Category Archives: New Generations

“Just tell me where to write the check.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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New Rotaract Club Charters at McDaniel College

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Here’s a group of happy young people committed to serving others through Rotaract. From left back row: Natarsha Towner, Roger Isom, Natia Jackson, Leah Afadi-Yomedan, Precious Ibe.  Middle row: Hailey Clark, Nicole Hill, Adrienne Nichols, Erma Quimat, Morgan Stanback . Bottom row: Sophie White, Leigh Brownell, Alyona Skovorodnikova, Mariah Ligas, and  Nicole Hill

One of the best things about being on the District’s Leadership Team is getting to meet the many different people committed to serving others in our District.  On October 6th I had the distinct pleasure of sitting in for DG Bill Fine, (who had the very acceptable excuse of being at the White House for Rotary Day), to represent the District at the Chartering Ceremony for the new Rotaract Club at McDaniel College.

Here’s some stats for you.  If you don’t know (I didn’t), Rotaract stands for Rotary and Action.  Rotaract clubs are for young men and women ages 18 to 30.  Rotaract is one of the world’s largest youth organizations with 175,000 members in 7,500 clubs in 156 countries around the world.  As usual when it comes to Rotary, the scale is off the charts.

If you think this about young folk not knowing how to deliver the goods from the standpoint of doing meaningful service projects, then think again.  This group already does a fantastic job on a project they call “Unsung Heroes” where they honor employees at McDaniel College that deserve recognition by the club.  They are also a positive force in supporting the Oktoberfest event in Carroll County.   If you get a chance to meet them you will realize that this is an accomplished group of scholars whose participation in Rotaract is just one of their many activities.  They are so busy that the club typically meets late in the evening in order to accommodate member’s impressively busy class and work schedules.

Equally impressive was the support that Carroll County Rotary Clubs showed at the Chartering Ceremony.  Past President, Jim Lightner, from the Westminster Club, presented the group with coffee mugs featuring the Four-Way Test, Peter Whitford, from the Bonds Meadow Club, gave a stirring talk about service opportunities with a prescient mention of Ebola.  Past President, Bob Jackle, of Bonds Meadow, presented the Charter, and somewhere along the line one of the clubs (my bad for not getting this in the notes) presented the new club with a bell and gavel.  Other Rotary brass included Area Governor, Mark Milby, President of Bonds Meadow, Wanda Lynn, and current Westminster Club President, Nora Drury.  Special mention to Rotarian, Margaret Boudreaux, of the Westminster Club, who is a Professor of Music at McDaniel and the “fairy godmother” of this group….I mean Club Sponsor.  NOTE:  If you were there to support the club and I didn’t mention you, please don’t shoot your intrepid RFA reporter….it was past my bed time.

So add another lesson learned in my journey to DG and another thing to my To-Do List – learn a lot more about Rotaract in District 7620.  When young people are this committed to community service it deserves our full attention.  Stay tuned for more Rotaract news here at RFA.

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L-R – Yours Truly, Rotaract President, Nicole Hill, AG Mark Milby, Rotaract Club VP, Roger Isom, Wanda Lynn, Rotaract Club Secretary, Natarsha Towner, Rotaract Treasurer Morgan Stanback, Nora Drury, Margaret Boudreaux
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AG Mark Milby looking like a proud papa. Sykesville Club member, Elizabeth Milby was on hand to keep husband, Mark, on his best behavior. She failed.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The RFA Short-Course about Rotary Youth Exchange

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Youth Exchange experts Karin Jones from the Dupont Circle Rotary Club and District 7620 Youth Exchange Chair, Chris Perlick, desperately trying to educate me about Youth Exchange programs in our District.

The first thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it is, by all accounts, a life changing experience for the students, for the host families, and for the student counsellors.

The second thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it isn’t nearly as big a program as it could be, or should be, in our district.

And the third thing you need to know about Youth Exchange is that it is a complicated program to administer.   I mean…it’s REALLY complicated.  We are lucky in our District to have Chris Perlick as our Youth Exchange Chairman.  He’s been involved with Youth Exchange since the mid 1990’s and he’s an expert on the subject.  Since I like to hang out with experts, I recently spent the morning at Panera Bread in Silver Spring with Chris and Outbound Youth Exchange Chair, Karin Jones, a former Peace Corps volunteer and more importantly, a former youth exchange student to Denmark, AND a member of the Dupont Circle Club.  The morning’s  agenda was to try to give me the short course in how the program works.

