The recent Blog post, Is Rip Van Rotary Finally Waking Up? stimulated interesting comments from readers, some of which are included here. As they indicate, many club and district Rotarians and leaders wrestle with What is Rotary? and Why Rotary?, basically Rotary's value proposition. So let's reconstruct how the Rotary network grew, why it stopped, and what it will take to continue revitalizing and sustaining its growth.
In 1905, Rotary's value proposition - The Object of Rotary - flowed freely from
and naturally constructed the Rotary network much like the Mississippi River historically flowed freely and naturally constructed its Louisiana delta. In the latter part of the last century, Rotary
International (RI) substantially restricted the proposition's natural flow by rerouting
it. This rerouting minimized
constructing its network, particularly in major market areas, and it began to shrink. In the last century, the Corp of Engineers
substantially restricted the Mississippi's
natural flow by rerouting it. This
rerouting minimized constructing its delta in Louisiana, and it began to shrink. Following Constructal Law, the reason was the
same in both cases: Rotary's value
proposition and the Mississippi River stopped
flowing free because both, with good intentions, were routed away from their natural course. The Corp of Engineers channeled the Mississippi River to serve the
nation's needs instead of the Louisiana
delta; RI leaders channeled the Rotary network to serve beneficiaries' needs instead
of clubs and Rotarians.
RI's underlying problems created by this rerouting were:
- Beneficiaries do not replenish the Rotary network; Rotarians do.
- Beneficiaries do not fund RI and its projects and programs; clubs and Rotarians do.
- RI began portraying Rotarians as volunteers and charity workers.
RI can reestablish its value proposition's natural flow by developing and executing a long-term internal marketing campaign centered on differentiating who Rotarians are, the value that people who may be interested in becoming a Rotarian receive, and telling stories about the benefits of advancing the Object of Rotary. Hundreds of thousands of Rotarians, including many leaders, do not understand the Object's essence simply because few Rotarians stress its importance, particularly the value of developing relationships with like-minded people. Often their defense is its century-old phraseology; the phraseology upon which the network was constructed. The real reason is that Rotarians have not been encouraged to talk about its importance.
RI, through internal marketing, must destroy its restricting gates, and encourage its value proposition to once again flow freely. This will constantly revitalize the networks most effective constructors, existing Rotarians. Like unrestricted rivers perpetually build deltas, Rotarians will continue constructing their network because they know that