All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast

But Like, How Do I Actually Start A Rotary Club?

January 08, 2021 CDS North Americas Season 1 Episode 1
All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast
But Like, How Do I Actually Start A Rotary Club?
Chapters
All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast
But Like, How Do I Actually Start A Rotary Club?
Jan 08, 2021 Season 1 Episode 1
CDS North Americas

In our pilot episode, join host, Nick Taylor in conversation with a Brian Rusch, charter president of the Rotary Club of Global Action District 5150, and fellow RI staff on how you can actually start a Rotary Club.

Show Notes Transcript

In our pilot episode, join host, Nick Taylor in conversation with a Brian Rusch, charter president of the Rotary Club of Global Action District 5150, and fellow RI staff on how you can actually start a Rotary Club.

All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast
1.01: “But Like, How Do I Actually Start A Rotary Club"
Host: Nick Taylor
Guests: Diana Edwards, John Hannes, Brian Rusch

[Intro Music begins]

NICK: Have you ever gone to a new restaurant with a large menu and had a really hard time figuring out what to order? Did you feel a little overwhelmed? It sure does help to go with a friend who can show you what’s good. Well, we want to be your friend who helps you learn about what’s good with starting a new club and how you can do it. On today’s episode of All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast, we will have the opportunity to chat with a few friends about how to start a new Rotary club. Enjoy!

[music ends]

NICK: Welcome, everyone, to the very first episode of All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast. We’re very excited to have some awesome guests on the show today, but before I introduce them I want to give a quick shout out to the sponsor of this episode. Today’s episode is brought to you by Article 3.010 of the Rotary Code of Policies. Oh, man, can’t even get through that. I’m falling asleep already. Let’s cue the music!

[Ad Music] 

NICK: All names begin with the “Rotary Club of”, followed by community or area of interest, but don’t forget that club names shall not include references to [read quickly] ethnicity, gender identity, political viewpoints, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, trademarks, or another organization. Questions about naming your club? Contact your CDS Officer.

[music ends]

NICK: Alright! Now that we got that out of the way, thank you so much for joining today. We have three awesome guests on the show. We have: John Hannes from Club and District Support here at Rotary International; Diana Edwards from Membership Team; and Brian Rusch from San Francisco who recently started a new Rotary club. So that is what we’re gonna talk about today: how to start a new Rotary club. Uh, where to begin? So, let’s start with you John. Quick question. If an individual interested in starting a Rotary club, where’s the first place I should go?

JOHN: That’s great question, and thanks for inviting me to be a part of the conversation. Um, the question is a little tricky, because there are a couple of different routes, in my opinion, of where you could go to begin forming a club. I think that the two main places that I would recommend going would be the Rotary website which is MyRotary.org, in the Learning area, uh Learning and Reference area, there is a section for learning by topic, and one of those topics is membership and it has a number of different resources available there. But, one of them is a guide called ‘Starting a Rotary Club’ and in that space we’ve really broken out, like, all the different steps you would want to follow about formation meetings, about gauging interest from the community, about starting to reach out to people, and then getting organized and going through the process before you turn in your charter application. I think another area that I would recommend somebody work with would be people. Like, other resources would be people. Like, your district governor, and then us on staff. It’s very likely that, maybe it’s likely, hopefully it’s likely that there is some activity already happening in your
district. And so, checking in with a district leader like your governor or if there’s an extension chair, or new club chair, or an advocate for that type of work, to check in with them and make sure that there’s already some energy there, you know, if you don’t want to start all the way from scratch, maybe there’s something already in the works. If not, and if they are aware of your efforts, you then end up with a support team who would help you with the formation process, help find or identify potential members and get them to start making your  informational meetings. And the same thing goes for Rotary staff. If you start talking with your Club and District Support Officers and also your Regional Membership Officers, if your district has one, we’re often times made aware of some potential efforts or where to find all these other resources.

NICK: Excellent! So, I mean you threw around a lot of big words there, right? 

JOHN: Yah!

