Category Archives: P/R and Marketing

How to Close a Rotary Deal


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






The Best District Conference Ever

rotary program cover2

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

To attend Register Here

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

final conv logo



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


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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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

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





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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Washington Post article: By tracing cellphones, Pakistan makes inroads in war against polio


A Pakistani health worker administers a polio drop to a child during a vaccination campaign in Peshawar. (A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m probably going to get into trouble for this… (sigh).  If anyone from the Washington  Post objects to me reprinting their article on Polio Eradication that appeared in the Post on November 18th, contact me and I will gladly take down this post.  (Note to Washington Post:  Please don’t sue me because I still have to make my Paul Harris Society contribution to the Rotary Foundation for this year.)  I thought Tim Craig’s reporting was fantastic and the news continues to be positive.  I know my RFA readers will be disappointed that Rotary (once again) isn’t more prominently mentioned in this article, although a quote from Aziz Memon, chair of Rotary International’s Pakistan PolioPlus Committee, is included in the discussion about women being an important part of a successful new strategy to reach Pakistani households.   You will be glad to know that RI’s PR department is gearing up for a worldwide public image campaign about polio eradication once we’ve got this thing licked.  In the meantime, enjoy this account of what is going on with Pakistan’s effort to eradicate polio.

November 18

In a surprising turnaround, Pakistan appears to be finally getting a handle on its polio epidemic, thanks to unorthodox tactics such as tracking residents’ cellphones.

The 85 percent decline in new cases this year is boosting confidence that Pakistani officials are on pace to stop the spread of the virus here, perhaps as early as next year. If Pakistan can achieve that goal, the world will take a major step toward becoming ­polio-free.

In late September, the World Health Organization declared that polio was no longer “endemic” in Nigeria, leaving only Pakistan and Afghanistan on the list of countries where the crippling virus continues to spread.

The revelation that the CIA had used a fake vaccination campaign to gain intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in 2011 had been a huge blow to Pakistan’s efforts against the disease, especially in areas where Islamist militant groups were strong.

But as the militants have loosened their grip on Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt, health officials are vaccinating hundreds of thousands of children for the first time.

As a result, Pakistan has reported 40 new polio cases this year, compared with about 240 at this time last year. Pakistani officials say they believe they are on track to vaccinate nearly all children younger than 5 by next summer.

“If the next few vaccination rounds are implemented, and we continue to reach all the children we need to reach, we should be home very soon,” said Mazhar Nisar, head of Pakistan’s emergency polio office. “The key challenge had been security, but now the government has taken that on head-on.”

Many international health experts remain skeptical that Pakistan can rise to that challenge, citing bureaucratic obstacles and uncertainty that the country’s improved security can be maintained. Last month’s earthquake, which killed more than 200 and left tens of thousands of residents homeless, served as a reminder that Pakistan has a reputation as a magnet for crises that quickly distract political leaders and relief organizations.

But Hamid Jafari, director of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative for the WHO, said Pakistan’s government has shown progress as it lurched onto a war footing to combat the disease.

“You see the senior officers of security agencies, and the Pakistan army, now sitting with program managers in emergency operations centers co-planning and co-coordinating,” Jafari said. “You get a very good sense that all the ministries of the government are involved.”

That coordination began late last year as Pakistan’s army pressed into North Waziristan, which had been controlled by Taliban militants and was largely off-limits to vaccination teams.

When more than 100,000 families were evacuated from the area, they were stopped at roadside checkpoints and forced to take a drop of the polio vaccine.

Later, when the displaced residents were registered at refugee camps, they were given a surprising offer: free SIM cards for their phones.

Unbeknownst to the recipients, health officials used the SIM cards to track them as they resettled in other parts of the country. Their locations were mapped in new polio-eradication command centers. When clusters of residents from North Waziristan were identified, teams were sent out to again administer the vaccine.

“We were able to trace them, map them and follow up with them,” said Safdar Rana, head of Pakistan’s Program on Immunization.

The controversial strategy was combined with outreach to religious leaders, the creation of community health centers and a renewed push to put women — not men — on the front lines of the campaign to eradicate polio. But as with many other aspects of life here, the battle against polio is inextricably linked to efforts to overcome the threat posed by Islamist militancy.

Attacks on polio vaccination teams, provoked by the CIA ruse in 2011, resulted in the deaths of 74 people from 2012 to 2014, including 41 last year. So far this year, however, the number of deaths has dropped to 10, according to government figures.

