Category Archives: Training

Rotary Sales 101: Selling “small” versus selling “big.”


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.)


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.


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!




ROTARY S.W.O.T. Analysis in District 7620



Ask any Past District Governor (as I have) about the best part of being a DG, and they will, without exception, talk about how great it is to visit the Rotary clubs in their District.  Now that I’ve completed 29 official club visits I can absolutely confirm that they are correct.  It is TOO MUCH FUN to visit the Rotary clubs in our District.

But for me, the best part of the official visit is not the twenty minute program I do for the entire club, although putting on “the show” is something I look forward to.  For me, the opportunity to meet with the club’s leadership team either before or after the club meeting has been extremely interesting and  rewarding.  Why?  Because our conversation is something akin to a Rotary version of a SWOT analysis.  Business types will recognize the acronym as standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  To have an earnest and frank conversation with club leaders about their Rotary club is a privilege for any District Governor, but it is especially so for a Rotary wonk like me.  EVERY club’s leadership team is engaged in making their club better….whatever that means to them.  In our conversations club leaders have been extremely frank in their assessment of their clubs, and I’ve enjoyed sharing best practices from around the District with the team leaders.

I thought I would share some of the comments that I’ve been hearing repeatedly from many different clubs.  (I’ve put them in quotes but some of this is paraphrased.)  These comments come from very large and very small clubs from every geographic area of the District.  It turns out that many clubs are dealing with similar issues and have similar thoughts about what makes them unique in Rotary.  Like I said, the conversations have been positive and earnest.  Thank you to everyone who has participated so far!

Regarding “thinking big” about service projects that engage Rotarians and the local community:

“You just don’t understand what it’s like here in Howard County.  We have so many non-profits operating here that there really isn’t much left for us to do.”

“We have a unique problem here in Carroll County because of the number of non-profits serving the community.  It’s pretty difficult to think of a project that isn’t already being addressed.

“Have you ever looked at the number of non-profits in Montgomery County?  OMG!  There is no way to come up with a program that is unique and will engage the community with the kind of services already being provided in the community.”

“Howard County is so rich that if something needs to be built, the county government will build it.  The key is to find “holes” in the social safety net that county services don’t cover.”

Regarding what makes any particular Rotary club unique.  Why should someone join your club?

“Our club is unique because we have a lot of fun.  When people visit they can see that we are good people.”

“Our club is unique because of the fellowship we enjoy.  We do lots of things outside of Rotary that are fun.”

“We have a great group of people in this Rotary club.  That’s what makes us unique.”

Regarding challenges to growing the club:

“It’s been hard to get new members because we are a breakfast club and too many people simply aren’t morning people.  Also, potential members don’t want to have to rush to work after our meetings.  We would do better if we were a lunch or evening club.”

“We are a breakfast club but we don’t meet early enough.  There are a lot of defense contractors in this community and they come to work by 5AM.  Our 7:30am meeting time is too late for them.”

“Our problem is that we are a lunch club.  This is a bedroom community and local residents commute to work so there is no way they could join.  We would be better off as a breakfast or an evening club.”

“It’s hard to get new members because we are a dinner club.  People with families don’t want to tie up an evening with Rotary instead of being home with the kids.  We would be much better off as a lunch club or a breakfast club.”

“Younger people are not really interested in community service.  They are a just too busy raising families and starting their career.”

“We don’t want to be a bigger club because we will lose the special relationships we have with each other as a small club.”

“It would be exhausting to do a “hands on” service project each month.  We simply don’t enough people to do it and everyone is already burnt out.”

Regarding the Rotary Foundation:

“Yes we have a Foundation Chair.  …..No, not the RI Rotary Foundation.  “x” is our club’s Foundation Chair.”

“We were very disappointed to find out last month that our Club Treasurer didn’t properly submit our contributions to the Rotary Foundation.  We don’t know what happened to the funds.”

“We used to give to the Rotary Foundation but a few years ago they refused our application for a grant for our “x” project.  Jim got really pissed off and now we don’t contribute any longer.”

Regarding the club’s strategic plan:

“Yes we have a strategic  plan but we haven’t let anyone see it yet.”

“We did our strategic plan a few years ago.  ….No, I don’t know where it is.”

“I don’t think our members can clearly state the purpose of our Rotary club and what we do for the community.”

“We don’t have a strategic plan but our plan for each year is to win the Presidential Citation.”



Guess what?  Creating and maintaining a vibrant Rotary club ain’t easy.  But the best clubs in our District have at least a few of these things in common.  No surprises here, but here they are:

They have a clearly defined mission in their community.

They engage their members in hands-on projects.

The community recognizes the good works of the Rotary club.

The business community sees Rotary as a networking opportunity.