NICK: Like, with membership chairs and Club and District Support Officers and I mean, frankly, I feel like a lot of people don’t necessarily know who those individuals are, right? And so if you could say like, and I think there are two other things, and Diane and Brian you can chime in if you’ve had experiences with this as well, but there’s the Rotarian starting a new club, and then there’s a new, like, new to Rotary person starting a new club. And I think those are like, kinda two different routes, right? And so for a Rotarian, let’s say they already know the basic structure, who would be the first person that they should reach out to if they’re interested? Just like, one individual. Who do you think?

 BRIAN: For me, when I decided to start a club, the first person I reached out to was somebody who I was super close to in district leadership. So it was a past district governor who took on our club as our district liaison, so she really helped us to navigate these things that I didn’t know about, who at RI to contact, and who the membership person for our district was, and how we could best do that. And so whenever I have questions I reach out to that person first, and she kind of helps me to find the next person to talk to.

 NICK: Perfect, yeah! So she was kind of like a mentor…

 BRIAN: Totally, one hundred percent, yeah.

 NICK: …in that aspect. And what about for somebody who maybe is new to Rotary? Like, where can they kinda start? Same thing, with the My Rotary website?

JOHN: I think so. I think that you’re right, it is kind of tricky to approach this as a non-volunteer or a person who has only an inkling of what the organization is or even its structure. So, to go to somebody and say ‘oh just contact the district governor…’ I anticipate that there are people out there who are kinda like, ‘Uh..a what? A district what?’ And I think anybody that’s listening that is part of Rotary or Rotaract understands, like, the umbrella of Rotary is huge and it’s a lot to pack into an initial conversation. So I think getting them to go to Rotary.org, which is more external facing of a website: My Rotary is really designed for people that are already ‘in,’ that have already understood who we are, or at least have a better understanding of who we are. But, sending them to Rotary.org to see a little bit more about the structure, a little bit more about what it is that Rotary does. There’s a contact us area there that that individual could reach out to staff, and if they say that ‘I’m interested in joining or starting a club,’ we can then begin a conversation or get them connected to people on their behalf. Usually when I get that type of request in Club and District Support, I tend to explain just the basic structure and say, you know, ‘here’s what a district is, and this is why I want to put you in touch with the lead officer in that region who we call a ‘district governor’ And it’s possible, again, that there are already efforts. If not, there’s gonna be some excitement about the idea of starting a new club, so I wanna make sure you get to the right person who can then assemble a team, and then make sure that they have the support and the resources that they need.’ So I think if you are a Rotarian or Rotaractor listening, and you want to start a club, do what I said earlier. If you’re a non-Rotarian, and someone has passed you this podcast, go to Rotary.org and click the ‘Contact Us’ button there.

NICK: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. I mean, in today’s Rotary it’s not this, just, traditional Rotary - I think clubs are having identities, they’re unique, they’re cause-based, there’s a whole new generation of people that they don’t just want to go and have lunch, or go and have dinner, breakfast, whatever may be and hear about, you know, some inspirational speaker...they want to get involved, they want to get connected to something tangible. And so, I could very well see - I think, like what John was saying, a lot of it was designed to have like somebody already within My Rotary start a club. But I could see somebody from a community that may necessarily wants to like, you know, have some sort of organization behind them as they go toward a specific cause, and maybe that specific cause doesn’t exist within an existing Rotary. And so there is that kind of way of doing that. Brian, I know you guys, whenever you decided to create your club, like what was the kind of mindset - like, why did you want to start it? Was there a specific cause you wanted to focus on? etc.

BRIAN: You know, when we started this club I – you know, this is the third club that I’ve been a charter member of, but the first one that I’ve actually initiated the charter. So I was a charter member of the San Francisco Castro which was the first LGBT cultured club, and then later Peninsula Starlight which really focused on community service and how we can really get younger parents, and that kind of thing, involved in Rotary. And, for me, in my non-Rotary life and pre-COVID life I travel a lot and I’m very rarely home, and so I was only making, like, one meeting a month. And so the e-club is really the best sort of format for us, because I was like, “if I’m doing an e-club I can really attend no matter where I am in the world.” And so when I started thinking about what kind of e-club I would want to create I, you know, Rotary is about community - it’s about serving your community – and my community is a global community, you know, the people I interact with on a daily basis are in countries all over the world. So we decided to create a Rotary club that was a global community, and so we created an international club made up of members currently from fourteen different countries, representing six continents, you know I think - I forget how many different languages are initiated - but it was really about how we could bring that group of people together to serve in a community, and focus on international projects and international partnerships in a way that, typically, a local club isn’t able to have access to.