With security improving, health officials are able to vaccinate more children. They estimate that just 16,000 to 18,000 Pakistani children are still “inaccessible” to vaccinators compared with the half-million who were out of reach two years ago.

Back then, that large reservoir of unvaccinated children in North Waziristan and a few other places threatened to become an incubator from which the virus could spread to other countries.

In 2013 and 2014, for the first time in more than a decade, 36 new infections were reported in Syria while two cases surfaced in Iraq. Health officials said they believe the virus was transported to the Middle East from Pakistan. The new cases horrified the WHO, which began publicly shaming Pakistani leaders to step up their response.

Since then, Jafari said, there has been considerable progress in the global fight against polio. The last reported case in the Middle East was in April 2014. The last reported case in Africa was in Somalia in August 2014. Nigeria has not reported a new case since July 2014.

But the gains made in Pakistan this year are threatened by continued insecurity across the border in Afghanistan, Jafari said. To be declared “polio-free,” Pakistan and Afghanistan must go three years without any reported cases, he added.

Vaccinators have been unable to reach 30,000 to 60,000 Afghan children because security has worsened in eastern provinces, Jafari said, in part because Pakistan’s military has driven thousands of militants across the border. So far this year, 13 new polio cases have been reported in Afghanistan, a slight increase over last year’s pace, Jafari said.

The continued potential for cross-border spread of the ­virus has health officials gearing up for a new fundraising drive. The five-year, $5.5 billion budget for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will be depleted at the end of 2018. An additional $1.5 billion will need to be spent to continue the campaign through 2019, Jafari said.

In Pakistan, the money has helped pay for 2,000 community health centers that entice parents with basic health-care services and provide an opportunity for medical staffers to vaccinate children.

Pakistani officials also report success in recruiting 4,000 “community volunteers,” with a special focus on attracting women to the jobs who become the public face of vaccination campaigns in their neighborhoods. In conservative areas, mothers are more likely to invite another woman into the house than they are a man.

“This has been a game-changer because now they are able to reach households we missed earlier,” said Aziz Memon, chair of Rotary International’s Pakistan PolioPlus Committee.

Officials also arranged a series of meetings with religious leaders to try to enlist their support in combating rumors that the vaccine can make children sterile or gay.

As for the tracking of North Waziristan residents, Rana said the SIM cards were initially designed to give the government a way to notify the displaced residents about when they could pick up cash assistance payments. Intelligence agencies also had an interest in keeping tabs on where the displaced residents were, according to government officials familiar with the matter.

But when someone suggested that the SIM cards could also be used in the fight against polio, Rana said that his office, the army and the country’s telecommunications office quickly implemented a plan that involved the tracking of about 75,000 families.

“We saw an opportunity, and we took that opportunity,” Rana said. “We will continue to look for opportunities to finish this job.”

Read more:

Muslim scholars join vaccination effort as violence hinders Pakistan polio drive

CIA vaccine program used in bin Laden hunt sparks criticism

Polio fighters in Pakistan struggle against myths and realities

Shaiq Hussain contributed to this report.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.

A Great PR Idea for Multiple Rotary Clubs

2015 Rotary cover


Rotarian Becky Mangus and business partner, former Rotarian Cathy Yost, own the Business Monthly.  Each year they do a Rotary Salute that promotes Rotary and the various Rotary clubs that serve the Howard County and Anne Arundel County area.  This year’s insert is 16 pages full of articles about Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotary Tidbits, short pieces about the Rotary Foundation and Rotary International, our District’s Young Professional Summit and Peace and Conflict Transformation workshop, a nice story about polio eradication, and a variety of articles about club projects.   The ads are purchased by Rotary clubs and Rotarian-owned businesses in the area.

The insert is a wonderful PR tool and it can be used as a stand alone piece to educate potential members about Rotary.  It’s a great handout for club visitors.  The real beauty of this insert is that the clubs buy ads each year that pay for the piece, so any local newspaper could do the same kind of thing.  Why not see if your local paper would be willing to create a Rotary insert paid for by ads about the clubs that participate?  If you are in the local business community, you read the Business Monthly.  Last month their 75,000 readers learned about Rotary in a format that was impressive and, unlike Facebook, doesn’t scroll down the page and disappear.  (Which is one of those not to be forgotten benefits of traditional media.)  Thank you Becky, Cathy, and all of the clubs that participate!

