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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Preparing a Rotary Strategic Plan

The red text is linked to the Rotatorial that discusses the topic.

To create an effective strategic plan, organizations must know the reasons they exist; their Purpose and Objective.  Does Rotary International?  Does your district?  Does your club?

To survive over the long haul, organizations should have a Differentiating Identity.  Does Rotary International?  Does your district?  Does your club?

Successful organizations have healthy Cultures.  Does Rotary International?  Does your district? Does your club?

Successful organizations project a clear Image.  Does Rotary International?  Does your district? Does your club?

And should strategic plans center on Achieving Outcomes or Feeding the Elephant?

Unless something unusual comes up, this will be the last post on Retention Central until 2018.  Enjoy the holiday season while remembering that

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Rotary's Image

Rotary and Strategic Plans - Part IV of IV Parts

The image (reputation) of Rotary International (RI) is a fundamental instrument in influencing how Rotarians and non-Rotarians view Rotary. RI's image is a valuable component of its differentiating identity. The image cannot be blurry because it is defined by those who view Rotary from outside of the association.  Rotary's image:
·  attracts groups of people who may be interested in becoming association members,
· stimulates the attention of people who may become members of local clubs,
·     influences RI's image in competitive markets and cooperative endeavors,
·     attracts people to become club, district, zone, and international leaders,
·     arouses the interest of people who may wish to be employees of RI,
·     helps retain employees and member clubs, and/or
RI's People of Action campaign could be a major factor in whether or not RI goes up or down in its core business.  Extreme care must be taken in how the campaign is received in the social fabrics of core supporters because the phrase People of Action can imply that Rotarians are:
·  people who act without thinking,
·  people who act without discussing and/or thinking through the pros and cons,
·  people who are willing to try to solve any major issue that comes along, or
·  judgmental and believe that only Rotarians are People of Action.
     RI's strategic plan should consider all of these issues because RI's future depends on (1) RI actually delivering a differentiating identity, (2) when it begins actively promoting the People of Action campaign, and (3) how the campaign is received by its core supporters. RI leaders, communications specialists, and public image coordinators must realize that communication occurs only when those who receive the message understand and believe it.  If RI proves itself capable of delivering a differentiating identity to its member clubs then properly promotes its People of Action campaign, its reputation should soar.  HOWEVER, even if the People of Action campaign projects the desired message throughout the network, but RI fails to deliver its differentiating image to core supporters, its reputation will slide downhill faster than an avalanche.
This is the fourth and final segment of Retention Central's Rotatorials on developing a strategic plan.  Perhaps it has helped readers understand that creating or updating a strategic plan for a legacy international organization like RI is an important, time consuming, and complicated task.  If clubs, districts, or zones are creating or updating strategic plans, the same fundamental principles will apply.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rotary's Culture

Rotary and Strategic Plans - Part III of IV Parts

Every organization, be it a large multinational, small business, or local social club has a culture which plays an important part in its operations.  Rotary International (RI) headquarters in Evanston has its culture.  Each regional RI office has its culture.  Each of RI's 17 zones and over 530 administrative districts has its culture as does ever one of RI's over 35,000 member clubs.  And every one of these entities have sub-cultures.
     RI is revising its Strategic Plan.  If someone wanted to stall the plan, all they have to do is insist on pinpointing and addressing each ingredient of RI's culture.  Some "experts" say that an organization's culture contributes to its overall health.  Some "experts" say it reflects the organization's health.  More "experts" say that an organization's culture represents the collective values, beliefs and principles of the organization's members.  Still even more say that a corporate culture is a product of the organization's history, leadership, employees, members, and the social fabric in which it operates.  Other "experts" add to the mix that an organization's culture reflects, or is reflected by, its market, strategy, employees, customers, supporters, and management style.  Still others add that an organization's culture includes its vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, environment, location, beliefs, and habits. 

