Club Members, Public Image, Public Relations, Rotarians, Rotary, Rotary Club, Rotary District 5190, Rotary International, Tom Peters
by Paul Kiser
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In 2003, Tom Peters wrote Re-Imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age. In that book, Mr. Peters takes a visionary look at business and our culture that confronts the traditional…and remarkably stupid concepts of the modern working world. His words have foretold many of the new realities we see unfolding around us.
Recently I have had to face up to some hard realities about Rotary. Rotary is a great organization, but the organization is being held back by an old skin that needs to be shed. Rotary’s membership issues cannot be solved unless RI’s President Ray Klinginsmith’s suggestion of ‘keep what works and drop what doesn’t,’ is absorbed into the organization’s DNA. It’s time we Re-Imagined Rotary, so I will offer up my view of what I would change about Rotary to re-vitalize the organization from bottom to top.
Rotary International (RI)
Club Members should be RI members. Currently Clubs are members of RI, but the Rotarians in the clubs are not. I’m sure there is a rational legal reason for the wall of separation and I know the history, but there is a negative symbol created by the divide between Rotarians and the parent organization.
Council on Legislation (CoL) should be abolished and organizational changes taken directly to Clubs. Currently the Council on Legislation meets once every three years. In a world of rapid change and flattening of hierarchical structure, the CoL is a dinosaur. A significant problem with the CoL is that to be a representative you must be a Past District Governor, and while we have some very smart and forward-thinking Past District Governors, we also have some Past District Governors who see themselves as Cardinal’s in the Church of Traditional Thinking. Change needs to come from the Clubs and a handful of amendments could be presented to the clubs on a monthly basis for voting via the Internet. Discussions for and against the amendments could be made via linked blogs.
Decentralize most of RI. Face-to-face contact is valuable, but often an organization’s headquarters develops a ‘bunker mentality’ which does not serve in the best interest of the whole. VoIP phones, the Internet and webinars can bring people around the world together as well as people in cubicles, in fact, often the Internet tools do a better job in creating an environment of sharing ideas.
Every RI employee has to be a Club member. I don’t know if this is currently required or not, but my feeling is that the paid staff of RI can serve the organization of better if they see Rotary from the viewpoint of being a Club member.
Zone and District
Eliminate the PDG monopoly. Rotary has a wealth of knowledgeable people but all the significant discussions and decisions are made behind doors labeled, “Past District Governors ONLY.” It is not a system of decision-making that brings all the talent to the table. Some of my best friends are PDG’s and I have great admiration for what all of them have contributed to the organization; however, when tackling a problem such as years of declining membership, the people who have dedicated themselves to Rotary and have been rewarded with significant prestige of office, may not be the best people to address why others don’t ‘get’ Rotary.
All Zone and District Leaders must write blogs. Rotary is great in sending out emails and finding people to speak at meetings, but the organization is still in the dark ages when it comes to communicating. Emails just fill up the Inbox and get buried among all the other emails. The concept of ‘just-in-time’ information is not well understood in Rotary. Blogs put information that is Google searchable and readily available when someone needs it. Blogs can offer information, ask questions, or begin a discussion. Blogs allow each club to absorb the information at their own pace.
Zone and District Leaders are consultants, not Lords. This really isn’t a problem for most Zone and District Leaders because most of them approach their position as a consultant for the organization; however, we still have a few leaders who are insulted when some insolent Rotarian suggests a different concept or idea from their own. I have a list of them in our District, and I know I’m on their list.
District Conference and Assembly to be held on the same weekend. It is such a basic idea to increase participation, give respect to the member’s time, and improve the value of both functions that it shouldn’t be an issue, yet it is vehemently opposed by some Past District Governors.
No Club to be chartered without a website. Today, no business or non-profit is taken seriously as a legitimate organization unless they have a website. Any club that wishes to be chartered should start with a website for the provisional club to answer questions, inform, and create methods of contact with the organizers of the club. Once a club is formed the website becomes the 24/7/365 presence for the club. It is so basic to survival it has to be mandatory.
Club member immersion in Social Media. Rotary has always been about creating connections between people and Social Media is the greatest tool ever invented to do exactly that. It is not about one Social Media savvy member creating a Facebook page, but about all members logging in and using the page. All committee meetings, announcements, social events, and projects should be posted on a Facebook page by the person in charge of that activity. The fear that many of our members have about Social Media is a telling indicator of how quickly Rotary is falling out of the real world.
Absolute adherence to the no religion and no politics policy established in the Constitution. Rotary is an organization of business professionals and that should be our public image. Unfortunately, some clubs have a public image of being a sub-organization of a certain religion or a certain political view. If people want to join a church or a political party they can and will, but Rotary is not a place for members to further their personal religious or political beliefs.
A greater focus on Vocational development. Rotary should be a place where smart business people get smarter. Incorporating business seminars into to Club meetings and District Conferences should be standard practice. Rotarians can and should be experts in the latest technology, management and business practices. Some clubs do this, many do not.