Each year the District Governor buys an ad (of course) and gets the privilege of writing the District Governor’s Letter for the Rotary Salute.   I thought I would share my letter with all of my long-suffering RFA readers.  Would a message like this resonate with the readers of your local paper?  As you will see, I have no problems making bold predictions about Rotary membership.  In this case, I predict Rotary membership is about to explode higher.  Why?  Well….read on.


Oct masthead.indd

Rotary Membership Is About to Dramatically Increase

I believe Rotary membership is about to dramatically increase in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and across the rest of Rotary District 7620 in Maryland, the United States and around the world. An increase in Rotary membership would be welcome news for the local and international community, because Rotarians have been consistently improving the quality of life in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and in the state of Maryland, for close to 100 years.

Why am I so sure that membership is going to increase? There are a number of forces at work that are going to make Rotary membership extremely attractive to individuals looking for an opportunity to serve.

One reason to be optimistic about the growth of Rotary in Maryland is an increasing awareness that the unique value proposition of Rotary is still highly valuable for many concerned citizens. Rotarians seek to do community service both locally and around the world. Additionally, While helping others, Rotarians develop strong relationships that help them to develop their business and community interests over time.

Finally, because Rotary clubs meet on a systematic basis, the clubs are wonderful venues to form special and long-lasting friendships. This combination of service, networking and fellowship has been the “secret sauce” of Rotary since the organization was founded.

So what is different today?

For the first time in years, Rotarians are recognizing that Rotary clubs have an opportunity to effect extraordinary positive change in their local communities by working together. Howard County currently has seven very active Rotary clubs. Anne Arundel County currently has nine active clubs.

Traditionally, each club independently approaches community service through a variety of projects. In the case of Howard and Anne Arundel, I estimate that there are a collective total of more than 50 small and important service projects completed each year.

As these clubs begin to better coordinate their efforts, their work is going to be more visible to their neighbors. The scale of the projects they do is going to increase, the impact on local community problems will be dramatic, and Rotary’s efforts will consequently be more newsworthy.

In short, communities are going to be reminded that Rotary is a powerful force for good, and interested parties will want to participate.

Rotary itself is recognizing that without a more proactive approach to promoting itself and the work we do, as well as a new approach to scaling the service work we do through partnerships, the organization is in danger of losing its brand as one of the world’s preeminent service organizations.

With an urgent new focus on promoting change in Rotary clubs worldwide, Rotary International is asking Rotary clubs to be more creative and innovative in meeting the needs of a new generation of members. With clubs finding ways to significantly reduce membership costs while at the same time increasing the flexibility of attendance requirements, Rotary membership will once again have to be considered by anyone who is serious about making a positive difference in his or her hometown and around the world.

At the same time Rotary is recognizing a need to change, other forces that are positive for Rotary are emerging. Baby Boomers are now becoming “empty nesters” and for the first time are considering how they can “give back” to the community.

For many, an accident of history has meant that they weren’t called to serve in the armed forces. And for many, our secular society has not offered them an obvious way to serve others while they were focused on family and career. For this group, Rotary represents an important opportunity to “give back” in terms of time, expertise and treasure. They will find that Rotary’s core value proposition uniquely fits their need to serve, to network and to meet new and interesting like-minded people.

Interestingly, baby boomers are also finding that their social networks are beginning to unravel.  As they reach retirement age, many are realizing that their friends from the kids soccer and other school-oriented pursuits are leaving town to chase the sunshine…or the kids and grandkids.  Rotary as a place to find and build new friendships is an interesting value proposition for boomers seeking to rebuild their networks.

While baby boomers are finding themselves with time on their hands, echo boomers and millennials are faced with a time crunch. Careers for both parents, along with the demands of parenting itself, make time management a precious commodity. Many are hiring career and/or life coaches who counsel time-crunched young professionals to join leads clubs and other networking organizations to maximize their time and form important relationships.

This group is about to find out that Rotary is the best dollar-for-dollar networking opportunity in town. In fact, Rotary has been called the “original social network.” Rotarians have been influencers in their town and business community for years, and doing community service side by side with a Rotarian is the best way to develop real and rewarding relationships. In addition, many young professionals will benefit from real-world opportunities to practice leadership skills afforded to Rotary club members.