I have two pages of notes, including some indecipherable line charts showing the relationship between the State Department (yup…that’s the United States of America State Department), Rotary International, an organization called the Eastern States Student Exchange, or ESSEX, Rotary District 7390, our Rotary District 7620, our Rotary clubs, individual counties in the State of Maryland, individual school districts in the state of Md., and ..well…I think you get the picture.  The bottom line is that Chris and his committee of one, Karin, are committed to continuing to send 3 – 5 high school age students abroad for the school year and to hosting the same number of students here in the District.

Here’s just a few facts about the program that you might find interesting:

Typical Exchange Student stays are from August until June

Each county in the State of Md. has its own regulations about exchange students that must be navigated.

Exchange students typically stay with three different host families during their stay.

90% of host families are non-Rotarians.

On average it costs about $5,000 to send a student overseas for the school year.  Many clubs provide financial aid if needed and District 7620 has a small scholarship fund to help out as well.  Turns out this is one of the least expensive exchange programs out there.

Any student can go overseas…including the children of Rotarians.

Each exchange student has a host counselor that is different from their host family.

We’ve had about 15 different Rotary clubs that have served as host clubs for host families.

Inbound students in the state of Md. have to be proficient in English (something here about passing TOEFL tests, (Test of English Foreign Language) but our outbound students do not have to be proficient in foreign language.

When I asked Chris and Karin why the program isn’t bigger, the answer seems to be we need to find more host families.  Here is Chris’s take on why your club might want to be more involved with youth exchange.  NOTE:  Sorry for the Panera Bread background noise.  Try to pay attention!

Since I had successfully negotiated with Chris’s agent in terms of getting him on video without his usual fee, I thought I would ask him some additional questions.  In this two minute clip, Chris responds to the important issue of why you should consider hosting a youth exchange student.  He then tackles some spoof questions from your intrepid RFA reporter about how to handle exchange students who are much smarter than their host families,  why deal with annoying teenagers when you are finally rid of your own, and how to persuade youth exchange students to do chores around your house.  VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:  Chris was serious in answering question number 1 and was a good sport about trying to answer the questions that follow with a straight face.  RFA readers will recognize my sophomoric attempts at humor and appreciate Chris’s valiant attempts to provide cogent answers to my stupid questions.  I think I can accurately report that Karin (off-camera) was chuckling at Chris’s responses.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  PLEASE do not consider hosting a youth exchange student in order to get chores done around your house.

Here’s what I do know.  We are all very lucky to have Chris running the Youth Exchange program for our District, and he is lucky to have Karin join his committee.  If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved with Youth Exchange as a counselor, host family, or just as a member of Chris’s committee, give him a shout at cperlick@hotmail.com.

 

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RYLA North America…Pretty Amazing

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RI President Gary Huang and First Lady, Corinna Yao (Center Right) at the opening ceremonies of RYLA North America.  Yes…we were “Happy Clappin” with President Gary.

There are times when you are reminded that energy, enthusiasm, optimism, and good old fashioned idealism are fun to be around.  Yes…some say that youth is wasted on the young, but I guarantee you that if you spend some time at the RYLA North America Conference you will start to see the world a little more positively.  RYLA stands for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, and the attendees are, for the most part, Rotaractor’s from around the world. They come to the National 4-H Center in Washington, DC  to celebrate service to others, and while they are at it, to learn a little bit more about Rotary. According to the website, the RYLA Conference in North America is an intense leadership training program that is designed to recognize, encourage, and further develop the leadership skills of 18-30 year olds who have shown a potential for rendering important service to their local communities. 

Here is the Founder of RYLA North America and current President of the new Federal City Rotary club, Navin Valliappan, to tell you a little more about it.

I’ve been to a District RYLA meeting before but this is a different, international event.   And yes, the brass came out to welcome the young men and women who came to participate, including RI President Gary Huang and his wife, Corinna.  Guess what I found out while hanging out with President Gary over lunch?  The RI President picks his own theme for his Presidential year.  He picked “Light Up Rotary” a full year before his term began and in time for Rotary to publicize it at the Rotary International Conference prior to his year.  Who knew?  I always thought the PR Dept. did that kind of stuff.  (This is the kind of intrepid reporting my RFA readers expect and I strive to deliver.)

But as usual, I digress.  During the opening ceremonies there was the proper amount of speechifying and a parade of flags (actually a parade of signs) for each country.  We were also treated to a taste of international entertainment.  Note:  Check out the RYLA participants getting all the action on their smart phones.

