What can you do to get them engaged, involved, and hopefully passionate about something the club is doing?
More importantly, tracking engagement (attendance is a surrogate) is an important way of ensuring that members get the return on their Rotary investment they deserve. Members who don’t show up for club activities aren’t getting the benefit of Rotary, and if we can identify those folks early, we can intervene and get them involved in something they’re interested in.
So, let’s not only treat attendance as a KPI for engagement, but let’s explain it the same way to prospects. Rather than “You have to attend 4 meetings a month”, say, “We expect you to participate in some Rotary activity 4 times a month — you pick the activity that works for you, and you pick the time.” I think that’s a whole different message, and actually what we’re attempting to promote and measure. It’s not about making people come to meetings. It’s about offering them a platform where they, in their own ways and based on their own preferences, can Be a Gift to the World.
Terry R. Weaver
District Governor, 2015-16″
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NOTE TO READERS: This post is about winning the 2015-2016 Presidential Citation. It’s not to late to submit this year’s 2014-15 Presidential Citation award application to your District Governor. The deadline is March 31, 2015.
I wouldn’t describe myself as being motivated by awards. I’m pretty much self-motivated. Several therapists have told me this is because my mother didn’t love me as much as my older brother and younger sister, but that’s not the point. The point is that for Rotary Clubs winning awards serves several useful purposes that make winning awards worthy of being included in a club’s strategic plan. First, the Presidential Citation is one the most prestigious awards a club can get from Rotary. While most of us are “legends in our own minds” and believe our Rotary club is phenomenal, winning the Presidential Citation is an objective and persuasive piece of evidence that your club REALLY IS phenomenal. I understand that this according to RI-President 2015-2016 Ravi Ravindran, who only gets to see the results of 34,000 Rotary clubs…so perhaps his opinion means something. The award lets you affirm to your members that they are in a “Presidential Citation” club every single meeting. It allows you to promote your club to prospective new members in the same way. It is newsworthy to your community and will garner articles about your club in the local press. In short, winning the award is worth our time and effort.
I am now going to show you how your club can win the Presidential Citation next year. We covered this at our PETS with Club President Elects and the verdict is…We Can Do This! (Note: We are about to discuss how to win the award, which is different from improving your club. It’s kind of like the difference between studying to ace a test versus wanting to actually learn. Two different things. This is all about WINNING the award. I’ll bet you will improve your club along the way, but that’s another matter.)
Before showing you how to win the award, this blog title got me thinking about the origins of “The Big Bad Wolf” which is obviously referenced in the notion of the “Big Bad Presidential Citation.” According to Wikipedia, The Big Bad Wolf’s origins go back to folklore that probably had to do with the real danger of wolf attacks in ancient Europe. Aesop’s Fables (The Boy who Cried Wolf, The Wolf and the Crane, etc. and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs, etc ) are probably best known.
However…here is a Disney take on Big Bad Wolf Daddy that is just incredible. I always wonder who the studio musicians are who record this stuff for cartoons. For them this was just another day at the office. The art is fun…but the soundtrack is awesome. I’m not kidding. Turn the sound UP for this.
OK. Back to business. Winning the Presidential Citation. You can download a PDF about the 2015-16 Presidential Citation at My Rotary, Learning and Reference, Awards. Which brings me to my first point. This business about using online tools making the award hard to win is just nonsense. It’s a huge advantage for anyone who has heard of this brand new technology called The Internet. This blog is written online, Outlook 365 is online. My Salesforce calendar is online. Using online tools is usually easy…and this is no exception. All the handwringing about using online tools? PLEASE.
There are only two mandatory activities for the PC (Presidential Citation…but you knew that.) They are 1) Enter 15 goals in Club Central, and 2) Pay your dues on time. Any requirement, like entering goals, that does not involve a committee, the community, other clubs, a vote, or more than 15 minutes of effort, is just too easy. It really is the easiest one on the list. Club Presidents just do this and that’s all she wrote. NOTE: Checking this off does not mean this is how clubs should set meaningful goals, but we already covered this “in it to win it” thing earlier. Oh..and paying your dues on time? Duh!
Next: Membership Development and Retention. There is no denying that for many clubs any kind of net gain in membership is a stretch goal. If you get net 1 for small clubs and net 2 for large clubs congratulations on a great effort. But this percentage change thing for member retention is curious. If you have a 20 member club at the beginning of the year and you don’t recruit any new members but lose 3 during the year, you end up with 17 members and a retention rate of 85%. If you lose 2 during the year the retention rate is 90%. I don’t see how you can’t do better than 1% retention gains. (NOTE: If you want to read a great blog on Rotary membership and other great Rotary stuff check out Retention Central, written by retired Zone 34 Membership Coordinator, PDG Jim Henry, at http://zone34retentioncentral.blogspot.com/. He writes about calculating membership retention in his March 1, 2015 post.