The club has clearly defined long-term goals.

They have a well structured leadership succession plan.

The club is well organized in terms of the Board.

Only 32 more visits to go!  If you ever get the chance to do this DG gig….THROW YOUR HAT IN THE RING!  You will be glad you did.











The Toughest Role Play in PETS Training – Engagement Part III





Back when dinosaurs walked the earth I used to serve the District by training club President- Elects.  My thinking for the decade that I volunteered to do it was that Rotary Club Presidents have all of the juice, so if you could get one or two of them “turned on” in PETS training you had a shot of really making a difference in the world.  Consequently we developed a lot of great training materials.  The funniest part of our training each year was to do a variety of role plays where we intentionally put our club presidents in hypothetical uncomfortable situations they might encounter during their year.  They all involved interpersonal conflicts that required a clear head, some wisdom, and great management skills, to navigate successfully.

We would either ask for volunteers or randomly pick our victims …er….PEs, who would act out parts in a variety of scenarios.  Each one had a carefully chosen teachable moment. For example, we asked one PE to play the role of club president and another to be a member who is bothered by another club member who tends to shout out wisecracks during the meeting “which isn’t appropriate for Rotary.”  The club president, mindful that the laughter is great for the meeting, must meet the aggrieved member’s objection.  Teachable moment:  It’s one thing to say “is it fun?” is the fifth part of our 4-Way Test, but club presidents have to know where to draw the line.  On other occasions we asked a PE to play the part of a speaker who refuses to stop speaking at the end of the meeting while the club president is trying to ring the bell on time.  We asked a Club President who needed to get a task accomplished to confront the Rotarian who didn’t complete the task, only to find the slacker was in danger of losing his or her job, or worse, had a sick child or parent to deal with.

The trainers would “coach” our role players by whispering suggestions that were either funny, or made the role play more meaningful.  Usually these unrehearsed skits ended up with the class in total pandemonium.  We could always count on the PEs coming up with some truly funny lines, and combining the laughter with teachable moments was a worthy endeavor for all concerned.  (Note:  The role players all got to choose a bottle of wine as their reward for humiliating themselves to benefit the class.)

I always thought the toughest role play was one where the Club President needed to get an important task done during his or her Presidential year, and appointed a very capable club committee chair to get the task done.  The club president tasked the Chair with engaging a committee of club members to accomplish the task.  The role play takes place when the Club President finds out that the task was accomplished perfectly, on time, and in line with all expectations, but the Committee Chair did all the work by his or her self.  The Committee Chair who did the work is congratulated by everyone in the club, but the Club President knows that Rotarians in the club were not engaged in the work.  In the role play the Club President is asked to review with the Committee Chair that getting the work done was not the only goal they were trying to accomplish.


I can tell you that the PE’s who played the part of the Type A’s had a ball with this one.  They acted shocked and surprised that the Club President wasn’t thrilled with their work.  After all, it was great work!  But our poor PE’s that had to play the Club Presidents were always stuck.  And why not?  What DO you say to the Type A who does all the work by his or herself, and does high quality work to boot?  In fact, the context for the conversation was that every other time the Club President delegated work in the club it resulted in disappointment that the work didn’t get done.  In this situation, the work finally DOES get done, but in a way that doesn’t accomplish the President’s goal of engaging all of the members.

Hmmm.  Since we’ve been tackling the issue of engagement and participation versus attendance, I thought I would throw this thought experiment your way.  What would you say to the Committee Chair who is accomplishing the goals, but is doing it “the wrong way?”  Is there even such a thing as “a wrong way” to get our tasks accomplished in Rotary considering that we are a volunteer organization that is always challenged to get anything done at all?   In a world of Rotarians who are volunteers is the Club President simply expecting too much in this scenario?  Should they count a completed task as a victory, no matter who does the work?  In the context of being smart enough to “fight the battles worth fighting,” is risking a disagreement over something that was essentially a victory worth it?

Just my opinion (it is my blog after all) but my answer is yes, no, no, and yes.  Engagement is everything if you want to build a vibrant Rotary club.  Type A’s doing all of the work don’t allow anyone else to participate.  The more club members who actually do the work, the healthier the Rotary club.  It IS worth risking that a task isn’t completed if the “cost” is Rotarians who were not asked to participate.  This discussion means that a Club President believes that engagement is MORE important than a completed task when it comes to a vibrant Rotary club.  And THAT my friends, is asking a heck of a lot of any Club President. NOTE:  There are ways of managing around this so it isn’t a win-lose situation.  All of you personal coaches and management consultant types…please take a deep breath.  I’m trying to make a point here!

Before finishing up,  I have to share one of my favorite clips about management style.  Tom Hanks is brilliant in this scene from “A League of their Own.”  Warning…there is some adult language in this PG rated clip.