NICK: Yeah, and I think that’s so key, is like taking what the membership wants, right? Like, so often times we think of what we’ve done in the past, and where we’ve been, and we kinda have to model it after that. But now, you know, we’re trying to see what membership wants and in your case scenario, like, you saw a need – there was a global community that definitely wants to get involved, that’s your community, how do you do that – which I think is fantastic. Diana, quick question for Membership in this situation because we have, you know, all these different types of clubs, right? Different models, we’ll say. If somebody’s interested in starting a new club, do they have like – what’s the process of like…how does somebody decide on a model? Do they have to even follow a specific model that’s already been? Could they create their own? Like, could you give us a little bit of information on that?

DIANA: Of course, thank you guys! So let me just circle back a little bit.

NICK: For sure!

DIANA: We have a couple of individuals that, like you said, those people that are very new to Rotary, that don’t know anything about it. And, yes, sending them to My Rotary can be the best, first start. But going to My Rotary can be very overwhelming, because we have so much information on there for individuals. And I would suggest for someone that is very new to Rotary to like, yes, find someone that they can contact with and then go from there as opposed to trying to navigate through all of that information that we have. Find someone in particular, and we will get you to the right person. But, you’re right: we have tons of different club models and types. And what’s so very awesome about Rotary right now is that we’re trying to be very different from what we’ve done in the past, and not trying to follow what we’ve done traditionally. And right now we’re actually kind of forced to do certain things a certain way, right? And so now we’re actually meeting online regularly, like an e-club, but we also – my favorite club is the cause-based club, because that is something.  People are coming in, they have this value, they’re like ‘hey, this is what we’re looking to do - let’s go for it,’ and I think that is a great way to start thinking about what you want to do, what you’re passionate about, and start that because there are maybe some clubs in the area that are not focused on certain things - which is ok! And that’s why we have all of these different options to start different types of Rotary clubs that you may want to begin in your neighborhood or your community.

NICK: Yeah, and I think that’s really key with the cause-based club, because you can get people that can push toward one goal. But, I guess my question is: how do you find other people that, you know, how do you find enough people, right? Like, so according to policy we need 20 individuals to start a Rotary club. So like, Brian, I know you’ve got quite an extensive network, but how did you find 20 people to start this club?

BRIAN: We actually chartered with 26 and it was just me starting to reach out to people and asking them, saying “hey this is what I’m doing,” and I’ve been fortunate, you know, I’ve been in Rotary for, off-and-on, since I was sixteen and a Youth Exchange student, so I have a long history with the organization and it’s part of something that I constantly talk about and share about. And so a lot of people that I know know about my association with Rotary already, so they were a hundred percent on board, and it was fascinating because of the 26 that we have, only four are transfers including myself. So, everybody else is a brand-new member and super excited about it and, you know, really what I have been really focused on is, ‘how do I remove obstacles to becoming a Rotarian?’ and ‘how can we open up our club so, for example, I speak a lot to Rotaract, and how can we create dual members from that?’ And so we’ve changed our dues structure so that we can really encourage Rotaractors to explore what it is to be a Rotarian within our club, but remain in their Rotaract club. You know, another piece is that socio-economically there’s a lot of people who are members of my club who couldn’t afford to be a Rotarian, frankly, you know they might make two hundred dollars a month in the country that they live in, so just the Rotary dues are cost-prohibitive. And so, we’ve actually been really fortunate where people in my district have actually stepped up to sponsor other members, and so we can actually bring these people in who become amazing Rotarians – they’re doing amazing things in their communities, and they just couldn’t afford to be a Rotarian in their community because it just wasn’t allowed. And so, really we’ve been trying to do whatever we can to say ‘hey, if this is…’ you know, we meet two different times of a month. So one meeting will be in the evening and one will be in the morning and that’s really to accommodate the time zones, so that if it’s 4 AM where you are during one meeting, at least you know that it’s going to be 6 PM during the next meeting – to really do whatever we can to help people get into that.