  Confused?  Join the crowd. After doing much research, it appears that successful organizations, those said to have strong and healthy corporate cultures, have three commonalities: (not necessarily in priority)
·       a corporate purpose,
·       a differentiating identity
    These commonalities might make someone believe that identifying and addressing RI's culture would be simple.  It doesn't, but, let's get serious: Who really cares about trying to define a corporate culture as long as each of its components thrives?  If each component thrives, then the whole thrives. And all components should thrive if they pursue a common corporate purpose, deliver its differentiating identity, and sustain a continuum in leadership that understands and promotes these commonalities.  And this clearly points out why, with its multitude of components, cultures, and sub-cultures, the only true measure of success that is fair to all concerned and supports RI's purpose and objective is the ability of each club, district, and zone to develop Rotarians - regardless of their gender, generation, or ethnicity.  Success in developing Rotarians will breed strong, healthy cultures throughout.  Any measures or goals that any Rotary leader anywhere in the network communicates verbally or non-verbally that is even close to appearing equal in priority to developing Rotarians will be a diversion that could have long-term, negative affects.

We should hope that RI's strategic plan will address the importance of consistently acknowledging and recognizing successes in retaining and attracting People of Action.  To do so, the strategic plan should be clear on RI's purpose and objective, the means of delivering its corporate identity, and fostering leadership consistency through communication, education, and training.  This would make it much easier for RI to project unifying images, which will be addressed in Part IV of this strategic planning series.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rotary's Identity

Rotary and Strategic Plans - Part II of IV Parts

An organization's identity drives its performance; it's the organization's DNA; its fingerprint, and is supported by its central and enduring attributes. Acknowledging that Rotarians are People of Action can be a major development.  Will it be?

    In January, 2012 Siegel+Gale reported to the Rotary International (RI) Board of Directors that it had a critical identity issue.  Organizations without strong identities tend to scatter their resources instead of centering on delivering a differentiating value proposition to those who keep them in business, often until it is too late to recover
  RI's acknowledgment that Rotary clubs are populated by People of Action is a monumental breakthrough. It demonstrates that RI now recognizes the social identity of past, present, and future Rotarians.  At long last, RI can establish its identity, which will be the value it delivers to clubs and Rotarians that People of Action consider different and not likely available elsewhere.  Fully understanding this business fundamental and planning accordingly will drive RI's future.  
  Historically, before they joined a club, Rotarians were People of Action striving make their community better.  When they joined their Rotary club, they networked with like-minded People of Action, which enhanced their abilities and inspired many to establish RI's central and enduring attributes.  Central attributes are those that have altered Rotary's history, and RI has many.  Paramount are its worldwide service project to eliminate polio and the recognition that People of Action are not separated by gender, generation, or ethnicity.  Enduring attributes are those that are embedded in Rotary and are part of its overall history.  Two of several are The International Convention and The Rotary Foundation, both significant vehicles originated by People of Action to enhance opportunities for clubs and Rotarians.
   Because of a lack of consistent identity, some regions have deviated from RI's historical track.  This regional deviation can be reversed if RI strategically plans for and delivers its differentiating value proposition.  Doing so will alter thought processes throughout the Rotary network and initiate changes in corporate services, literature, conventions, assemblies, conferences, and seminars.

No longer should  People of Action be referred to, considered, or treated as common volunteers; separated by gender, generation, and ethnicity, or asked to feed the elephant information that returns no value to member clubs populated by People of Action.  The next Rotatorial, Part III of the Strategic Plan series, will touch on why it is important to consider the culture of RI and its member clubs, which includes organizational issues such as historical and present practices, visions, values, locations, and social fabrics.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Rotary and Strategic Plans - Part I of IV Parts - The Basics

Rotary International (RI) is in the process of updating its strategic plan.  For the plan to guide RI toward a successful future, it must center on these business fundamentals:

  • RI's sole purpose is to charter and support Rotary clubs, and
  • RI's sole objective is to advance the Object of Rotary.