One other note worth mentioning here.  Accomplished Type A’s who get things done by doing the work themselves are not used to delegating work, and often don’t know how to do it effectively.  For these overachievers, who are used to earning accolades for “making things happen,” learning to be an effective delegator might be the next big step in their personal and professional growth.  Delegating is a learned skill that needs to be practiced and Rotary is the perfect place to do it.  The irony here is that in this situation the Type A doesn’t see the need to change.  They resent being told that their good work isn’t good enough.  And they will often accuse anyone who interferes with their “do it yourself” behavior as being a “micro-manager.”   In short, while personal and professional growth might be important, they might not agree that it applies to someone who is “the only one getting anything done around here.”  YIKES!

Do you disagree?  Is completing the task more important than engaging the club?  Give it some thought and let me know your thoughts.



The Elephant in the Room, A Letter about Rotary Engagement


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…  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!

“Hello, Lisa,

     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″

RI President Ravi answers the question about the Rotary Chicken (new members) or the Egg? (member engagement)



RI President KR “Ravi” Ravindran live tweeting a picture of his audience at the RYLA NA Conference in Washington, DC.

I was privileged to host RI President Ravi Ravindran and his wife, Vanathy, for two days last week as he was in town to give the opening address to the RYLA NA Conference in Washington, DC.  He didn’t know it, but he gave us some great insights into the question of “what came first, the rotary chicken or the rotary egg?”  (NOTE:  In this context we are NOT referring to the favorite dish of all Rotarians, Rotary chicken.  Rotary chicken as a meal means saving tons of money in meal costs by serving relatively low cost chicken at Rotary events just short of 100% of the time.)  Never fear RFA reader, I shall further explain.

RI President Ravi has named growing Rotary as the top priority of his year.  To get to the answer of the Rotary growth puzzle, it seems that there are two different schools of thought bubbling around about how to do it.  Let’s start with what I call the equivalent of the Rotary chicken.  This theory of growing Rotary focuses on the activities required to inform the public about Rotary and to recruit new members.  Rotary chicken people suggest that we need to do a much better job of educating Rotary clubs about how to do effective membership drives, and to do them in a systematic way.  Rotary chicken proponents also focus on “the club meeting as a show.”  In District 7620 we have taught a breakout session called, “Enhancing the Life of Your Club” for over a decade to our President-Elects in PETS training.  This class teaches Club Presidents that if you have boring meetings with lousy speakers you will never recruit new members, and never hold on to new members once you have them.  Finally, Rotary chicken-types ask that we do a better job of promoting Rotary in the community.  If we would do more PR then more prospective members would hear about Rotary and they will be more inclined to join once someone asks them to visit as part of the new club membership drive, and more inclined to stay in Rotary based on our new, more vibrant club meetings.

Pic 4 (1) (1)

RI President Ravi at “Rotary Town Hall” meeting with select Area Governors, Club Presidents, and guests.

But….I have to say I’ve become more of a “Rotary egg” person.  Rotary egg people suggest that while all of the above matters, it matters much less than our Rotary service “product” as the means to engage current and future Rotary members.  They say that until and unless Rotary clubs offer vibrant, important, relevant, and visible projects in their community, that inspire Rotarians and others, than Rotary chicken people are focusing on the wrong issue.  I’ve written before about the difference between fund raising projects, “hands on” projects, and “thank you” projects, where thank you projects put Rotarians face to face with the people they serve.  I maintain that the simple formula of having someone say “thank you for helping me” does more to make someone a Rotarian than the most engaging Rotary club meetings.  Proud “Rotary eggers” say that when Rotarians are engaged in this way, they will brag about Rotary without being asked, to anyone and everyone they know.  When that happens, and an entire club is engaged in serving others, then you have a small army of Rotary apostles telling our story and the need for stylized membership drives and PR campaigns fades.  Oh…and the best relationships among members are built when we are doing vibrant and significant service projects.  Having more fun is sure to follow.

caribbean carnival

At the Caribbean Carnival at GW University University Yard the evening before the kick-off of the RYLA NA Conference.

When President Ravi was asked about why Rotary can’t do more to help us with our PR campaigns, he responded as I would have guessed.  “We simply don’t have the money” he said.  Then he suggested that the solution was to “go big” with our community projects. Partner with other institutions in our town to do a project so meaningful and significant that everyone would be asking “who or what is Rotary?”  Of course, President Ravi is a master businessman who has taken his company public and created some of the most successful Rotary/business partnerships ever.  He knows how to do a deal.  In fact, if you ask him (we did) he will tell you exactly how to negotiate a deal, AND he can tell you the differences in negotiating in different cultures.  The elements of the deals we need to do seem easy when he tells the tale.  Rotary supplies well thought out and skillfully designed projects along with the sweat equity or manpower, and local businesses or banks supply the money.  He continually says, “don’t worry about the money.  If you have a great project, the money will come.”  (Note:  There is the small matter that most Rotary clubs have little to no training in putting together these types of partnerships, but that’s a topic for another blog.)