DIANA: Yeah, Brian, also I’d like to add to that, when you’re saying, ‘just ask someone.’ But also a great way to attract new members is if you have some service projects that other people can serve in their community. Bring those guests to certain meetings: you can do an advertisement in the newspaper or, you know, TV or something. But also, a good way I keep hearing from different clubs is contacting with their Chamber of Commerce, and just getting that information out there about what they’re actually doing, is a great way to attract new members as well.

BRIAN: I have to say too, with the ‘asking someone,’ I think it’s really key with Rotaractors. I, you know, both with existing clubs and with new clubs I, you know, when I talk with people they’re like, ‘how are you getting Rotaractors involved?’ and I’m like, ‘I’m asking them.’ and they’re like, ‘well we need more young people,’ and I’m like, ‘well are you asking them to join?’ And, a hundred percent – and when I talk to Rotaractors I’m like, ‘how often has someone asked you to be part of a club?’ and never, like, most Rotaractors have never been asked to join a Rotary club. And that just boggles my mind, because I’m like, [laughing] ‘this is…this is a group of people who’s already on’ – it’s not like we have to go out and find people that are sold on Rotary. They’re sold on Rotary – so let’s get them in to Rotary.

DIANA: [laughing] I think many are intimidated by Rotaractors to be honest! They’re like, ‘wait a minute.’

BRIAN: It takes a lot to intimidate me! [laughter]

[JOHN and NICK overlapping]

JOHN: I think there’s – 

NICK: No, but I – go ahead, John, yeah.

JOHN: But, yeah, I do think that’s such a good point, though. I joined a Rotary club eight years ago, and I’ve been with the club of Chicago Lakeview that entire time, and I remember going out on different events and - maybe this will get cut from the podcast, I don’t know - it might be too real for some people. But I would go out on work trips and be in space where the whole point was just to encourage people to walk up and ask somebody ‘um, are you part of Rotary?’ and then the recipient, or the responder, would say like, ‘no’ and then the person’s response would be like [chuckle] ‘why not?’ And so my, like, twisted humor would always be to reply to them, ‘well, nobody’s asked me yet.’ And they spent so much time training themselves to ask the ‘why not’ question, that they didn’t know how to answer or address the other response that could have come, which is mine, like ‘nobody’s asked me.’ And so I was on a work trip with a colleague who works for The Rotary Foundation, and she was standing at the table with me and heard me doing this back-and-forth and finally she was kind of like, ‘well I’m asking you,’ and I was like, ‘but then my joke doesn’t work anymore!’ But that’s what got me involved, like, I was just waiting for somebody to ask me and it’s been eight years I’ve been part of this group. And I think as Diana was pointing out, and as Brian has shown us in the example of his new club, a cause-based club is such an interesting thing for me, as somebody who’s been on staff for a decade now. But, then, also just watch the organization evolve. I’ve seen so many clubs that I’ve either visited with or have been a part of in Chicago Lakeview that go through a sort of visioning process, or go through this process to identify themselves and figure out who they are for their community - and a lot of times that happens after they’ve done years of service, after they’ve done fifty or sixty different types of service projects and somebody asks, ‘well who are you, what do you do?’ And so to take that opportunity from the beginning and say ‘well this is what our cause is,’ you already hit the ground running, you’ve already got a game plan in place, where a lot of traditional clubs might be figuring that kind of stuff out along the way. So, I just think it’s such a cool, exciting approach to starting a club.

NICK: So I think, yeah, thanks John, I think that’s really great. And I feel like, speaking from a different generation, right, like I feel like maybe in older generations it’s easier to kinda sign up for these types of organizations and just, you know, you agree to it and you kinda just go all-in where I feel think a lot of younger generations – because we’re talking about Rotaractors, here, we’re talking about diversifying your membership, etc. – it’s one thing to be like, ‘hey we have a cause, we’re gonna work towards this specific thing,’ and as an individual, maybe a non-Rotarian, I’m gonna say like, ‘yeah that sounds great!’ because there is, there’s culture. Brian you talked about the dues, there’s hurdles, that once you become a Rotarian that maybe you didn’t think about. So, how do you…how do you approach those types of things with new members?