I think I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

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The Parade of Flags…er….Signs…during the Opening Ceremonies. You can see that the RYLA participants were severely depressed and not having a good time.
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Yours Truly hanging with my new friends from the Ethiopia contingent. My club does a lot of service work in Addis Ababa so we had something to talk about. I wish you could have met these terrific young men and women.
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L-R: Yours Truly, Washington DC Club President, Jennifer Hara, RI President Gary Huang, the First Lady, Corinna, and District 7620 PR Chair, Dawn Wittfelt.  Not pictured, the dozens of  RYLA participants who had their picture taken with President Gary and Corinna before they graciously, and patiently, posed for this picture.
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A happy group of Rotaractor’s from Barbados. Here’s a crew that is going to make a positive difference in our world. It was a privilege to meet them.
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The Big Brass from District 7620 getting the orchestra seating at the Opening Ceremonies. From L-R: District First Lady, Kathleen Fine, DG Bill Fine, RI President Gary Huang, First Lady Corinna Yao, the person who did all of the DG work last year, Margaret Kyle, and the IPDG who let Margaret do all of the work last year, Peter Kyle.

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A Culture of Service

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Career day attendees from Hammond High School getting a photo before attacking the snacks on table just behind them.

 

One of the amazing things about Rotary is all of the service work we do that never makes it into the “stats.”  It’s hard to measure the value of the sweat equity from the service work we do in our communities.  Whether its volunteering at hospitals, food pantries, career days, junior interviews, elderly communities, or “other,” Rotarians put up phenomenal numbers.  And yes, sometimes as a District Leader I tend to quantify service in terms of how much money a club raised in a fundraiser, how much they distributed to non-profits during the year, or how much they gave to the Rotary Foundation.  Let’s face it, that is only part of the story.

When we volunteer our time and energy there is a connection to others that we simply don’t get from selling tickets or writing a check.  Not that writing a check isn’t an extraordinarily valuable thing to do for our local and international community, but I’m guessing those Rotarians who role up their sleeves and dive into a service project feel just a little differently about the value of service, and about those we serve.  Writing about it here is a little bit of “preaching to the choir” as I suspect my RFA readers already know exactly what I’m talking about.

Doing service work does a lot more than make you feel better about yourself.  It turns out that clubs that have a culture of service, meaning that they have a long list of service activities for club members to get involved in, have a much better record of member retention.  (OK…I just made that up, but I’ll bet its true.)  These clubs seem relevant because they give Rotarians a chance “to engage Rotary.”  In addition, there is NO BETTER networking then working beside someone while you are serving others.  Sure…you can go to a networking event.  But for developing business relationships it doesn’t hold a candle to working side by side helping others.  Relationships built on community service are the real thing and not the product of some cocktail hour verbal mumbo jumbo.

The photos here are from a recent career day at Hammond High School where Rotarians from the Columbia Patuxent club volunteered their time to help some high school students better understand their options for college and careers.  It wasn’t newsworthy to anyone but the kids and those of us who showed up.  This kind of event goes on all over our District in different clubs EVERY DAY.  Hopefully this is a good reminder to make some time for our service work.  After that…..PLEASE write a check to the Rotary Foundation.

Note:  If  your club has a “hands on” service project that you are proud to be a part of, send some photos and a two paragraph description to me at ksolow@pinnacleadvisory.com and we will feature it in the District’s Rotary blog, under the direction of PR Chair Dawn Wittfelt.

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L-R Fearless leader, Interact Chair, Kelly Leggo, and Laurie Reuben
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L-R Rotarians Doug Dribben and Pete Kunz
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L-R, Pete Kunz, Darren Easton, Laurie Reuben, Dave Lerer, Yours Truly, Brad Meyers, Sherri Brogan, Doug Dribben  (You had to be there as Easton described parents as “Goobers.”)

 

“Rotary’s Gone Mad”

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If you don’t know that this is Jack Nicholson in arguably one of the best unscripted moments in movie history, from the movie The Shining, and If you don’t know the famous line, “Heeere’s Johnny!, ” And you don’t know who Johnny is, or who said that line every night on the Tonight Show…..I just can’t help you.