With the District Leadership teams of District’s 7610, 7620, and 7630.  NOTE:  The background is a picture hanging on the wall at the restaurant.  We really weren’t at a construction site. L-R standing: Yours Truly, 7610 DGN Ronnie Chantker, 7620 DGN Greg Wims, 7620 DGE Anna Mae Kobbe, and 7630 DGN Richard Graves.  Seated from left: DG Janet Brown, RI President Ravi, and 7610 DGE George Tyson.

So, I’m thinking that I’m a Rotary egg person, but you might disagree.  In fact, in my business of financial planning, the most recent studies I’ve seen on how to ask for a client referral sound distinctly “egg like.”  They say you don’t have to ask for referrals if you provide an amazing client experience.  My first reaction?….they are absolutely nuts!  We HAVE to ask for client referrals if you want to get them.  You can see the analogy, right? Apparently I’m an egg guy but have a foot in the chicken camp.

How about you?


With 7620 Major Donors at a “high tea” at Edgars at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC.  NOTE:  A high tea means you drink tea while eating a fantastic array of sweets, scones, chocolates, and other fattening stuff in small portions so you don’t feel guilty.  And no…you are not expected to keep your pinkie finger extended while holding the cup.  L-R Standing: Yours Truly, PDG Larry Margolis, PDG Claude Morissette, PDG Raj Saini, PDG Peter Kyle, PDG Rich Carson, and PDG Jay Kumar.  Seated from left:  Gaithersburg club president, Linda Hanson, RI President Ravi, PDG Rob Hanson, 



It’s Time to Install our New Club Presidents

At Mr.  Obama's swearing in.


I thought I would write about installing new club leaders this morning, and then I remembered that more than a year ago I wrote a RFA post about installing new club members.  And guess what?   The rules for a good new member induction and a good Club President installation are the same!  So I herewith present this previous RFA post on How To Induct New Members with the thought that you, my esteemed and learned RFA reader, can easily take this information and translate it from installing new members to installing new club leaders.  

As you read the post below, be thinking of what you would charge new club leaders to do during their year.  How about supporting the club president, coming up with creative new ideas, having a positive attitude, and recruiting new members for their committee? If you speak from the heart its all good.  For new Club Presidents, how about creating a vision for the future of the club, holding members accountable, and working to implement the club’s strategic plan?   As for the actual pledge, it’s REALLY easy.  Do you (say your name) (NOTE:  I have ten bucks if you install a club leadership team and someone doesn’t say, “say your name” instead of their own name.  It’s about as certain as the change of seasons.)  Anyway, “Do you agree to uphold the bylaws of the Rotary Club of “X” and the bylaws of Rotary International.  Bam. Boom.  Done.  It’s the rest of it that’s the fun part!  

So here is the post from January 24, 2014.  And by the way, new Club Presidents, you will find yourselves (hopefully) inducting new members soon after you take office so please take a few notes:


As a member of the District Leadership Team I’m often asked to induct a new member to Rotary.  It kind of goes with the territory and it is a pleasure to do.  I’ve also watched various club presidents do the honors.  Unfortunately, for the most part, inducting a new member seems to fall into a “polar vortex” of public speaking mistakes that cheapens the experience for all concerned.  So….here are some tips to consider for your next new member induction.

Let’s start with Inductions 101 which entails reading the induction ceremony. If you need a copy you can find several sample induction ceremonies available online as a PDF  called New Member Inductions.  The written ceremonies have the advantage of sounding formal and official.  And they allow the inductor to not worry that they have missed anything important or that they will make some kind of “gaffe” that will embarrass themselves or their new member, not to mention the current club members.  

The problem is that READING  the induction breaks every rule of good public speaking.  It’s usually done with no eye contact with the audience.  It screams that this isn’t important enough to do without reading a script, and it’s usually delivered in a monotone.  In short, it is as far from memorable as you can get.  So, my first tip is that if you are going to read a new member induction (or anything that you present as a speaker), you should PRACTICE! Here is what you do.  Go to your bathroom or another room with a mirror.  Read the induction, OUT LOUD, ten times.  Look at yourself in the mirror as much as possible while reading.  Try to memorize at least five different lines.  Listen to yourself!  Try to make your voice conversational while you read.  The key is to HEAR what the induction sounds like in your own voice.  When you actually read the script in front of the club it will sound natural and more like a speech than a reading assignment.  However, if you read the same script each time your club members will know it, and they will pay an appropriately diminishing amount of attention each time you read it.