   Yes, RI's sole purpose is to charter and support Rotary clubs simply because without member clubs, RI cannot exist.  This is such a simple fact that its importance is often overlooked or forgotten.  Everything accomplished in the name of Rotary by local Rotary clubs as they advance the Object of Rotary is the recognition and reward (income) RI receives from chartering and supporting Rotary clubs.
     RI's sole objective is to advance the Object of Rotary.  Many RI leaders and Rotarians believe that Object of Rotary is outdated.  Their real issue is that, with good intentions, they simply have allowed their thought processes to be diverted from the Object's timeless principles.  This is not an uncommon phenomenon in legacy organizations, particularly those with frequent changes in leadership.  If one understands the Object of Rotary, they will conclude that it was never intended to be specific; it was intended to be, and is, eternally applicable in all social fabrics.
     Strategic planners and leaders must firmly embed these fundamentals in their thought processes as they examine three separate but distinctive elements of a functional strategic plan: RI's identity, culture, and image; all of which will be discussed in more detail in following Rotatorials.
    As an example of the differences in these elements, RI's identity should answer the question "Who are we?" Its identity should be differentiating, central, and enduring.  Its culture encompasses values and behaviors that are unique to its social and psychological environments.  Its image (reputation) is its member clubs, Rotarians, and outsiders' opinions about RI, and is typically the result of social evaluation on set criteria dependent on time and location.  A major portion of the image criteria is how RI recognizes and supports its member clubs. 

Preparing and executing an effective strategic plan is not an easy task, nor is it for amateurs. The next Rotatorial will discuss the differentiating, central, and enduring aspects of RI's identity and how identifying Rotarians as People of Action broadly supports RI's purpose and objective.

Friday, September 1, 2017


A treacherous statement from a Rotarian heretic:  Rotarians make greater impacts on their communities outside the realm of Rotary than they do inside the realm. 

Rotarians are People of Action, not because they are members of a Rotary club, but because that is who they already are:  active and/or retired leaders of local businesses, professional associations, charitable organizations, and government entities.  Here is a sampling of the impacts they make in their communities on a daily basis:
  • Keeping and returning more money to the community's economy,
  • Offering job opportunities for local citizens,
  • Giving personal service to local citizens,
  • Improving their community's social development,
  • Taking more interest in the quality of education available,
  • Helping their community exist and thrive,
  • Helping create a better quality of life in their community, and
  • Bringing services and necessities to communities, neighborhoods, and people.
      Depending on their phases in life, proprietors and associates are already helping to make their lives and communities better by being involved in religious organizations, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, school parent organizations, Boy and Girl scouts, professional organizations, coaching athletic teams, serving on school and hospital boards, etc.   Prosperous civic organizations do not minimize the ideals of such members; they enhance their members' desires and abilities to make life better for all concerned. Such organizations understand their members' unique characteristics and seek others with similar psychographics, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or age.  Joining such organizations becomes an asset to people of action and offers greater opportunities for them to amplify their values.
    For example, in Elyria, Ohio and for personal reasons, Edgar Allen, a wealthy business owner, started a home for crippled children.  His ability to do so was enhanced because he was a member of the Rotary Club of Elyria.  That local initiative evolved into the international organization we know of today as Easter Seals.  In 1983, Bruce McTavish, a New Zealand born professional boxing referee and budding philanthropist, was president of the twenty-seven member Rotary Club of Mabalacat, Pamapanga Province, Philippines.  He proposed that the club initiate a campaign to immunize the children of Mabalacat against polio, as had been done throughout New Zealand where, in the spring of 1959, written appeals had gone out to professional groups, including Rotary clubs, to help get information to targeted population groups. The Mabalacat club approved President Bruce's proposal and, with the help of other Rotary clubs and medical personnel, they immunized thousands of children.  Enhanced by the Rotary network, this local project planted the seed that, in 1985,  blossomed into Rotary's worldwide humanitarian endeavor to eradicate polio.
   The world over, today's Rotarians initiate similar initiatives in their communities for the same reasons - they want outcomes that help to fulfill local needs.  Few of these initiatives, if any, will grow into world-wide movements, but these initiatives will help make local Rotarians' communities and the world better.  If RI really has a desire to communicate the impact the Rotary network is having on the world, it should create effective, differentiating methods of telling the Rotary story centering on local and international outcomes. Asking clubs to "feed the elephant" with volunteer hours and contributed dollars on Rotary projects makes Rotary just another service organization.  It minimizes the influence the Rotary network is - or should be - making locally and internationally, and it certainly doesn't entice many local People of Action to join a Rotary club. As a young female Chicago professional said when responding to an RI survey, "I don't need the title of Rotarian to do any of those things. I do that stuff already."  That young lady was a person of action who perceived no value in joining a Rotary club.
     There are over 1.2 million Rotarians in the world today who prioritize personal and public outcomes.  Being a Rotarian should enhance their ability to achieve even greater outcomes.  The story RI should be telling is who these Rotarians are, the value of being a part of the Rotary network, and how the network supports achieving personal outcomes.  The stories should inspire existing Rotarians while projecting the concept that People of Action can improve their lives by becoming a Rotarian because 


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rotary's Strategic Plan - Achieve Outcomes or Feed the Elephant?