For some it might be a stretch to see this image of Jack Nicholson going mad in the movie, The Shining, and instantly relate it to our current District Governor, Peter Kyle.  But not for me.  Because one of DG Peter’s favorite phrases when he gets frustrated with Rotary bureaucracy is , “Rotary’s gone mad!”  This line is usually uttered with his hands waving in the air and a look of pure disbelief on his face.  Rest assured he doesn’t mean that Rotary has literally gone mad, as Nicholson does in the movie.  He means that Rotary has become an organization that has lots of moving pieces and ever growing complexity.  For District Governors, and for the rest of us, there is a lot to know if you want to excel at this Rotary thing.  Rotary gone mad is just an expression of frustration that there seems to be too much to know about Rotary for those who want to just show up and do good.

This blog is about how to deal with helping club officers get the information they need to best “do good in the world.”  But before I get to all of that, sit back and watch two minute and ten seconds of what Rakutenplay.com says is actually the single scariest moment in movie history.  After polling audiences for what they thought were the scariest movies, they hooked viewers up to heart monitors and showed them the films.  They then measured the jump in the audience heart rate during the movies to get the exact scariest moment in each movie. They then compared jumps in heart rates to see which movie moment was the scariest. This two minute clip is the winner of the scariest movie moment of all time award causing audience hearts rates to jump an incredible 28%!  WARNING:  There is no violence, blood (well…just a little knife slash at the end), foul language or anything like that in this clip.  But I hate scary movies, and this two minutes, which doesn’t even have the benefit of being in the context of the rest of the film, still scares me to death.  Don’t watch it unless  you either like being reminded of the few scary moments you’ve spent in the movie theater, or,  you just have a morbid curiosity to see if this scares you as much as it scares everyone else.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I was the guy who watched the movie, JAWS, and thought the shark looked real.  FURTHER DISCLOSURE: My daughter thinks I’m a wimp.

 

If you’ve composed yourself after watching the clip (Shelly Duvall plays opposite Jack Nicholson) let’s get to the issue of trying to overcome Rotary’s “madness” of complexity.  One of the best ways I know to learn what you need to know to effectively run your club is for you and your club’s officers and committee chairs to attend the upcoming District 7620 District Leadership Assembly on Saturday, April 5th, at the Sheraton North hotel.  Why?  Because your club’s “skill players” can go there and for $25 learn what they need to know to be a great committee chair, treasurer, secretary, foundation chair, etc.  Here are the session titles:

Area Governor

Community Service

and Partnering

Membership

Community Service and Partnering

Foundation MOU 2014-15 Certification

End Polio Now Panel

Foundation Global Grant Nuts & Bolts / Panel Discussion

Fundraising

Strategic Planning

Membership

Presidents-Elect

Your Club Meeting as a Show

New Generations

Public Relations

 

Public Relations

Secretary

 

Strategic Planning

Treasurer

 

 

Seriously?  Everything your club needs to improve is on the agenda.    In short, it is no longer enough to have good intentions about Rotary do-gooding.  You actually have to know how to plug into all of the fantastic resources available to you through Rotary AND our Rotary District so you can maximize your efforts and be as productive as possible for the time you invest.  None of us have unlimited time for Rotary, so this is a great investment in doing more with less.

I can’t end this post without a shameless plug for the session I will be running with Laurie Reuben of the Columbia-Patuxent club on strategic planning.  Laurie is an expert in strategic planning, and lot’s of other organizational development stuff….like….experiential learning, and she is currently helping the Columbia-Patuxent club go through the strategic planning process.  She has put together many of the tools the club is using to develop it’s plan, and she is willing to share!  For my part, I just like hanging around with people smarter than me and cracking a few jokes.  If your club either 1) doesn’t have a strategic plan, 2) has a strategic plan but isn’t engaged with it, or 3) already has a functioning plan, then you should have a few club members attend.  It will be an invaluable one hour show. Just remember to tip your waiters and waitresses before you leave.  (This is a joke….there will be no waiters and waitresses during our session.)

ALL of the sessions are going to be fantastic.  Our District’s Training guru, Paul Frey, has done his usual outstanding job in pulling all of this together for us.  Between the District Leadership Assembly, RLI, and yes….attending the District Conference, we don’t have to turn into Jack Nicholson in The Shining and “go mad” trying to keep up with Rotary.

PLEASE forward this blog around to your club’s leadership and ask if they are attending. The Assembly is April 5th at the Sheraton North in Beltsville from 8AM to 2PM.  The $25 includes continental breakfast and lunch.  The link to sign up is on DACdb.  If you don’t know how to sign up on DACdb you REALLY need to go to the District Leadership Assembly.  See ya there!