DIANA: I think one great way to start is to actually meet people where they are. I think, you know, sometimes Rotarians have this expectation of individuals and new members come in and they’re not meeting that, and so they don’t feel that they’re in the right place. And so, yes, actually they are and being open to new ideas that they want to share. And so being open and listening to what these new members are bringing to a traditional club. And, just being warm to people – because I can say that I’ve actually visited a few clubs that was just like, ‘uh…no. I would never.’ [laughing] Right? So I like, what…what is happening here? And I think that we miss that mark for those individuals that are coming in, that are trying to find some value, and because we’re asking so much of their time it’s like, ‘what is it that I’m going to be getting from being here every day?’ And that is what we have to look at. So, being able to be open and – yeah, being open to different ideas and new advantages for new members.

NICK: Perfect! Brian, you mentioned that, you know, with the dues structure you were able to kinda show some flexibility and support that way. Did you have any other issues with some of – I think you mentioned twenty-two new members to your club?

BRIAN: Yeah, twenty-two of them are new. You know, I’ve just tried to really listen to what other – it’s kind of this tricky situation, right, because you’re starting a club and so the club is somewhat a reflection of you, the person starting it, but you also want it to reflect the membership because that’s how you’re gonna retain people, right? And it’s sort of this weird balancing act, like, ‘how do I…how do I get these people that want to be part of it because they know me,’ versus ‘how do I get them to stay because they’re super into Rotary.’ And so what I’ve really been trying to do is give people opportunities to do what they want to do, and you know, I’m really – if you visit one of the Rotary Global Action meetings, we have one of the most diverse club membership that you’ll ever see. I’m thrilled – I only have three members that are over the age of fifty. [laughing] You know? And I’ve got – most of them are in their thirties and forties, and then the twenties. And my youngest is twenty-two and he’s on our board; my oldest is seventy-two, also on my board, and to be able to see them interact and work together – because that inter-generational piece is also really important – because, while there’s such a focus on getting young membership, I feel like there’s such a wisdom from what people who have been in Rotary a long time offer that they can also bring and share with the rest of the club. And so we’ve really been trying to bring this education piece, but not overwhelm people with it – and how they can really get involved in the way that they want to. And I find that, like again, back to the ‘asking’ if I just ask people like, ‘hey, are you interested in taking this on?’ nine times out of ten they say ‘yes.’ And if they say ‘no,’ it’s not because they’re not interested - it’s just because the bandwidth, or whatever, the timing is bad for them. And so, I really, that’s been one of the biggest things. The financial thing has been an obstacle, but my district has been amazing. They actually waived district dues for every new member this year during COVID, and that was partially because they’re recognizing that there are some issues with people financially. And then, I also got them to waive district dues for a period of three years or until a Rotaractor turns thirty, when a Rotaractor is a dual member. And so, I’m just, you know, I’m trying to - I work closely with my district leadership on how we can come up with ways to sort of make this, again, remove the obstacles so that people can do it.

JOHN: I do think that’s such an important thing to share, like, I really feel that for people of a certain generation the field or the market is just flooded with opportunities to be charitable. There’s so many posts on social media, there are so many opportunities to give five bucks, give ten bucks here and there and you’ve done your part. But I think that the attractive part for starting a Rotary club or being a part of a Rotaract club, or both, is that you get to actually take action and be a part of something more than just putting money into a fund somewhere. I mean that exists – you can still be a club that does that! You can be a check-writing club, and that’s very helpful. But there’s an opportunity in a Rotary club for you to step up and become a leader, or to hone those skills that you’ve been trying to get where these other organizations might not offer that for you. So being asked to take on a role, or just stepping up and taking on that role, gives you that chance in a little bit more of a safe of an environment. You’ve got other, like-minded people there who are willing to support your project or support your idea, because you’re all in this club together. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work! But, at least you had that opportunity and a chance to grow from that - figure out what didn’t work, what you can adjust for next time, and so on.

