Would you allow a US $6,000,000 pigeon fly the coup without a tether or direction? In 2010-11, the Rotary International (R.I.) Board of Directors (Board) allocated $2,000,000 a year for three years to be used for Public Image (PI) grants. At its October 2013 meeting, the Board wisely decided to fulfill existing commitments but to suspend funding new PI grants because the effort has not produced any results. What results were the PI grants expected to deliver? The answer is in the last paragraph.
Any PI effort is a risk, but all must be tethered to measurable expectations and have homing pigeon-like directional consistency. R.I. and its member clubs have only one purpose- to create Rotarians. PI tethers should include membership related metrics. In this day of heavy emphases on New Generations and social media, metrics abound. However, for R.I. and its member clubs it matters little how many Twitter followers they have, friends or "likes" their Facebook pages garner, LinkedIn connections are made, page views web sites accumulate, or the number of projects and programs clubs, R.I., or The Rotary Foundation (TRF) implement. R.I. and TRF's most critical metrics (ignored for almost a century) are membership and donor Retention and Growth rates. These, when combined, reveal clubs' and R.I.'s Retention and Growth (RG) Index. (Retention Rates are available on Rotary Club Central, but tracking Retention Rates alone without tracking the actual numbers of new and resigned members is dangerously misleading.) These readily available and easily measurable metrics quickly reflect local and international membership conditions and are significant R.I. and TRF strategic planning barometers.
PI efforts should have directional consistency, homing in on delivering Rotary's brand promise to its target audience like a homing pigeon targets its home coup. If PI efforts do not deliver a recognizable brand promise to target audiences, they will be equivalent to casting nets to catch the wind. Hopefully the 'no results' will convey the lesson that any major expenditure, PI or otherwise, should center on delivering consistent messaging and and be tied to measurable results.
PI efforts are important and should not be abandoned, but they should be designed to deliver measurable expectations. The Board did not tie the $6,000,000 PI effort to any measurable critical result, but staff did require districts to submit measurable results with their application and final report. All PI efforts involve risks, but the risks can be minimized if the efforts are tethered to critical, measurable metrics, and tailored to appeal to international, regional, and local target audiences. Otherwise, PI expenditures will fly away without delivering any results.