      Rotary International (RI) is developing its strategic plan. To continually be successful, RI and its administrative districts must remember that RI's sole purpose is to create and support Rotary clubs, and that Rotary clubs' sole purpose is to create and support Rotarians.  The common objective of the Rotary network is to advance the Object of Rotary.  With this firmly embedded in planners' thought processes, everyone involved should clearly understand that all plans and initiatives should target measurable outcomes, which should never, ever be confused with performance measurements.  
   Well-meaning managers' desires to track, record, and reward achievements based on performance measurements continually diverts organizations from achieving essential outcomes.  Meeting performance goals doesn't require the vision that achieving outcomes does.  A classic example of this is RI's now infamous recruiting death dance, an initiative that concentrated solely on the performance measurements of how many warm bodies clubs could bring during a specified time period. During the death dance, clubs expended resources and reputations to receive Governor and Presidential citations because they concentrated on this annual performance measurement.  People of Action often refer to such usually well-meaning but non-productive activities as "feeding the elephant" - a synonym for wasting talents that diverts visions and resources from achieving outcomes.
     Another example is asking People of Action to record and report volunteer hours and dollars contributed. From RI's viewpoint this no doubt appears to be a nice idea - as did its recruiting initiative.  RI apparently would like to use the information to illustrate how much the association, and each club, is serving the world - another nice idea.  But clubs are not service organizations; they are civic organizations attracting and retaining Rotarians from niche markets.  
   Rotary's projects and programs should be evaluated on being nice, important, or essential.  Nice projects, such as picking up trash, can generate hundreds of volunteer hours that have nice outcomes - trash-free areas.  Essential projects and programs, such as the eradication of polio, and projects and programs that fall within RI's Areas of Focus benefit greater numbers of people and social fabrics, but generate comparatively few volunteer hours.  Are the volunteer hours equal in value?  Hardly.  The same principle is applicable to contributed dollars.  A contribution to a single student's scholarship is nice and can have a wonderful outcome for the student and the future generations they spawn.  The same contribution to an essential project that results in access to safe water or improved education rates achieves greater outcomes for many and their future family generations.  Are the contributions equal in long-term desired outcomes?  Hardly.
     Note the comment in the text box from a previous Rotatorial. Rotarians are much more interested in achieving personal and local outcomes. Tracking and publicizing volunteer hours and/or dollars are performance measurements, and will be considered by most Rotarians to be "feeding the elephant."  Even trying to equate the impact volunteer hours and dollars contributed doing nice projects and programs with the impact Rotarian influences have on achieving essential outcomes will, in the long run, be counter-productive, as were RI's recruiting initiatives.  This elephant fodder will - not may - detract the network from chartering and supporting Rotary clubs as they develop and support Rotarians.

RI leaders should hesitate and consider the image they are projecting before asking clubs and Rotarians to do anything that could be perceived to be "feeding the elephant".  If RI wishes to show the impact outcomes of Rotarians' causes have on our communities, it should:

  • Create marketing initiatives that will help in chartering clubs and improving retention and attraction rates,
  • 'define the information needed to fulfill the initiative's purpose,
  • suggest how the information could be used to support the initiative,
  • receive estimates from professional firms on gathering and authenticating the information, and
  • how the information could or should be used to achieve the initiative's desired and measurable outcome.

     This, or a similar plan of action, would allow RI to do what sensible People of Action do; make a rational business decision by estimating the return on investment the initiative could bring to RI without jeopardizing the vision of attracting and developing Rotarians - People of Action.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Rotary International, ORCA, and Warren Buffett's Three i's