Clubs must have a significant focus on the inclusion of family members. Our organization tends to ignore business professionals with children because we have so many members without children. Many Club social activities don’t involve ‘kid and/or teen-friendly’ activities. The status quo is a great way to keep Rotary’s membership in decline.
Club members must be interconnected with other Area clubs. In any community all Rotary clubs should offer a united and coordinated front. I think Rotary is getting better about creating connections between clubs, but this connection should go deeper than just the Club Presidents. Every club member should recognize that they are part of a larger force in their community that includes all Rotary clubs. Good natured competition is great, but petty rivalries between local clubs should be dealt with immediately by District and Area Leadership.
Do or Die Time
I am absolutely convinced that Rotary driving towards a cliff. We either have to make a major change in direction or we will go off the cliff. We are being eaten alive by a monster that is consuming our will to change. We either confront the monster or we die.
Rotary played a major role in my life for the last 9 1/2 years and I have come to appreciate the beauty that arose out of a simple concept of business professionals joining forces for good. I have a profound respect for what Paul Harris created with this simple concept but I fear that he would be very anxious about the fact that Rotary has failed to attract young professionals in most clubs. For Paul Harris and the good of all Rotarians, Rotary must change. It is time to Re-Imagine Rotary and shed the old skin that encumbers the organization.
Business: Public Relations, Management, and Social Media Related
- Facebook and Twitter Doomed? …Chicken Crap
- 5 reasons why you shouldn’t title your blog with number reasons
- A Question of Ethics
- HR/Security Hot Topic: Should you watch your employee’s personal Internet activities? (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.)
- Relationship Typing: 3 factors that affect the quality and depth of friendship (Part I)
- Starbucks Re-Imagines the business … again
- Your Privacy Rights on the Internet: Read before you write
- Social Media 3Q Update: Who uses Facebook, Twitter,LinkedIn, and MySpace?
- Richmond Embassy Suites: The best at true Hospitality
- Dear Business Person: It’s 2010, please update your brain.
- Selling watered-down beer: The best spin campaign in advertising
- Communication: Repetition of message does not increase awareness
- Is it time to fire yourself?
- Millennium Hotel: Go away, spend your money elsewhere
- Rogue Flight Attendant shows his arrogance, Airlines dislike for the customer
- 2Q 2010 Social Media Tools: Facebook/Twitter sail on, LinkedIn/MySpace don’t
- War Declared on Social Media: Desperate Acts of Traditional Media
- Pay It Middle: The Balance between Too Much and Too Little Compensation
- Mega Executive Pay Leads to Poor Performance
- Relationships and Thin-Slicing: Why the other person knows what you’re really thinking
- Browser Wars: Internet Explorer losing, Google Chrome gaining ground
- WiFi on Southwest Airlines: Is it ‘Shovel Ready’?
- Starbucks makes a smart move: Free WiFi
- Foul Play: FIFA shows what less regulation offers to business
- The Shock of the McChrystal Story: The story is over before the article is published
- Tony Hayward: The very model of a modern Major General
- Epic Fail: PR ‘Experts’ don’t get Twitter
- King of Anything: Social Media vs Traditional Media
- Twitter is the Thunderstorm of World Thought
- Signs of the Times
- How Social Interactive Media Could Transform Higher Education
- How to Become a Zen Master of Social Media
- Death of All Salesmen!
- Aristotle’s General Rules on Social Media
- Social Media: What is it and Why Should You Care?
- Social Media 2020: Keep it Personal
- Social Media 2020: Who Shouldn’t Be Teaching Social Media
- Social Media 2020: Public Relations 2001 vs Social Media Relations 2010
- Social Media 2020: Who Moved My Public Relations?
- Publishing Industry to End 2012
- Who uses Facebook, Twitter, MySpace & LinkedIn?
- Fear of Public Relations
- Dissatisfiers: Why John Quit
- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…Oh My!
- Does Anybody Really Understand PR?
- Rotary@105: 7 Relationship types that affect membership retention (Part II)
- What most non-Rotarians don’t know about Rotary
- Rotary@105: Making Rotary Sexy
- Rotary@105: Grieving change
- How Rotary can..must..will plug into Social Media
- Rotary PR: Disrespecting the Club President is a PR/Membership issue
- Rotary Membership/Public Image Challenge
- Rotary New Year: Retread or Renaissance?
- Rotary@105: A young professionals networking club?
- One Rotary Center: A home for 1.2 million members
- Rotary@105: What BP Could Learn from the 1914 Rotary Code of Ethics
- Rotary Magazine Dilemma Reveals the Impact of Social Media
- Rotary@105: April 24th – Donald M. Carter Day
- Rotary@105: What kind of animal is Rotary International?
- Rotary: The Man in the Yellow Hat as the Ideal Club President?