If you are up to it, (and I think you are),  DON’T READ THE SCRIPT.  Instead, just say what is in your heart to a new member about joining Rotary.  How about starting with talking about Rotary or about your club?  Your club’s history in the community is a great place to start.  Then, you might challenge a new member with what they need to do as a new Rotarian.  If you want a great list for suggestions for new member requirements, go to Rotary Club Central New Members.  Here are a few of my own ideas you might consider:  1) Get to know the people in the club, 2) Sit at different tables, 3) Learn more about Rotary at RLI, 4) Attend the District Conference, 5) Join several club committees, 6) Express your opinion freely and often, 7) Brag about your new status as a Rotarian in the community and bring a guest to the meeting, 8) Do the things your club asks of you in the “fireside chat” and remove your “red badge” of new membership.  9) Aspire to join the club’s Leadership Team, and 10) My favorite….Hold club leaders to the highest standards.  Expect a lot from them.

Andrew Jackson Oath of Office

Jot down your favorite five ideas on a piece of paper and practice saying a little something about each.  Here’s one to get you started, “Get to know the people in our club.  They are not as scary as they look from up here.  (Wait for the laugh….wait for it….wait for it….now proceed.)  You will find one of the greatest joys in Rotary is the friendships you are about to make.”  Don’t be constrained with my ten ideas, come up with eight of your own.  It’s your personal message to a new member so be as creative as you want.  The good news here is ANYTHING is better than reading the script.

Joining a Rotary club should be a momentous occasion for a new member.  It is a chance for club leaders to show off their love of Rotary and their Leadership skills.  Don’t waste this chance to wow your club members and put on a show.  But no matter what you do and how you do it, end by having all the club members stand and have the new member’s sponsor affix the new Rotary pin.  And yes…it’s OK to make a joke about drawing blood.  Everyone does!




If It Ain’t Broke….Break It!



NOTE:  Today’s post was supposed to be about the recent District 7620 District Conference. Unfortunately Ready, Fire, Aim editorial deadlines must be met so the Conference blog will be up next week after I get my hands on the best jpegs from the event.  They will be worth the wait.  Stay tuned….

Two weeks ago, after our Rotary meeting, and during our weekly “meeting after the meeting,” we were discussing changing our long-held club Charitable Trust rules for awarding grants to multiple charities.  Honorary  member, Doris Johnson, whose official classification is Club Fairy Godmother, was asked to opine, and the thought she shared was, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”  This particular sentiment made me smile because for the past decade I’ve included a slide in our President- Elect Training Seminars that has a slightly different take on the whole “is it broke” thing.  The slide says, “If it Ain’t Broke….Break It!”  As usual, while I thought I was being clever and kind of ripping off former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s thoughts from his book, “Only the Paranoid Survive,” it turns out that lot’s of folks smarter than me use the phrase.  For example, Prof. Robert Kriegel and Lousi Patter have a book named, “If it Ain’t Broke Break It.”  And famous management guru, Tom Peters, is credited with the quote, “If it ain’t broke, break it (or someone will do it for you.)  Here’s a quote from former Intel CEO Andy Grove:

“a strategic inflection point is a time in the life of business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end”
Andrew S. Grove, Only the Paranoid Survive

What does this have to do with Rotary?  Everything!  We are a service organization that is facing a classic strategic inflection point.  And club presidents, as the Rotary leaders in the trenches who face changing fundamentals every day, are on the front lines of dealing with change.  Whether they can recognize, as Grove says, “the winds have shifted,” is critical to the success of our clubs and of course, for Rotary as a whole.

Before we take on some of the characteristics of Rotary’s strategic inflection point, I thought it would be highly entertaining (in the spirit of “breaking it) to check out a few great Hollywood scenes of things blowing up.  Movie fans will recognize these scenes as the ultimate in “breaking it.”  For scene number one I nominate Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Night blowing up Gotham General Hospital.

There are many signs and symptoms that Rotary is truly at a strategic inflection point. For RFA readers these are recurring themes, but I present them here again for your consideration:

We are getting old.  Our average member is over the age of 50.  We are kind of like Major League Baseball.  If Baseball can’t get a younger demographic to watch the sport, and to play the sport, they are doomed.  Same with Rotary.  Get younger or perish.

Our clubs increasingly do not represent the true leaders in our community.  If you name the top 20 businesses in town ranked by sales, or by employees, are you likely to find them as members of the local Rotary club?  Unfortunately, increasingly, they are not.

Our Rotary club’s do good work, but our charitable endeavors are increasingly irrelevant in the communities we serve.  Clubs tend to specialize in small service projects suitable for small Rotary clubs.  We are in danger of no longer having the scale to make a difference locally.  The exception is, of course, Polio Eradication on an international scale.  Part of our PR issue is that many of our projects simply aren’t newsworthy in our local community.