BRIAN: I think, too, that it’s, you know – I hear a lot because we meet with the other presidents and I’m constantly hearing issues with, ‘oh, COVID is horrible for us - all these horrible things are happening, and we can’t do our fundraisers, and we can’t do this, and we can’t get there and do our projects,’ and I think honestly COVID for - for my club but also, I think, for a lot of clubs it’s – it’s a blessing. There’s things that are happening now because of COVID. I mean, the technology – being able to push that forward for clubs is amazing. You know, we did a launch party and President Holger Knaack was our speaker at this party. And that was really just to get people interested in what we were doing. But that never would have happened in a regular world [laughing] you know, I mean it’s – there’s opportunities that are there, and it’s just about being able to pivot and see like, what, how can we do this? And whether it’s a new club or existing club, how can we actually create these opportunities to take advantage of what COVID’s offering? You know, fundraisers we’ve – there’s a whole host of ways that you can do fundraisers online in this new world, and so I think that it’s…while I think that that was an obstacle when we first started looking at it, really there’s…it’s just allowing you to look at things through a different perspective, and how we can make the most of it. And, actually, it’s…I think it’s going to be, you know, we have one of the bigger clubs in my district, now, because of that. Because it’s allowing us to…or not - one of the bigger, newer clubs. But it’s allowing us to do things in ways that nobody’s ever done before.

NICK: So this brings up two, quick questions. Brian, you started your club in COVID. In a pandemic, right? Where most people – like, I think a common thing that we’ve heard from the people that we work with, the volunteers, is that, you know, ‘oh, well - new clubs, new membership we’re just going to have to wait until the pandemic’s over because you can’t get together, you can’t meet, you can’t promote,’ etc. Do you see your club changing at all, post-pandemic? Or, do you feel like the structure that you’ve set up now is sustainable for the long run?

BRIAN: The structure regarding meetings will stay the same, I think, for the long run and, you know, we do special events pretty much every month or every-other-month where we have speakers come in from around the world. You know, we’ve had the CEO of the Mandela Foundation, President-nominee Jennifer Jones has joined us. We have our charter event coming up, and it’s got, you know, musical guests from around the world who are GRAMMY winners which, that…in a real, again, in a real-life situation would be much harder to make that a reality. I think how it will change after COVID is that that interaction of members will happen more in-person because, really, my membership is – it is a community around the globe, and they do travel, they do tend to get together, and so I think that we will see more actual, hand-on projects in the areas. But you know, one of the great things about that – one of the great things about Rotary is that you have…you always have a club someplace that you can partner with. But one of the great things about my club is when we do a project, we have a member in those countries that we can be doing stuff in and we can partner with. And we can still partner with local clubs, but it’s allowing us an opportunity to have a little bit more contact with what we’re actually doing in those areas.

DIANA: Can I add to that? So, Brian I think you made a few great points - especially with what’s happening right now with the pandemic - is that we have so many different options right now, and I think that when, maybe, when the pandemic ends I think what many Rotarians have…will figure out is that ‘we can do something different.’ Like, ‘we’re able to, like, meet on Zoom,’ ‘we don’t have to have, you know, pay that amount of money to host these afternoon or morning breakfasts or lunch. You know, we can do something different with the funds that we have, and we have…we’re accessible to all these different Rotary clubs that are in another country with going through this Zoom!’ And so, I think that also there – they have the opportunity to do so many different fundraisers like you said, Brian. Like, I think it’s that the Rotarians have to adjust and say, ‘hey, this can be done.’ We’re seeing it happening, and they just have to step forward and make the moves on it. BRIAN: And it also allows, and I think Nick, I think you know a little bit about this – but it’s allowing things, and something I’m really proud of, that, you know, we’re allowing members in places where Rotary currently isn’t allowed to establish clubs to be members of our club, you know, and so we actually have one of the first Cuban members in many years because he’s able to join an e-club even though they can’t have a presence in Cuba. And so, you know, we’ve been looking at that in The Middle East. You know, one of the women that has joined us from The Middle East isn’t allowed to join her local club because they don’t have women in their club. And so, really, you know, this format is really allowing us to open up what it means to be a Rotarian and how Rotarians can actually do it. And all that’s, frankly, because of COVID. We wouldn’t – I wouldn’t have even bothered starting a club before. Like, somebody told me I was going to be a president, and I’m like, ‘I’m never gonna be a president, I have no interest in that.’ And now I’ve got two years, so… [laughter]