- Rotary@105: Our 1st Rotary Club Dropout
- Rotary Public Relations and Membership: Eight Steps to a Team Win
- Rotary: All Public Relations is Local
- Best Practices: Become a Target!
Personal Experience Related
- Knowing when it’s over or beyond over
- Dear Teresa Laraba, SVP of Southwest Airlines Customer Service
- Things I didn’t know about being a Father to a four-year-old boy
- Riding Reno: The Ladies of Reno
- Up in the air down in Texas
- I mow my lawn because…
- Nevada I-580: An Interstate by any other name
- Nevada’s oldest brewery opens a Reno location
- Two Barbecues and a Wedding
- Car Dealership Re-Imagines Customer Service
Our Country and History Related
- Sandoval/Reid campaign money not a stimulus for Nevada
- Nevada’s Best Kept Secret: #1 in Crime
- The Vultures Start Circling on Election Day
- The Quality of Mercy: Tea Party seeks its pound of flesh
- I’m not angry, nor am I stupid … and I voted
- Point of Confusion
- What I’m not buying this year
- Nevada: State of Disaster
- Thank you, Mr. President
- America’s Hostile Takeover of Mexico
Judi Beard-Strubing said:
Very thought-provoking! I’d like to find a way to use these points as “discussion starters.”
Paul Kiser said:
Thank you! I wish you luck on creating discussions about these topics. You are a forward-thinking Rotarian and I truly appreciate you, and those like you who explore new ideas and concepts for the sake of keeping Rotary as a relevant organization in the 21st Century. Stay tuned for Part II.
graham Cargill said:
Down here in little old New Zealand I came across your blog.I have been tasked within our Rotary Club with the job of using ” SOCIAL NETWORKS ” to pull or push our club into the current century.I would be interested in your thoughts on how we might go about it. Our club has a web site and has been given carte blanche to change how we do things.I will keep you informed on what the club has in mind and what we intend to do.
Your thoughts and ideas are right on the button.
CHRISTCHURCH SUNRISE ROTARY
Paul Kiser said:
Thanks for your comments. You and almost every other Rotary club faces the same issue: adapting to a new world while still retaining those who don’t want to give up the old world. There is no easy answer and change is always painful. The first problem I believe is to remove the fear of failure. In business we often stick with what works because it is safe and familiar; however, any business that sticks to the safe and familiar is measuring their own grave. This is also true in organizations like Rotary.
I should have told you that I am no longer in Rotary. I resigned in Dec. 2010. That doesn’t mean I don’t still have a strong attachment to Rotary and its future. That being said, I have been asked if I would consider returning and I still decline the very honorable offer. Rotary is in conflict right now. The RI leadership still is infused with those who desperately hang on to the back-slapping, good ole boy hierarchy that has put the organization in peril. At the same time RI also has some great people who genuinely seek to understand how we can not only keep our current membership, but change the club-level organization to meet the needs of the 21st century business person. That is a daunting task.
When I was a child, most successful business ‘men’ were over 45 and white. Rotary naturally targeted those people because they were the business leaders. Now a successful business person might be male or female, almost any age, and almost any race. Rotary was slow to catch onto the changing demographics in business especially at the club level. The reason is simple. When a person is considering people they would like to recruit they tend to look for people who look and think like they do. This is oversimplifying the issue, but I have seen it again and again in Rotary clubs I have had the pleasure of visiting.
You can’t tell a group of 60+ business men that they have to join Facebook, but the future Rotary club will probably use Facebook and Twitter as the primary communication with members. The Club Bulletin is a dinosaur and one that clubs often struggle to keep current.
Regarding your website. I can tell a lot about a club from their website. I can tell a lot about any organization by its website. If it consists of mostly static pages that could have been written three years ago, or yesterday, then the organization has not committed itself to the digital reality. A club website that talks about events in the last six months and upcoming six months is the minimum requirement for a web presence. The website has to be written to engage the casual reader who just found a link to the club website about some project and then becomes curious about everything else about the club. Generic statements about club projects don’t engage the reader to find out more. A page that talks about the adventures of a student who was sent to Brazil for a year as part of the Rotary YES program might cause a parent of a teenager to take notice and want to learn more. Maybe even want to join that club.
I’ve looked at your website and you have some info that is current (I see you’re the co-chair for programs.) But most of the information seems to be general information, not what is coming up. Your calender for July just shows club meetings, but no information on the programs. On August 3rd the Addington School Breakfast BBQ is listed. That’s great. I suspect I know the significance of that, but for a non-Rotarian the idea that the club is meeting at a school may mean nothing. I tried to push clubs in our district to try and have meeting speakers planned for at least three weeks in advance and have info on the website to explain some basic information about that speaker or event.
I’ve just scratched the surface here, but at least you have some of my thoughts. I hope I haven’t been too critical. Feel free to contact me via Skype (we can arrange a time) and I’ll be happy to talk with you more. I’m Kiserrotary on Skype.
Good luck this year…and let’s keep the shaking down to a minimum down there. 🙂