    Rotary International (RI) appears to have survived the ORCA and Three i progressions, but it now faces a challenge common to all surviving institutions.  Before we discuss this common challenge, what are these progressions?   
    As research for this Rotatorial, I reviewed past Retention Central posts and read many articles on the natural progression of organizations.  As I made notes, I came up with my ORCA leadership progression - Originators create, Replicators improve, Copiers follow, and Airheads mess it up.  In a 2008 discussion with Charlie Rose, Mr. Buffett mentioned the Three i progression - innovators create, imitators enhance, and idiots screw it all up.  I was pleased with the similarities.  Unfortunately, that is where similarity between me and Mr. Buffett ceases.
     Back to the common challenge.  All institutions that survive these progressions must be innovative in continually creating ways and means to serve their stakeholders, innovations that often necessitate painful changes.  Leading such a recovery takes visionary, strong, consistent, and competent leadership.  Does RI have the fortitude and organizational structure to survive this painful process?  That is questionable because RI's present practices of selecting, educating, and supporting its leaders all too frequently generates people who are popular but ill-prepared or equipped to lead People of Action.  This is the ideal atmosphere for nurturing intellectual inbreeding, which again guides institutions into the last phase in both progressions, but at a more accelerated pace.  Ultimately, the institutions fail.
    Fortunately, RI presently has a group of imaginative, talented, and influential lions and lionesses that have been innovative in creating and leading change. These business minds recognized that RI's priority is to charter and support clubs as the clubs create and support Rotarians.  They have made major headway, but their road has been, and continues to be, blocked by sacred cows and mindsets, particularly in some legacy markets.  RI's present three-year Councils on Legislation and one and two-year officer terms can be serious roadblocks to progress and continuity in leadership.  Many senior leaders comprehend RI's basic task is to serve and support its two-tier network. Most appear to recognize that potential members, before they become Rotarians, are already People of Action Unfortunately these dedicated leaders continually bump headlong into practices, projects, and programs developed when the leaders at the ends of RI's ORCA and Three i progression cycles considered Rotarians to be ordinary volunteers and believed that the prime duty of clubs and those volunteers was to "feed the RI and TRF elephants".

      Senior Rotary and staff leaders must evaluate every practice, project, program, seminar, assembly, award and citation RI and TRF proposes, requires, and/or supports.  Each activity should deliver a value to People of Action commensurate with the time, talent and treasure they expend. If such values are not delivered, the actions should be changed or eliminated.  Otherwise RI will begin struggling through the ORCA and Three i progression cycles once the present modern thinkers and innovators serve out their terms.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Rotary International - an Association Organized by and for People of Action?

Business Dictionary - Perception:  The process by which people translate sensory impressions into a coherent and unified view of the world around them.  Though necessarily based on incomplete and unverified (or unreliable) information, perception is equated with reality for most practical purposes and guides human behavior in general.

        Peter Drucker, in his book Managing in a Time of Great Change, said, "Today's perceptiveness is more important than analysis.  Organizations must be able to recognize patterns to see what is actually there rather that what they would rather see."   Rotary's brand perception is not owned by Rotary International (RI), The Rotary Foundation, the Polio Eradication initiative, or the general public.  It is owned by those who give RI revenue to operate - dues-paying Rotarians.  Rotary's brand is what local Rotarians throughout the world perceive it to be day in and day out.  In our information society, it is even more critical that RI senior and staff leaders understand why Rotarians are willing to pay the dues that enable the association to flourish. 
    Rotarians are normally people of action even before they join a club.  To help make their community better, they usually influence local conditions, practice sound leadership strategies, and/or write checks to support various initiatives.  RI's People of Action campaign signals that it realizes that the more Rotarians clubs develop, the better communities and the world will be.  This is a  positive, monumental change in philosophy and direction.  By far, its biggest challenge will be to overcome what is commonly called corporate ego; an ego that has been nurtured and passed down, particularly in legacy markets, for nearly three decades.  This will be a long process filled with obstacles.  RI and its administrative zones and districts, through their deeds, must demonstrate that attracting, developing, and supporting People of Action is its priority.  If such deeds do not happen, RI's long-term investment in People of Action videos, print advertisements, online and social media ads, radio and outdoor advertising will be wasted. 