You might also notice that we get credit for recruiting net new female members, which is curious because we are/ or should be, doing that anyway if we want to have excellent Rotary clubs. Editorial Comment: Could we still be having this conversation about female members? You’ve got to be kidding. It’s embarrassing that we are still talking about the gender of our members instead of the energy, talent, and enthusiasm of our members. (sigh!) Anyway, the good news is the net gain in female members counts towards your overall net membership gain goal. Heck…you could be losing overall membership and hit the 1 net new female member goal. You need three out of four here. Hit the overall net gain number and everything else will fall into place.
Next: Foundation Giving. 2 of 4. Have the club give $20 to the Rotary Foundation. REALLY? A TOTAL club giving goal of $20? Another possibility is increase Paul Harris Fellows by at least one. Yup…you got this. SOMEONE in your club is hanging around within a few hundred dollars of their first Paul Harris. And you might consider using recognition points to match a new members contribution as an incentive to give. Just sayin. Here’s another one. You need 10% of the club to do recurring giving. Have members bring laptops and handhelds to a meeting and take ten minutes to get everyone who chooses to give online signed up. You see….this is really isn’t so hard.
Online Tool Adoption. 2 of 4. Have 50% of club registered in My Rotary. This doesn’t mean they have to know anything about My Rotary. They just have to register on My Rotary. Do this the same time you do your recurring giving. EASY. Post one initiative on Rotary Showcase. Total time for this one is 15 – 30 minutes depending on who is doing it. CHECK.
Humanitarian Service. 3 of 7. Here’s an easy one. Have a member join a Rotary Action Group. There are lots of Rotary Action Groups (RAGs) worthy of your time. I’m particularly fond of RFHA (Rotary Family Health Days and Aids Prevention.) To join go to www.RFHA.org and fill out the online form. Total cost for annual membership..ready?…$25. If you don’t like RFHA go to My Rotary and check out the other choices. EASY. Here’s another easy one. Have a member attend a grant management seminar. Get this…your MOU training counts! Awe come on. Last…you need 75% of members to participate in a hands on project. So..at one of your club meetings instead of the usual fare do a service project. Get 75% of your members to attend. It’s your normal date and time for your meeting so the attendance goal shouldn’t be too hard. Make sure your members know this is for the PC in advance. You got this one, too. And you might even have fun and do some good in the community while your at it.
New Generations. 2 of 4. OK…I’ll give you this one. If your club doesn’t already sponsor an Interact Club or Rotaract Club this is going to be a challenge. Mentoring 3 Rotaract or Interact students requires a simple phone call to your District Interact or Rotaract Chair or to your Area Governor to find out local clubs that DO sponsor clubs and ask to partner on mentoring. But let’s face it, if your club hasn’t sponsored a New Generations club it’s time you did anyway. If you already sponsor a club, this is a done deal. If you don’t….get to work on it starting now. You have until April 1, 2016 to sponsor a club.
Public Image. 1 of 2. 1) Update your website or 2) update your brochure using Rotary’s new brand center tools. This is just a gimme because New Generations might actually take some work. This is no different from designing a golf course with a short Par 3 after a long and difficult par five. President Ravi is just feeling sorry for us with this one.
So there you go. Your club is now a legitimate Presidential Citation winner with official bragging rights to claim your club is truly a superior, amazing, excellent, Rotary-Leading club. It really IS doable. Get the Club’s Board together and go for it. YOU CAN DO THIS. Here’s the not-so-secret sauce…along the way….while your club is doing what you need to do to win the award, you are going to be getting members interested in all of the tools and techniques of being a great Rotary club. The result is going to be a more vibrant, fun, Rotary club.
I’m sorry, but I can’t close today’s missive without one more clip. This is Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs performing “Lil” Red Riding Hood.” The Pharaohs also had the smash hit Wooly Bully, which I remember as part of the soundtrack for the Tom Hanks movie, Splash. This was recorded in 1966 and I was 9 years old when this hit the charts. I’m ashamed that I still remember it. In fact, to all the younger Rotarians who are about to watch this clip…I’m ashamed that this was recorded at all. This is so unbelievably bad. (This clip goes out to current Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent President, Tom Allen, who was attending U of Md. College Park at the time ….and tells me he remembers the first U. of Md. co-ed dorms being opened during his college career. Yes, younger Rotarians…Tom is very old.) This clip features bad music, the worst lip-syncing in fifty years, real live authentic Go Go girls in the background, and an almost R-Rated cartoon Red Riding Hood.
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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.
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?
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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