Well…that was hard to swallow, wasn’t it?  To ease the pain, it’s time for another example of “breaking it.”  For our second example of completely blowing something up, I give you the famous scene from Star Wars Episode 4 – the end of the Death Star:

Luckily for us, we don’t need to “blow up” most of our Rotary clubs.  So much of what we do is right on point.  But there are several items that we can tackle to help us address the “winds of change” that are out there.  The trick is to have an open mind.  Can we really “break it” when it seems to most of our members that “it isn’t broke?”

We can, but it takes true leaders at the club level to rally the troops, share a different vision for the future, and then execute a plan that is likely to take more than one year to implement.  One of Rotary’s strengths is that changing leaders every year gives everyone a chance to lead and to enjoy the personal and perhaps, professional, growth that comes from being on a club’s leadership team.  But the flip side of that coin is that changing leaders every year makes it difficult to face strategic issues, like clubs reaching a strategic inflection point, that require multi-year solutions to difficult organizational challenges.

Before we get to some of the solutions, I’m sorry but we have to watch just one more scene of things getting blown to kingdom come.  What fun!  For our final explosion I give you Indiana Jones in The Crystal Skull surviving a nuclear test explosion in a refrigerator.  Do you remember this?

That is so cool!  I want Indie in our Rotary club.  Does anyone know this guy?  But I digress. Do you want a quick list of things to break in your Rotary club?  Try these on for size. Warning:  PLEASE don’t shoot the messenger.  I didn’t create the strategic inflection point we need to address.  I’m just reporting the news, folks.

Singing your favorite patriotic song at the beginning of a meeting just might turn off a whole generation of Rotarians who just don’t “get it.”  That doesn’t mean they aren’t patriotic.  It might mean they think it is unbearably corny. (Who knows what word they would use for “corny?”)

Believing that young professionals won’t be interested in your Rotary club because your club is too old entirely misses the selling proposition that Rotary has for young people anxious to network and learn from successful community leaders.

The belief that your Rotary club is a “stand alone” organization that can build a brand in your community without partnering with other local Rotary clubs in the same community is a waste of energy, creativity, and time.

Believing that the public is not interested in international projects when the news is filled with international threats of every stripe.  We have to get Rotarians to believe that our mission of world peace through humanitarian service is relevant to “all concerned.”  If we don’t buy it, who else will?

The notion that Rotary clubs are service clubs and not “networking” clubs entirely misses a changing fundamental in our society.  EVERYONE wants to network today, and one of the best ways to do it is to do community service together.  Sneering at people who want to join Rotary to advance their business interests is just shooting yourself in the foot.

OK. Enough for this particular rant this evening.  Remember…if ain’t broke….break it (or someone will break it for you.)  Rotary needs to become an organization that is all about continuous innovation.  Guess what?  There is absolutely no barrier for your Rotary club to change to meet our strategic inflection point.  The only thing standing in our way is us.

We can do this.









Good News, Bad News, Good News!




I just had a chance to look over District 7620’s year-over-year Annual Program Fund giving comparisons through the month of April.  The good news is that we are currently ….wait for it…..$40,000 ahead of our pace of last year.  I suppose calling this “good news” is an understatement since these contributions come back to our District as part of the TRF SHARE program.  Every dollar we contribute to the Annual Program Fund is a statement of our trust and confidence in our fellow Rotarians that they have some great ideas for improving the lives of others.  Since in our District we routinely split our SHARE proceeds so that 50% of our funds go to District grants, and the other 50% are available for global grants, it means that our clubs can apply for grants to support their local efforts to “do good in the world,” as well as international efforts to do the same.

I just don’t know of another philanthropy that asks the giver to be so involved in the solution to a problem.  In our case the goal is world peace and how we do it, as Rotarians, is just about completely up to us.  You can give to the Rotary Foundation and end up funding a creative project developed by a Rotarian in our District whom you’ve never met before, OR you can create your own project and have it supported by a Rotarian who gives to the Rotary Foundation who has never met you before!  In either case, we are trusting that we are all together in the spirit of doing good in the world, AND that we have great ideas worthy of our funds.  In short, this truly is OUR Foundation where we rely on Rotarians in our District, and around the world, to come up with practical and useful solutions to problems in our six areas of focus, including peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention, maternal and child healthcare, literacy, clean water and sanitation, and economic development.   How cool is that?