 RI's zone and district leaders, through their newsletters, assemblies, awards, conferences, seminars, speeches, and other actions, are the prime influencers on the impressions clubs and Rotarians have of RI.  The words and deeds of these influencers must deliver the perception that they, too, are People of Action that ". . . exist solely to help clubs advance the Object of Rotary" (RI Code of Policies 17.010).  Their deeds will be more influential and lasting than thousands of words.  That is why RI must follow through with quality, professional education and support for staff, directors, coordinators, district governors, and clubs on how to manage and deliver the brand perception that Rotary International is THE Association Organized by and for People of Action.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Membership and Public Imaging are Interlocked

At the recent District 6960 Conference, past RI Vice President Mike McGovern said, quote, "Rotary - Evanston - doesn't decide what we do, you Rotarians do."  This is an excellent thought process, but not everyone in Rotary's leadership chain has it.  Not long ago, an email from Evanston announcing home page changes said, quote, "We believe these changes will more clearly show the world that Rotary is making the world a better place. . . "   So is it Rotary that is making the world a better place or is it Rotarians, utilizing attributes created and supported by Rotarians, that are making the world a better place?
    Many Rotarians may consider this nitpicking, but consistency in thought processes and communications is critical.  Without consistency, the Public Image (PI) dilemma is:  Should PI initiatives center on what Rotary (or Rotary clubs) are doing that are making the world a better place, or who the Rotarians are that are making the world a better place?
             Regardless of where RI's over 35,000 member clubs are located, existing and potential Rotarians are a niche* of the general population. Club PI initiatives, regardless of the media, should communicate to its niche* the image of who its members are - starting with its existing members. It is no secret that most people join Rotary clubs to network i.e. to meet the type of people with whom they want to associate.  Club members should have a complete understanding of how their club's culture differentiates it from other local organizations.  Then everything they do should center on projecting that image to the men and women in their communities who share similar characteristics.  Even the over 1.2 million existing Rotarians, compared to the over 7 billion people worldwide, is an extremely small niche*.  Rotary International (RI) must consistently tailor its PI messaging to the few men and women in the world who share characteristics similar to existing Rotarians.
            Creating Public Imaging that consistently appeals to and communicates, verbally and non-verbally, who Rotarians are is not an easy task and should not be undertaken by amateurs.  RI is apparently getting serious about supporting clubs in attracting and retaining members and creating productive PI initiatives.  If so, it must consider paying professionals to educate Membership and PI coordinators on how to project the images of who Rotarians are.  Amateurs can easily project "what Rotary does."  Understanding and projecting who it is that "does what Rotary does" in a quality manner that appeals to clubs' niche* markets is difficult.  RI should encourage, even subsidize the cost of, Directors and District Governors having PI professionals speak at Zone Institutes, District Governor, and President-Elect Training sessions.
            Many clubs have PI slogans that match their culture, but one that projects the culture of each of RI's over 35,000 member clubs is 

Reader, please think about how you, using your profession and/or skills in and out of the realm of Rotary, are helping to make your community better simply because you develop acquaintances and have adopted the ideal of service in your personal, business, and community life.  Then think about how each member in your club, utilizing their profession and/or skills, are also helping to make your community, and the world, better.

*In North America, Rotarians make up approximately 0.093% of the total population.  In the world, Rotarians make up approximately 0.000014% of the world's estimated population.  Even if the numbers were double, it is still a minuscule niche. To develop membership, whether by RI, districts, or individual clubs, PI must do its best to identify and penetrate the niche.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Is Rotary International's Future Bright or Dim?

Rotary International's future depends on chartered clubs successfully creating and retaining Rotarians. Some present and potential Rotary International (RI) leaders understand this reality.  Do they have the foresight and fortitude to weather necessary changes and overcome outdated corporate practices and mindsets?