Finally, Rotary International is on the brink of pulling off what is perhaps the single most important achievement in public health history: the eradication of the wild polio virus. After 36 years of diligent work, the partnership of Rotary International, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is getting very close to achieving its goal. As this achievement becomes recognized, Rotary will receive an unprecedented amount of well-deserved public recognition, again spurring service-minded people to learn more about the organization.

All of the above is providing a powerful cocktail for membership growth in Rotary. If you would like to learn more about Rotary, visit You will find a Rotary club that meets either in the morning, at lunch or in the evening, in a location near you. Visit one soon. You will like the people that you are going to meet.


     Ken Solow, District Governor

     Rotary District 7620

Becky/Cathy 2
Business Monthly owners Becky Mangus (L) and Cathy Yost



The Magic of Thinking Big in Rotary


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Advanced Rotary Membership – “Niche Marketing”



One of our Rotary membership challenges is that when prospective new members ask about our Rotary club, we have a difficult time answering the question, “What does your Rotary club do?”  Aside from weak platitudes about “we have fun” (every service organization says they have fun) and we do “service above self,” (every service organization does worthy service), it’s hard to come up with a short, accurate description of what we do.  Some clubs actually give the prospect a list of activities that the club is involved with, and basically say to the prospect, “this is what we do.”  I’ve noted on several occasions that the list often includes non-profits that are funded by the club’s fundraising activities but has nothing to do with what members actually “do.”

If the list of projects that your club does is too short, then you run the risk of appearing to have little impact in the community.  You also run the risk of not engaging your current members in enough activities to keep them interested in Rotary.  If the list of projects is too long, then it becomes harder to come up with a theme for everything going on in the club.  A typical list might be: 1) We ring bells for the Salvation Army over the holidays, 2) We do the dictionary project, 3) We volunteer at the shelter serving dinner to the homeless twice each year, 4) We interview students for scholarships, 5) We stuff backpacks with food for students in low income communities.  You get the idea.  How the heck do you put all of that into a succinct answer to the question of “What does your club do?” that has a prayer of differentiating your club from other service choices someone has in the community?

Let’s face it.  We live in a competitive world of service.  Potential members can choose any number of fraternal organizations that claim to be fun and do worthwhile service.  Many join the Boards of non-profits that interest them and directly serve in a way that resonates with their personal interests.  Ask yourself, why should they join your Rotary club instead of some other option?  What is the high impact, important, interesting, worthwhile, and relevant problem your Rotary club is solving in your community?  Why should someone spend their extremely valuable time (and money) serving through Rotary and not some other way?

Ironically, it turns out that the longer the list of activities that a club is involved in, the harder it is to describe to someone else.  Interesting isn’t it?

A bow and arrow with the words Niche Market and aiming at a red bulls-eye target, illustrating the pintpoint precision and focus needed to hone in on a specific market or audience

One part of the solution is to be very careful with your choice of words.  Can you describe your activities using language that makes your projects sound relevant and  important? Here’s an example.  On a recent club visit I learned of a project called, “the butterfly garden.”  The club tends a garden at an elementary school and teaches children about butterflies and other lessons about nature.  I suggested that this project was actually a STEM project (Science, technology, engineering, and math)  where the club “promotes STEM learning by mentoring elementary school students in biology and zoology.”  Please don’t tell prospective members you do “the dictionary project.”  How about, “we are engaged in supporting literacy at the elementary school level.”  (You can do better than this but I’m just trying to get you thinking about it.)

Perhaps the best thing to do is to shorten your list and take a lesson from the best sales and marketing pros.  Try to develop a market niche.  Don’t try to be all things to all people, at least in terms of describing what your club does.  You may do 14 service projects each year, but perhaps several of them fall into the category of “working with disadvantaged children.”  Do your mentoring projects fall into the category of workforce development? Your niche doesn’t even have to be about service.  How about, “We provide opportunities for personal and professional growth for young professionals.”  “We provide baby boomers with a chance to build a new social network after retirement.”

Any of these niches will allow you to more effectively answer the question, “what does your club do?”  And don’t worry about choosing a niche that is too small.  If you attract a fraction of the people in any niche you can think of and they are interested in your club, your prospect list is about to explode.

Think about it.  Rotary suggests that we are an organization of leaders, who regularly meet to discuss community problems, and then take action.  Fine.  But what does your club do? Figure out a a short, succinct, impressive answer and then make sure everyone in your club knows what it is.  Have a club assembly where everyone gets a chance to role play talking to a prospective new member.  It will be fun.  And your club will be on the way to growing.