As I look over the number of clubs in our District that are enthusiastically supporting the Rotary Foundation for the first time, I can’t help but wonder if they realize that the SHARE program represents a short two-to-three year investment where the funds we contribute today will not come back to our District and be available for grants until July of 2017.  District 7620 eligibility rules require clubs to give an average of $100 per member to TRF APF in order to be eligible for global grants, and clubs are required to give, on average, $50 per member to be eligible for district grants.  And while I can see the excitement building as our club members dig into their pockets in expectation of being able to apply for a grant to support a local or international project, they might  be disappointed to find out we don’t have the funds to meet the requests of all of our clubs next year.  That’s because the funds we have available next year (2015-16) are part of our SHARE distribution based on contributions made in the 2012-13 Rotary year.

Our APF giving goal of $200 per capita means that our total Rotary Foundation giving to the Annual Program Fund would be approximately $460,000 (based on our current 2,300 members.)  If we hit that number this year then $230,000 of SHARE proceeds will return to the District to support our projects in 2017-18.  What will happen in the meantime?  Will our clubs be so disappointed that our Foundation team won’t have enough funds to fully fund every project next year that they will stop giving?  What if we get discouraged at exactly the worst time…when achieving our APF giving goal is in sight?

NOTE:  I wrote about our investment in the SHARE program last March right here in Ready, Fire, Aim.  For some interesting charts about how it works, see “A Short Term Investment



District and club leaders are managing the expectations of our Rotary clubs and carefully explaining the difference between being eligible for a District or Global grant, and actually having the funds next year from the SHARE program to fund those grants.  Furthermore, while we usually state the wait time for the SHARE program as three years, at this time of year it’s much shorter than that.  Funds given to TRF APF by Rotary year-end will be available through the SHARE program by July 2017, and THAT is ONLY two years and two months from now.  In other words, while we always make a short-term investment in the APF that pays off within three years, in this case the investment is even shorter.  In addition, our District’s eligibility rules for global grants allow clubs to apply for grants with a maximum amount equal to their last two years of APF Foundation giving.  So even though funds may not be available next year to fund all of our club’s grant requests, the contributions clubs make this year will go into the eligibility equation of what they will be eligible for two years from now.  And, if you are following this, two years from now we just might have a massive increase in SHARE funds available because of the generosity of our clubs.

So…we have two months left in the Rotary year.  If you haven’t done so already, please consider making a contribution to The Rotary Foundation APF.  Your contribution will support local and international projects developed by Rotarians right here in District 7620, as well as our District’s contributions to polio eradication, global scholarships, and the Rotary Peace Fellow endowment fund.  We are making a major investment in our own ability to do good in the world.  Let’s “prime the pump” so in 2017-18 we will have the SHARE proceeds to fund the very best ideas of our Rotary clubs.





The Two Most Powerful Words in Rotary


Surprise.  This isn’t where you are going to find my post about “The Two Most Powerful Words in Rotary.”  To find this post you have to go to My Rotary and look it up under Rotary Voices, Stories of Service From Around The World.  I understand that what I should do is provide you with a link to this blog post so it’s easy for you, the reader, to actually read about this amazing story.  But I’m not gonna do it.  Instead I’m going to shoot myself in the foot and ask you to open another tab on your browser, go to www.ROTARY.ORG.  Navigate to MY ROTARY. Sign in (get yourself a password if you haven’t already), run your curser over to MEMBER NEWS, and then find ROTARY VOICES in the drop down menu second from the left. My post is the second one on the page.  I realize that most of you won’t actually do this, which means you are going to miss a great story about an unprecedented joint venture between 22 different Rotary Districts in Zone’s 33-34.  It is a story about the power of asking “What if,” as in, “What if every District in Zone 33-34 participated in a joint project together?”

The answer will surprise you.  At the end of the day, over 40,000 men, women, and children in 40 communities in the country of Ghana are going to benefit because DGE’s rose to the task and answered a “what if” question with an equally important reply:  “Why Not?”  So go ahead, if you haven’t been on the ROTARY VOICES blog you really should check it out, and check out all of the other neat content available on MY ROTARY while your at it.  Special thanks to Arnold Grahl, Editor and Web Content Producer in the Communications Group at RI for inviting me to blog for them.  Very cool!


Since I’m on a “what if” rant today, how about these other “what if” questions?

What if Rotarians didn’t procrastinate and do everything at the last minute?  (Yes…that would be me included.)

What if Rotarians actually put their goals in Rotary Club Central and used Rotary’s online tools to our best advantage?

What if young professionals in our community saw Rotary as the best choice for their marginal dollars to advance their careers by networking with successful Rotary business leaders and being mentored by experienced and caring older Rotarians?

What if Polio was eradicated and Rotary won the Nobel Peace Prize?

What if Rotary membership wasn’t 1.2 million, but instead more than doubled over the next ten years to 2.5 million?

