General Information

Red Text bears a link to reference Rotatorials.

Retention Central is monitored occasionally by its creator, Jim Henry, who may be contacted by email at

Monday, February 22, 2016

THE ROTARIAN. Is it a Magazine on Forced Life Support?

     As Rotarians age, many body parts no longer serve the purpose for which they were designed.  It is not uncommon for Rotarians, particularly in the case of accidents, to be put on life support, hoping that their non-functioning organs will once again become functional.  Sometimes they do, but often, particularly in aged Rotarians, they don't, and the Rotarian becomes a memory. 
     So what does this have to do with The Rotarian magazine?  According to the Rotary International (RI) By-Laws paragraph 20.010, the purpose of The Rotarian shall be to serve as a medium to assist the board (RI Board of Directors) in furthering the purposes of RI and the Object of Rotary.  According to the financial analysis in the 2016 Council on Legislation's proposed enactment 16-97, The Rotarian generates approximately US$1.2 million annual revenue over costs.
     Is The Rotarian accomplishing its purpose?  This is an important question that requires unbiased examination and response simply because if the subscribers do not consider it useful, they will not read it.  If it is not being read, it cannot be accomplishing its purpose.  In addition, RI is known for being an organization that promotes high ethical standards.  What ethical, and business management, perception is it delivering by continuing to mandate life support to an organ that may be non-functioning?  The only accurate, objective manner to determine how many subscribers find it useful is for subscription to be voluntary.
     RI must face reality.  Its purpose is to create Rotarians.  Its objective is to advance the Object of Rotary.  These fundamentals have not changed, but Rotarians and times have.  Years ago, when The Rotarian began circulation, it probably was accomplishing its purpose because printed media was the major means of universal communication.  Today, many in the Silent and late Boomer generations (over 60) still gather functional information from printed media, but most Rotarians in the early Boomer, X, and Y generations primarily use electronic media, mainly tablets and smart phones.  The printed version is an attractive magazine; the on-line version is okay on desktop monitors but is less user friendly on tablets and smart phones. 
     Just like the only true measure of RI's effectiveness in furthering the Object of Rotary is how many Rotarians its 35,000 member clubs retain and attract, the only true measure of The Rotarian's effectiveness is the number of voluntary subscribers that it could retain and attract.  It is time to remove life support to determine whether or not The Rotarian is capable of serving its purpose.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Are Rotary's District and Club Leaders Serving Sentences?

Rotary's administrative districts and member clubs often have difficulty getting people to serve as leaders.  One reason why is happening right now!  Many existing leaders, sounding like inmate's approaching the end of their prison sentence, say "Only four-and-a-half more months!"  What non-verbal perception does this simple phrase deliver?
     Personally, I welcomed the opportunity to serve as club president and District 6960 as Assistant Governor and Governor (2003-04).  These were wonderful opportunities to experience the joy of building friendships and developing spheres of influence while honing leadership and communication skills that were put to good use in my professional engineering practice.  (This is merely practicing the first Object of Rotary.)  Through these friendships, and using Rotary International attributes, we were able to establish the continuing district-wide Dictionary Project; the now multi-state and international Rotary Leadership Institute Sunshine Division; and an International water project where all District 6960 clubs participated in establishing fifty-four water systems in Africa.
     Long-time Rotarians are keenly aware that, in the last twenty years, Rotary International and its member clubs have placed heavy emphasis, even priority, on its attributes and the noun 'service'.  The overlooked fundamental was that the quality and quantity of the 'service' produced depends on the quality and quantity of acquaintances developed.  I am now in the eighth decade of life, but if given the opportunity to develop new acquaintances as an opportunity for service, I would. 

Rotary leaders, what perceptions are your verbal and non-verbal actions projecting: that your position is a desirable experience to be valued, or a sentence to be served?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Is the Office of District Governor in Danger of becoming more Symbolic than Functional?

     RI now employs Regional Membership and TRF Officers and has Rotarian Zone Coordinators with three-year terms.  Districts are encouraged to have District Trainers, Membership, TRF, and Public Information chairs, all serving multiple year terms.  Many districts sponsor Rotary Leadership Institutes.  Considering these developments and present day technology, what is the purpose of having district governors?  Is it possible that the position is becoming more symbolic than functional, and why do some districts have difficulty recruiting - yes, recruiting - applicants for the position?
  Perhaps the administrative position of district governor could use an overhaul.  Consider that a Rotarian, usually a past assistant governor, is interested and chats with district leaders about the position. Often leaders tell the Rotarian that they would be a wonderful governor.  They download, or are given, a copy of Leading Your District: Governor, an initially intimidating 166 page document.  Upon a brief scan, most Rotarians would realize that it is a prescriptive planning and training manual and do further research, usually referring to the Manual of Procedure.  It mentions Rotary's Code of Policies, in which they download and read Article 19.020 Governor's Specific Duties and Responsibilities.  The article's second of eight (8) paragraphs says, quote "Governors will adhere to the provisions of the RI Constitution and Bylaws."  They proceed to RI's Constitution and By-laws to learn what they will adhere to.  The Constitution's Article 3 spells out RI's three purposes, the first of which is, quote, "(a) to support the clubs and districts of RI in their pursuit of programs and activities that promote the Object of Rotary."  That's an idealistic, somewhat exciting vision that opens their mind a bit more.
   Then they go to the By-Law's Article 15.090 Duties of a Governor, to which they will adhere.  After surfing the opening paragraph, they proceed through fourteen (14) scriptures of which any one of the first three, all related to developing membership, could distort visions of being an effective governor because, even as assistant governors, they frequently had not been involved in more than one of the prescribed activities.  Serious doubts about being an effective governor set in, and they cast aside such thoughts. 
   Leaders panic and go into recruiting mode. They promise to help while selling the candidates on the positive social and travel benefits and continually stress that those prescribed duties to which they will adhere to are merely guidelines.  Then the closer - success is in the eyes of the beholder - not the district, not RI.  One or more recruits apply; one is selected and proceeds to follow the examples set by previous governors, all of whom, of course, had successful years (even though membership continued its decline.)  This cycle continues until the position loses functionality and becomes a time and resource consuming symbol.
    The position of District Governor is a time-honored tradition in need of re-examination.  If Rotary were being created today, would it even have district governors?  What would be their purposes?  Their objectives?  Their term of office?  Their incentive to serve?  What would be the most effective way for RI to educate and support them?  And the closing RI self-examination - how will RI measure its own effectiveness at supporting the clubs and districts in their pursuit of programs and activities that promote the Object of Rotary?