If anyone studies available membership statistics, past RI presidential citations, educational materials, and public information, including the Rotarian magazine, they probably would notice something that may be more than a coincidence.  The drop in dues-paying Rotarians, particularly in mature legacy markets, appears to have begun near the time RI leaders started actively promoting diversity and prioritizing The Rotary Foundation (TRF) and polio eradication.
     So think about each element, starting with diversity. RI really should be more diverse. Diversity further advances the Object of Rotary. But RI began promoting diversity by pressuring clubs to go on amateurish recruiting binges. The result was Rotary's Recruiting Death Dance. In hindsight, RI should have, through its districts, identified and explored various ways to serve underserved genders, generations, ethnicities, and geographic areas.  But RI leaders self-imposed a major obstacle; they ignored RI's by-laws.  Back then RI By-laws stated, and Section 15.090 still states, that the first responsibility of district governors is organizing new clubs; the second is strengthening existing clubs; and the third is promoting membership growth. Instead, past RI leaders encouraged and educated zone and district leaders to prioritize TRF.  Promoting and supporting TRF and polio eradication, particularly in North America, quickly became the path to higher recognitions, accolades, and directorships.
     TRF is a wonderful organization.  The eradication of polio is a project of unimaginable value. Rotarians have supported both and continue to do so*. In the 1980s, many North American clubs even began spending resources to serve TRF by being local collection agencies. An unintended consequence evolved:  RI and its administrative district leaders began approaching this service as a obligation. Many districts resorted to pressuring clubs to meet targets.  Some have gone so far as to require clubs to meet annual fund donation quotas before they can even apply to use district designated funds.  Since most Rotarians are attracted to and remain in clubs because of the friendships they develop and good things they do locally, how do such actions help start new clubs, strengthen weak clubs, or promote membership growth?

     RI is making a sincere attempt to brighten its future.  It has established membership development as its priority and is reorganizing operations.  Necessary changes will be painful and will take time to implement. Some sacred cows, out-dated thought processes, and misdirected practices must drop by the wayside. New leaders are surfacing; leaders who realize that RI's future depends on having a worldwide network of successful clubs; leaders who know that RI must return to centering its resources on creating and supporting local clubs because 

*The author of this Rotatorial is a major donor and has administered the polio vaccine to Nigerian children.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rotary International should Influence What Should be Done, not What Can be Done

The most effective leadership tool in Rotary International's (RI) arsenal is influence.  High levels of influence concentrate on outcomes.  Low levels of influence concentrate on what can be done, not what should be done.

    Rotary International's purpose is to create and support Rotary clubs as they create and support Rotarians.  The survival of both is dependent on dues-paying members.  In local communities throughout the world, the people Rotary clubs generally like to attract concentrate on local outcomes.  A popular concept used in attracting them is,    "We can do more together than you can do alone." Unfortunately, analyzing historical and current information, including presidential citations, Rotary Club Central (RCC), educational materials for seminars and assemblies (including the International Assembly), RI tends to focus more on lower levels of influence i.e. more on what can be done instead of what should be done.
    Membership is an excellent example. Focus should be on the outcome: creating Rotarians.  Instead past and current focus is generally on low level specific numbers of people, often targeting specific genders, generations, and/or ethnicities.
      In service, present RI focus is on low level influences like registering projects on RCC, keeping track of volunteer hours, and emphasizing dollars contributed. Imagine where polio eradication would be if Rotarians had focused on volunteer hours and dollars contributed instead of the outcome.  Of course, volunteer hours and contributed dollars are tools that can help achieve outcomes, but they are not the focal point; the outcome is! Concentrating on such low level influences probably generated steam as RI evolved into promoting itself and its member clubs as service organizations of choice.  This no doubt led many RI senior and staff leaders to consider Rotarians to be ordinary volunteers and sources for contributions instead of people who prefer to expend their time, treasure, and talent achieving local outcomes.
   For example, in Florida's Sarasota County, over 50% of its elementary (primary) students are under-privileged. They do not have access to the resources and experiences of the other students. These children are highly susceptible to dropping out of school because, as years pass, they fall farther and farther behind. Rotarians in the Rotary Club of Sarasota have been influential in expending their time, treasure, and talents helping these under-privileged kids achieve grade level expectations.  The club's foundation dedicated seed funds. Rotarians influenced other local organizations to match the funds. They financed school-based food pantries, reading labs, and dental sealant/exam programs, and staffed some of the pantries. The outcome is that student attendance rates are up and grade level math and reading skills have improved in some schools by 58% and 56% respectively.

Like polio eradication, the overall value of the Sarasota initiative cannot be determined, but isn't this type outcome more important and appealing to existing and future Rotarians than popularizing the number of volunteer hours or contributed dollars? RI, an organization that demonstrates high level influence with organizations like the United Nations and the Gates Foundation, should not be encouraging its member clubs to achieve what can be done.  It should concentrate on influencing the entire Rotary network to do what should be done because, as vividly demonstrated by Rotarians in Sarasota,

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Why Engage if Rotary Cannot Retain?

