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Friday, April 24, 2015

Rotary is at the Razor's Edge

. . . . . because it cannot decide what it wants to be!

      Does it want to be an international organization dedicated to assisting local clubs in fulfilling the Object of Rotary  - - -   Or does it want to be an international organization dedicated to improving lives through educational and humanitarian programs funded by The Rotary Foundation?
    Rotary History tells us that from its beginning, Rotary's purpose was to create Rotarians.  That expanded into creating clubs and supporting them in creating Rotarians and fulfilling the Object of Rotary, which is a process of thought (not a call for social engineering or action.) For almost ninety years, centered on this purpose, Rotary grew.  Then Rotary's purpose gradually evolved into improving lives through educational and humanitarian programs.  This evolution changed Rotary's culture from being a member-centered (customer-centered) organization into being beneficiary-centered.  That was a major, and potentially fatal, mistake.  Beneficiaries don't pay dues or make donations.
      But Rotary is waking up to reality.  Its Board of Directors has recognized that membership is Rotary's top internal priority.   However, this implies that Rotary has an external priority.  Two priorities cancel each other out.  By definition, Rotary still does not have a priority, and its only customers - its member clubs - the ones who pay dues - are confused. Who serves who?  That is why Rotary continues to teeter at the Razor's edge.
      Polio eradication is probably the external priority and could very well have given birth to Rotary's change of purpose and culture.  Polio eradication is a worldwide humanitarian social action unlike any other ever undertaken.  But it is only a service project, a product of Rotarians fulfilling the Object of Rotary.  Like any service project, it must be completed.  But for Rotary, that's a goal.  Rotary could continue to treat it as a priority, but that will only perpetuate confusion and is Rotary's business brain allowing its emotional heart to lead the way.
      President-Elect Ravi is encouraging clubs to improve membership retention by one percent.  This alone could begin to change Rotary's culture back to creating Rotarians.  Yet some incoming club leaders have been led to believe that their district's priority is to be their Zone's top foundation contributor.  More confusion, and think about this: North America continually leads the world in foundation contributions.  In the last 12 years Rotary in North America has lost over 63,000 Rotarians - and potential Foundation donors.  If this trend continues, what's going to happen to Rotary?  To the foundation? 
      But let's clarify this confusion.  According to Rotary's Code of Policies, districts exist solely to help the individual clubs advance the Object of Rotary and should not tend to diminish services provided by clubs and individual Rotarians on the local level.  The Code of Policies also encourages all districts with fewer than 75 clubs and 2,700 Rotarians to strive to reach those numbers.  The Siegel+Gale research clearly shows that people join and stay in Rotary to make friends and contacts: to make local impacts; to have people recognize and value their profession, and to work with leaders.  That pretty much lines up with the Object of Rotary's process of thought.
Rotary International, the international association of local Rotary clubs, will return to a steady growth rate only when all of us, from the newest member to the President of Rotary International, prioritize creating Rotarians.

Update - The Board of Directors in 2015 made membership Rotary's top operational priority.  The eradication of polio remains its top program priority. Both decisions are in keeping with the RI  Constitution and Bylaws.

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