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Three Great Ideas from RLI

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L-R: The South Anne Arundel Rotary (I know…properly known as “South County”) contingent at RLI of Katie Blyth, Anne Wolfe, and Joe Van Deuren. Van Deuren teaches Martial Arts and Anger Management. Good combination for a President-Elect 

I admit it, when Saturday morning promised to be a beautiful sunny day in the mid-60’s, and knowing Sunday was supposed to be more crap weather, I wasn’t in the best mood to drive to Fairfax, Va. for another RLI (Rotary Leadership Institute) class.  But I had signed up for the class last year as part of the 7620 Leadership team’s pledge to IPDG Bob Parkinson, our District RLI guru, to become an RLI graduate.  So I found myself stuck in class with eighteen other Part 3 soon to be graduates wishing I was somewhere else.  Knowing that our District Governor, Peter Kyle, who has forgotten more about Rotary than I will probably ever know, was in the same class, kind of made me feel better.  I mean…if the boss could do it then so could I.

But guess what happened?  As usual, when surrounded by motivated Rotarians who are sharing best practices from multiple Rotary Districts, I found myself becoming engaged with the conversation.  And sure enough, I came away from class on Saturday with much more than my graduating pin.  (As a Rotary District Leader I know I need lots more pins to impress everyone and to set off alarms when I go through airport security.)  It turns out that I scribbled down several excellent ideas worthy of further thought.  I thought I would share my top three ideas with you, although everyone in the class shared their number one idea and most were better than mine.  Unfortunately for you dearest reader, I’m writing today’s post.

Idea One:  In our early class about International Service with facilitator, Horace McCormack,  he shared with us that international service doesn’t have to be about money. It can be about relationships.  Why not meet and get to know Rotarians from other parts of the world?  With modern technology you could schedule Skype calls, text, email, and otherwise develop a relationship with interesting people from interesting places.  How neat would that be?  As yes, they could turn out to be a partner in a service project, but what if they don’t?  Why miss an opportunity to learn about other countries from the Rotarians who live there?

Idea Two:  I often hear from clubs with lots of older members that they don’t have a selling proposition to recruit younger members.  They can’t figure out why younger people might want to join their club.  How about this?  Young professionals would be very interested in meeting older Rotarians who  could provide possible opportunities for business networking.  At a minimum, they could be great mentors who could help them with their professional development.  This thought came from a class on Rotary vocational service.  Great stuff!

Idea Three:  Incoming RI President Gary Huang wants us to “Light Up Rotary” and has asked us to do a “Rotary Day” event.  In our class on PR and Marketing it occurred to me that we should be seriously considering the idea.  After all, while most clubs do service projects, how many put the Rotary brand right up front?  I guess I will leave it to your imagination, but it isn’t too hard to put together the idea of “Light Up Rotary” with a “Rotary Day” event.  Is anyone else thinking fireworks?  How about a search light lighting up a building with a Rotary symbol?  Hmmm.

If you are a new Rotary member you need to find out about RLI.  And if you are an older Rotary member you need to find out about RLI.  Turns out that its a pretty good way to spend a Saturday.

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The graduating class
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Yours Truly, DGD Anna Mae Kobbe, DG Peter Kyle. They CAN BE TAUGHT!
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Hard at work larnin Rotary stuff.
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AG (facilitator) Mark Milby, PDG (facilitator) Steve Cook, and AG Geoffrey Fenner yucking it up.

Lessons Learned from the Columbia Rotary Club

 

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L-R: Russ Gobble, Vernon Gray (nearly hidden behind some other dude with a luminous collar), Earl Wilkinson (the dude with the luminous collar), Rick Hope with head in hand…hopefully thinking about something important, John Startt, Dave Parris, and PDG Jim McDiarmid “The Admiral.”

 The Columbia Rotary Club (Tuesday evenings) is another one of the “not big” Rotary clubs in our District doing great things that you’ve never heard of.  I visited with them this week and  I’m pleased to report that they are quietly going about serving the local and international community in a big way.   Before I get into sharing some of what they are doing,  here’s a shout out to Past District Governor, Jim McDiarmid, who is  a member of the Columbia club.  Jim was DG when I began doing training in the District all the way back in 2003-2004.  Yes….it’s been THAT LONG.