Eight Ways to Reduce the Cost of Rotary Membership



Growing the membership of your Rotary club is all about the value you provide for prospective members.  The value equation is relatively simple and looks something like this:  local and community service + networking and business development + professional growth and leadership opportunities + fellowship + fun / cost of membership = Value of Rotary.  We tend to focus on the numerator in this equation all of the time. ( er…the numerator was all the stuff before the divisor “/” sign.)  Today we are going to focus on the denominator, for the good reasons of  1) cost of membership is cold and lonely and we just don’t talk about it enough, and 2) it is the quickest way to improve the value equation.

The good news is messing with the denominator of membership cost has a huge impact in the membership value equation.  The bad news (depending on your point of view) is that solving the cost issue often goes directly to the issue posed by Rotary General Secretary, John Hewko, ” What’s more important…Rotary attendance or Rotary engagement?’  As you will see, the cost solution often runs directly counter to many of the best known techniques for bolstering attendance.  So if you are a traditionalist who believes that attendance is one of the fundamental core values that Rotary has promoted for more than 100 years and therefore unwinding tools and techniques that promote attendance is a big mistake, you ain’t gonna be happy with some of the suggestions below.

So…here’s what I suggest.  If you are a traditionalist you may find that the following ideas bring your blood to a boil.  In fact, your reaction might be quite similar to this scene from the movie, The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  If you find yourself responding to this post in a similar emotional state, try taking four deep cleansing breaths and then repeat a calming statement like, “I am a calm and reasonable Rotarian.”  I just learned this technique at our District’s Peace and Conflict Transformation seminar this week….not that I particularly needed to attend…

See if any of these ideas might work for your club.  We all understand that the value equation has a lot of inputs in the numerator, but if you can reduce your club’s cost of membership your club will immediately offer better value for potential new members.

1) Unbundle your meal costs from your dues.  “Prepaying” for meals by adding them to member dues payments is a great way to encourage attendance, but it’s a lousy way to encourage engagement and higher membership.  Pay as you go meals takes financial pressure off of members who could save $100 in costs if they miss five meetings at $20 per meal.  If you think that isn’t a lot of money, you are correct.  But the optics of having to pay for meals when you can’t attend are terrible.

2) Closely following number 1, once you unbundle meals you can now discuss your dues  without including meal costs.  “Our dues are $350 per year.  Oh yes….and you pay for your meals when you attend the meetings.”  That sounds a lot better than “our dues are about $1,000 per year.”  Traditionalists say this encourages members not to attend.  Engagers say you will gain 20 new members at a lower price point and if the meetings are interesting then all members will attend.  If the meetings stink, then paying for meals in advance isn’t going to rescue the club anyway.

3) Get rid of all fundraising commitments.  Some Rotary clubs ask members to sell tickets and sponsorships to the club’s fundraiser, with the provision that if the member doesn’t sell a specified minimum number of tickets, they must pay for the difference themselves. Engagers say that if your members won’t sell tickets, then don’t bother with a fundraiser. Fundraising commitments are nothing but a giant negative to membership growth where the costs of Rotary membership may already be daunting.  If the non-profits in your community need your club’s financial support, then rally your membership and have a great fundraiser.  If no one sells any tickets then you might want to rethink why you are doing a fundraiser in the first place.

4) Rule of 35.  The Rotary Club of Washington DC offers special discounted dues to members who are younger than age 35.  The 50% discount comes with the expectation that younger members are active participants in “hands on” Rotary projects.  Rotary clubs can choose any age they want for offering discounted dues, and they could create their own rules for who is eligible for discounts.  Discounts don’t necessarily have to be based on age.  Use your imagination.  For me, any negotiation that exchanges service work in the community for lower dues payments meets the spirit of choosing engagement over attendance.


5)  Have your club schedule a busy season of service projects that can take the place of club meetings.  What if your club scheduled one service project each month and encouraged members to make up at these service oriented events?  As long as the club takes attendance at the service project they will get the double barrel benefit of reducing the cost of membership as members don’t pay for a dozen meals during the year, AND they get a much healthier Rotary club that is seriously engaged in doing service work in the community.  RI tells us service projects count as makeups.  Why not take advantage of the rules as a part of your club’s financial structure?

