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Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Rotarian Seemed a bit Angry.

In a recent conversation, a Rotary leader suggested that I seemed a bit angry at Rotary International (R.I.)   I responded, “You mean there’s doubt?”  This leader asked why.  After all, R.I. works hard to bring leaders together – connect them to each other – give them the resources and tools to help them make greater impacts and share successes.
    Yes, R.I. does a wonderful job at doing that.  But that’s not why this Rotarian ‘seems a bit angry.’  What R.I. is doing is exactly what all 34,000 Rotary clubs should be doing in their local social fabrics – working hard to bring leaders together, connecting them to each other - giving them the resources and tools to help them make greater impacts and share successes.  But is R.I. encouraging its member clubs to bring leaders together; recognizing local Rotary club members as leaders?
   On R.I.’s About Us web page, the narrative says, “In more than 34,000 clubs worldwide, you'll find members volunteering in communities at home and abroad to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.” Does this recognize Rotarians as leaders?  Does it differentiate Rotarians from the millions of members in thousands of other organizations who are volunteering to do the same things?  Would this attract more of local clubs' target audiences if it said “In Rotary International’s more than 34,000 member clubs worldwide, you'll find active and retired business, professional, and community leaders, at home and abroad, making the world community at the time.”*
   The About Us narrative goes on to say, “Explore this site to learn more about Rotary and how you can join your local Rotary club.”   This implies that anybody reading the About Us page will be able to join a local Rotary club.  But at least the R.I. web site is consistent.  On the site’s Members page is a graphic of a Rotary jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece.  On the puzzle is this statement: “YOU ARE THE MISSING PIECE.”  Is the 'you' anybody who can read?  In North America that's over 350,000,000 anybodies; worldwide that’s over 5,000,000,000 anybodies.
    Why would anybody dedicate time, treasure, or talent to be recognized, identified, and treated as anybody?     The United States Marines doesn't target anybody.  They target ‘The Few. The Proud.’ and have little difficulty attracting them.  What Rotary does, or has done, is rooted in who Rotarians are, but R.I. just doesn't seem to grasp that reality.    
    North America is in a twenty-year membership decline. Worldwide membership has been stagnant for fourteen years.  The Code of Policies says membership should be R.I.'s highest priority, but, for decades, it obviously has not been.  Yet the 2013 Council on Legislation approved a dues increase to R.I.
And somebody actually wonders if this Rotarian, who has been in Rotary for over 46 of his 77 years, is a bit angry.  I wonder why more Rotarians aren't.  Could it be that they don't care enough about Rotary to be a bit angry? Or maybe, since Rotary  doesn't seem to care that they are somebody, they just walk out and rejoin the anybodies.

*Edited Sept 23, 2015.

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