In membership metrics, retention rates rule the data set. 
     Without retaining Rotarians everything else is irrelevant, including attracting and engaging new Rotarians.  Engaging is a means to an end, and the only effective measure of engagement's success is how many become and remain Rotarians.
     Retained Rotarians, by word of mouth, usually attract and engage potential Rotarians.  But let's face it:  clubs can have high numbers of Rotarians and friends engaging in activities.  Does that mean that the Rotarians will remain; that friends will want to join a Rotary club?  Maybe.  It all depends on how the benefits of engagement relate to the engager's needs and priorities, including the cost in time, talent, and/or treasure. The same fundamental principle applies when groups consider engaging with Rotary International. Without question, retention rates rule when it comes to measuring clubs, districts, zones, and Rotary International's effectiveness at engaging Rotarians in advancing the Object of Rotary.

All interactions between Rotary International, Rotary clubs, Rotarians, and potential Rotarians should be based on the concept that   

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Past Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee Gets and Demonstrates How to Communicate It!

Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee gets and communicates that Rotarians are the spark plugs driving the Rotary engine.  In his February, 2017 letter accompanying Rotary's Annual Report, his opening sentence says, ". . . . I am in awe of the efforts made by Rotarians from around the globe to do good in the world every day."  This verbally and non-verbally speaks volumes to Rotarians and non-Rotarians.  Verbally, it shows respect by emphasizing Rotarians instead of referring to them as 'our members'.  To Rotarians and non-Rotarians, it identifies, appreciates, and gives definition to Who Rotarians Are. Non-verbally, most Rotarians will get a warm emotional buzz because they are being identified and recognized for Who They Are - exceptional people trying to make the world a better place.

With over 35,000 chartered autonomous Rotary clubs around the world united in advancing the Object of Rotary, it is easy to understand why Past RI President Kalyan is awed by how, individually and collectively, over 1.2 million

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Innovation is a Key to Rotary International's Future

Creating Rotarians is the most important expression of the Object of Rotary, yet this detail is seldom discussed.  I wonder why, because if one critically analyzes successful organizations, it is obvious that they understand and deliver desired value to Them - supporters i.e. those who fund operations.  Supporters make it possible for Rotary clubs and Rotary International (RI) to thrive.  Both must continually be innovative.  Both must understand Rotary's value proposition and how it applies to Them in their realities.
     For example, when IBM decided it wanted to change direction, its president said it needed to get back in touch with Them - its supporters (customers).  The top 50 executives had to visit five customers a week and deliver a write-up to the president. This eyeball-to-eyeball action gave IBM insight into its customers' realities which helped IBM find innovative ways to deliver an enhanced value proposition.  Apple broke out of the mature desktop computer industry by listening to people express the desire to take their computers with them.  Apple found innovative ways to deliver this value and ultimately became the world's largest mobile devices company.
     On the other hand, Kodak, the company that invented cameras, including the digital camera, thought its business was producing and developing film because that is what generated most of its income.  What Kodak supporters were actually buying was the ability to preserve memories.  Not understanding why supporters were buying Kodak products resulted in it filing for bankruptcy.  RI, an association that grew in local Rotary clubs and membership because its objective was to help local business, professional, and community people improve their personal, business, and community lives, began thinking that its purpose was to be an association of charitable service organizations.  Membership began declining in mature major markets, a result of RI not understanding why its supporters joined and stayed in local Rotary clubs.  Many Rotary leaders have come to understand this reality, and that RI should be devoting more resources to delivering its original value proposition to clubs and Rotarians.

Advancing the Object of Rotary is the bedrock upon which RI's international network was founded and grew.  Many Rotary leaders have opened their minds to innovative ideas.  They should continue to do so with eyeball-to-eyeball conversations centering on the realities and needs of clubs and their members - Rotarians.  That is the only way RI will innovate new ways to deliver enhanced value propositions. Rotary clubs are not service organizations.  They are by definition civic welfare organizations. Rotary clubs create Rotarians who advance the Object of Rotary, beginning locally and spreading globally.  Charitable services are a result of Rotarians advancing the Object of Rotary. It begins with developing acquaintances - regardless of generations, genders, or ethnicities - and encouraging them become Rotarians.  Rotary's value proposition - The Object of Rotary - encourages Rotarians to better their personal, business, and community lives starting right where they live, work, and play.  And that is why . . .