NICK: Yeah, no absolutely. And, I think you’re right – I think the key takeaway for this portion of the discussion is to just not be afraid. You know, don’t be afraid to take a risk; don’t be afraid to try and start a club. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen, you know? You only get 10 people? Well, let’s start a satellite club – which will be a topic for a future episode, so stay tuned for that! Before we move on, though, John – quick question for you. 

JOHN: Yeah?

NICK: So, with all these changes with, you know, everything that you’re doing with club flexibility, how do you make it more permanent within your club? Like, are there bylaws that we can write this into? Like, can it actually become a structure of the club? Do you mind explaining that, briefly?

JOHN: Yeah, absolutely! I think, uh…before I do that - I do want to say something a little controversial… 

NICK: Right –

JOHN: …if I can…

NICK: Go for it!

JOHN: Ok, there, buckle…is everyone sitting down? I do think that even though there is all this flexibility, I think there still is room for some traditional elements. Or, maybe that is appealing to some people – to have, sort of, that regularity or that regular weekly, or by-weekly meeting. The beauty of Rotary at this point in time, though, is that you can still do that but then also enhance certain elements, or change certain elements so that you still get that community or that feeling. And that leads into exactly what you were just describing. All of those things, all of those enhancements or changes get captured in a club’s bylaws. And so, on Rotary’s website, in our Learning and Reference area, we have a section for Governance Documents that includes things like – and this is probably familiar language with Rotarians, for non-Rotarians you’ll learn about it, I guess, in a little bit – but the Manual of Procedure, which includes the constitutional documents of the organization. The Standard Club Constitution, which is what all clubs around the world adhere to. And that document gets updated over time, amended by Rotarians at an event that takes place every three years, which could be a whole other podcast. So, [laughing] for the purposes of this one…

NICK: It will be!

JOHN: Oh, great! Awesome! [laughter] I will tune in for that one, too! With the bylaws, though, that really personalizes the experience for that individual club. It takes what the Standard Constitution, which will say things like, ‘this club will have meetings,’ – not in those exact words, but the idea is there. In the bylaws you say, ‘yep that’s right – we’re gonna have meetings and it will be on the first and third Thursday of the month,’ or ‘we’ll have a meeting on the first Thursday of the month, and then a project on the third Thursday,’ something like that. And so that’s where you can either adhere to tradition, or expand and become a little more flexible. That’s where you build in things like the different membership types, or your dues structure – which Brian described a little bit earlier. The neat thing about bylaws is that not one person can agree to them, and not one person is in charge of them – it’s really a group effort. You have to get your whole club, every single person in that body, together on those changes or on those bylaws. And we have an example set out on My Rotary called the ‘Recommended Rotary Club Bylaws’ – those are meant to just be an outline. You can leave them as bare-bones as they are, or you can expand them all the way out. But, any time you make a change to them – even in the formation process, even in becoming a Rotary club – make sure that you got the buy-in from all of your membership.

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NICK: Perfect! Well, thanks so much! I think that’s a great place for us to kind of wrap this up. Yeah, key takeaways: let’s keep starting new clubs; let’s not be afraid; let’s, you know, use our resources who you know. And, uh, we’ll keep going with this! But thank you so much John, thank you Brian, thank you Diana so much for joining us today on the first episode of All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast. And tune-in for the next one, coming soon!

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NICK: Alright, thanks for tuning in to today’s episode! If you enjoyed it, please feel free to like and subscribe. To access the resources we mentioned in today’s podcast, check out our CDS Americas Facebook page. Thanks again, and tune-in next month for the next episode.

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