What if DGE’s in Rotary Zone Institutes all around the world decided to work together on joint projects where each District contributed small amounts of DDF to fully fund $100,000+ humanitarian projects with the help of TRF grants?  (Hint, hint…read the article on Rotary Voices.)

Why not explore the possibilities of asking “What If?’ when it comes to Rotary?  Wouldn’t it be be a shame if not asking this important question is leading to a collective failure of imagination about how much good we could do in the world?  If you have some What If’s to share, let me know.  I’ll be happy to post them so everyone can ponder them.

In the meantime, even if you don’t go to MY ROTARY and check out ROTARY VOICES, you might check out and learn something about the Rotary Action Group, Rotarians for Family Health and AIDS Prevention Inc.






Rotary By Design – Not By Default


If you happen to attend one of Membership Chair, Darrell Nevin’s, Membership Workshops, you have to be prepared to learn about a lot more than just Rotary membership.  Nevin insists on informing the audience about just about every aspect of Rotary.  You can agree or disagree, but Darrell’s views on Rotary have been embraced by many of our clubs over the years, and not surprisingly, several of those clubs have experienced explosive growth.  Last night’s meeting was held in the training room at Darrell’s office at Keller Williams Real Estate, where one wall is covered with a whole bunch of sales-related / inspirational thoughts.  We were asked about this one thought specifically.  Instead of thinking about Life by Design, Not by Default, we were asked to think about “Rotary by Design, Not by Default.”  The message resonates because at the International Assembly in San Diego  we were all asked to question “WHY” we do things the way we do in our Rotary clubs.  Clearly Rotary by Design is in our organizational future.


For many of us, Nevin’s membership training program is as comfortable as an old shoe, but it is impossible to listen to Darrell get on one of his rants and not get totally fired up about Rotary.  We had twenty five attendees last evening, many of them making the long trip north from Southern Md. in order to hear the “Nevinisms.”  Well…they either came for the Membership Training or the Chick Fil a dinner.  (I found out that Chick Fil a nuggets taste different from Chick Filet tenders.  Who knew?  I keep telling people, Rotary is where you go for personal and professional growth!)

But I digress.  Nevin covered his 6 Key Steps to Energize Your Rotary Club for Sustainable Growth.  Here they are:

1)  Fix your Product; Define Your Brand

2) Form a Committed Team; Meet Weekly; Create a Culture of Accountability

3) Prepare the Hit List; Post it to Drop Box; Plan an Open House

4) The Fireside Chat – THEE most important hour in Rotary

5) New Member Checklist; check the checklist; Red Badge/Blue Badge

6) Get New Members to Rotary Leadership Institute/ District Conference

If you would like more information about Darrell’s membership seminars, he has produced two different membership booklets that have all the details you need for clubs to experience explosive growth.  You can find the booklets, “Ready, Get Set, Grow” and “Extreme Makeover, Small Club Edition” on the District 7620 website under the Membership tab at


This is Nevin’s last year as District 7620 Membership Chair and the D-Man is going to stand aside and let new Membership Chair, Rich Glover, take the Chair for the next few years.  Rich is going to do a great job as Membership Chair, and he’s smart enough to ask Nevin to hang around and still do some training.  Here’s a short video take of Darrell after last night’s training, trash talking about “the new kid” taking over the Membership Chair.  (Note:  Darrell claims he’s been Chair for six years  but I know he was doing District Training more than a decade ago. )

New Chair Rich Glover is already filling in the organizational roles needed to move our membership efforts to the next gear.  Look for Membership Coordinators to be recruited and trained around the District, and I’m looking forward to how Rich and his team are going to be working directly with our Club’s Membership Chairs.  Too much fun!

Next up?  Our District Club Officer Training, formerly known as Club Leadership Assembly, formerly known as the District Assembly.  I’m sure that Training Chairs, Mary Nagle and Sean McAlister will do their usual spectacular job putting  on a great show for our Club Officers.  That will be on April 18th at Charlestown Retirement Community.  Then yours truly, having weathered PrePETS 1 & 2, San Diego, Chesapeake PETS, and the District Assembly, will have the nervous breakdown that I’ve worked so hard for and so richly deserve.


DGN Anna Mae Kobbe, hubby and Rotarian Doug Newell, and PE Chuka Ndubizu.  (Doug explained he had to attend if he wanted any dinner last evening.)


Foreground:  Obviously the cole slaw was a smash.  L to R: Jim Adams, Lizzie Abraham, Rich Glover, George Abraham, Yours Truly, Tom Neff, and Susan Thomas.


L-R Back row:  Bruce Fowler, Larry Foster, Gary Greenwald, Matt May.  Front row L-R: Area Governor Jimmie Gorski, Judy Cappucilli, Joe Slert, and Pat Slert.