Here’s the first thing I noticed about the Columbia Evening Club.  Maybe it’s because our long-time and legendary Polio Plus Chair, Raj Saini, is a member, or maybe it’s because their hearts are in the right place, this club is a long-time supporter of Polio Plus.  How do they do it?  Check this out.  Each member is committed to giving $200 per year to the Rotary Foundation.  Their secret sauce is that $120 goes to the Annual Program Fund, and $80 per member goes to Polio Plus.  The currently have 24 members so they have $2,000+ Polio Plus giving “baked in the cake.”  But last year, due to some special donations, the club contributed $19,000 to Polio Plus.  Wow!  They also have several Paul Harris Society members giving to Polio Plus as well. (See my recent post about the Bill Gates 2 for 1 match on Polio contributions.)

The next thing about the club is that they are BIG fundraisers.  This less than thirty member club raises $30,000 per year through their golf tournament and other fundraisers.  That’s big money for a club this size.  But the interesting thing is that they do a lot of “hands on” community service and members pride themselves on spending time each week doing service work.  A favorite charity of theirs in Howard County is the Loan Closet, an organization that loans out wheel chairs and other medical equipment.  It’s not the money…it’s the labor that they seem to be most proud of.  Couldn’t we all do a little more of that?

The challenge for this club, as it is for many of the smaller clubs that I visit, is to realize that although they are deservedly proud of the good work they do in Howard County and in supporting the Rotary Foundation, they have the opportunity to reinvent themselves to do even more.  Speaking with Club President, Mimi O’Donnell, and President-Elect Tom Burtzlaff, after the meeting, we agreed that one of the roles of Rotary club leaders is “to love their club a little less.”  They agreed there is much that can be done to move this club forward.  The only limits to where they can go and what they can accomplish in the future is their own imagination and the club’s willingness to leave the status quo behind.  Ready, Fire, Aim!  My own suggestion?….more younger members.

I sense that change is on the way in the Columbia Rotary Club.  I can’t wait to see what direction its going to take.

 

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A New Rotary Club is Born….er…..Chartered.

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Hard to tell who is more excited, the new members or the District Leadership Team.


Of the long list of things I have yet to do in Rotary, I can now officially scratch off going to Charter Night for a new club.  In this case, our newest club in District 7620 is the Rotary Club of Federal City which chartered with 42 new members.  That’s right….42 new members!  The backstory for the club isn’t all that interesting.  Rotaractor Navin Valliappan  gets together a few good friends and they decide to start their own club based on the notion of community service, good fellowship, and as he puts it, “being cheap.”  (Navin…we like the term “inexpensive” but that’s OK.)  Enter District Club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, who proceeds to make the drive from Glen Burnie to City Hall in DC about a zillion times in support of the new club.  Mix in a little District Governor Peter Kyle, Membership Chair Darrell Nevin, and a lot of well-wishers in fellow clubs in the District, and voila….you have a new club made up almost entirely of enthusiastic young professionals.

The Charter ceremony was full of pomp and circumstance.  First of all, the reception was held at the Embassy of Pakistan in DC.  The guest speakers were the Pakistan Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Jalil Abbas Jilani, Ward 4 DC Representative the Honorable Muriel Bowser, and our own “His Excellency” District Governor, Peter Kyle.  However, it may have been Past District Governor, Ray Streib, who rescued the evening by bringing some order to the chaos of getting all of the new members properly sworn in.  I happened to sit next to Ray during the ceremony and I can tell you he had the look of a proud papa, as well he should.

As I watched the proceedings I found myself thinking that brand new Rotary clubs have the opportunity to create their own traditions.  I was chatting with new club President, Navin, after the ceremony and related the same thought to him.  This club can do anything it wants to do as long as it has strong leadership and a club of excited, educated, and motivated members.  But guess what?  Every single club in the District has the same opportunity.  With each new year our clubs swear in a new leadership team with the opportunity to make positive change in their club and in their community.  They can start a new tradition any time they want to.

To me that’s the single most exciting thing about Rotary.  There is no “Good Idea” form that has to be approved by RI or the District.  If it helps do good in the world, or if it adds to the fellowship of being in Rotary, then go ahead and do it.  How great is that!

So best wishes to the new Rotary Club of Federal City.  We are all looking forward to watching you become a force for good in DC and in our District.

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DGE Bill Fine avoids drawing blood while “pinning” a new officer of the club.
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His Excellency Mr. Jalil Abbas Jilani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. with District Governor, Peter Kyle.
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Past DG and District Extension Chair, Ray Strieb, inducting the new members and creating order out of chaos.
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DG Peter Kyle administering the Oath of Office to new club President, Navin Valliappan.