6)  Reduce the cost of your meals.  I personally love Happy Hour clubs.  Happy Hour clubs are a lot like dinner clubs, with the exception that 1) the happy hour menu is a lot cheaper than buying dinner, 2) you don’t have to order anything if you don’t want to, and 3) the meetings are finished a lot earlier in the evening so members with children get home in time for family commitments.  Breakfast clubs have a similar advantage.  Have members bring their own coffee and bagels twice a month and save on meal costs.  Yes…you have to negotiate with the restaurant where you meet, but reducing meal costs is doable if you are committed to growing your club and prioritizing engagement over attendance.  Maybe mix in a Happy Hour meeting instead of dinner once each month?  Be creative.

7) Corporate memberships are an interesting way to reduce Rotary costs.  No…businesses can’t be Rotary members.  But the Columbia Patuxent Rotary club offers businesses the following proposition.  They ask the owner/CEO to join and pay full dues, including meal costs.  Since the owner is worried about attendance, he or she can name two other employees to be members of the club where they only pay RI and District dues.  In this structure, all three employees are Rotary members, and any of the three can attend the meetings.  If junior employees attend at the same time as the CEO then they are charged for the meal.  Oh…in exchange for this offer Columbia Patuxent asks the company to make a contribution to the club’s fundraiser.  This is a great deal for younger members of the business who should be getting involved in community service and promoting the business locally anyway.

8) Ask members with deep pockets to “sponsor” a new member by offsetting 50% of their membership dues for one year.  The sponsoring member is recognized by the club and the new member is expected to attend all service projects and club social projects during the year.

Maybe it’s time your club challenged some long held ideas and made a serious dent in the cost of membership.






The Cure For Polio Exhaustion


I’m not sure everyone has heard the term “polio exhaustion” before.  It refers to Rotarians who are tired of hearing about polio eradication.  I suppose its entirely understandable as Rotary has been at this polio eradication game since 1979…or 1982, depending on what constitutes Rotary’s start date battling the virus.  No matter what date you use, three decades is a long time to be focused on eradicating one disease.  And it’s a long time to be asking Rotarians to be donating to the cause.

If you talk to “old timers” in Rotary they often will tell you (with a little bit of a sigh) that they have heard that we are “this close” to success many times in the past.  I can’t speak to what happened back in the day, but I can’t imagine that the Director of Polio Eradication for the World Health Organization has stated that “we are months away” from seeing global polio-free months before.  I dunno.  People tend to exaggerate when they are raising money so who knows who said what in the past?  Here’s what I do know….there ain’t no polio exhaustion in District 7620 nowadays!

I suspect that the actual numbers, combined with the news that the Continent of Africa has been declared polio free, combined with public statements from WHO Polio Eradication Director, Hamid Jafiri, and others, forecasting even better news in the immediate future, has everyone feeling a new level of excitement about our commitment to eradicate polio.  I guess the cure for polio exhaustion is polio success.  Who knew?

Nowadays many Rotary clubs have been meeting Rotary International’s goal of contributing $1,000 per club to polio for so long that the amount is baked into the club’s budget, and consequently is just another club expense that is paid when a member pays his or her dues.  It’s not much different than paying the restaurant bill.  When the club is making the donation the average club member isn’t as engaged in supporting polio AS THEY WANT TO BE.  Yup.  I’ve been hearing from Rotarians all over the District how excited they are about the news and how they want to be a part of our success.

Ever eager to meet the demands of our members, District 7620 is holding a full day workshop to learn about how to handle conflict at home, in the workplace, or in Rotary.  The workshop costs $125 for the entire day of training led by Conflict Transformation Associates.  These pros at corporate training are donating their time for the day.  The venue is Charlestown Retirement Community, which is also donating space as well as being a sponsor for the event.  Oh…the video promoting the event was produced by Rotarian Dave Bittner at Pixel Workshop.  (Yup…donated the time.)   And the comedy is supplied by good friend and Rotarian, Roy Felipe. (I wouldn’t say Roy donated the time. No one would pay him, anyway. )  The straight man?….Yours Truly.

All of the net proceeds go to our effort to eradicate polio.  If we sell out the event we can raise about $25,000…and with the Bill and Melinda Gates match we could be talking about raising more than $75,000 for polio.  I know Tuesday is a work day, but folks, you will want to tell people you dug into your pocket to support Rotary’s polio eradication efforts. And as you are about to see, we can all use a little work at managing conflict.

Shameless promotion?  You bet.  We need to sell a lot more tickets.  Registration is open at

And for those who want to know….the next big project for Rotary International?  Can you guess?  The cure for male pattern baldness!