All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast

But Like, Why Aren't More People Talking About Satellite Clubs?

April 13, 2021 CDS Americas Season 1 Episode 4
All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast
But Like, Why Aren't More People Talking About Satellite Clubs?
Show Notes Transcript

With so many different club models available, it is easy to forget the impact a satellite club can have. Join us for a conversation about how Satellite Clubs can be a foundation for accessibility and opportunity for new members to Rotary.

Host: Nick Taylor, Club and District Support Associate Officer

Andile Songo, member of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis and founding member of the soon to be Rotary Satellite Club of Indianapolis West

Jeff Lake, member of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis and Assistant Governor

Andrez Perez, Club and District Support Associate Officer

Sarah Steacy, Club and District Support Associate Officer
John Hannes, Club and District Support Senior Officer

All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast
1.04: “But Like, Why Aren't More People Talking About Satellite Clubs?”
Host: Nick Taylor
Guests: Jeff Lake, Andile Songo, Andrez Perez
Produced by: Sarah Steacy, John Hannes, Andrez Perez

[Intro Music begins]

EXCERPT: So from a vision perspective, you know, we got it started with predominantly people I had met - there's a few family members as well - but the idea is to become the beacon, you know, where we can then put up signage and say "there's a club on Indy's west side that meets every Wednesday," and then attract as many people as we can from as many diverse backgrounds. I think that is what we're trying to achieve here on the west side.

[Music swells]

NICK: E-club. Cause-based. Passport. There's so many different club models available. But when was the last time you thought about starting a satellite club? Satellite clubs are all about accessibility, opportunity, and being a great foundation for your future in Rotary. But, hey, don't take my word for it! Keep listening to hear how the Rotarians from Indianapolis are using satellite clubs to revolutionize what they do. 

This episode is brought to you by Article 8, Section 4 of the Standard Rotary Club Constitution.

[Music fades]

NICK: Welcome, everyone to episode number four of All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast. We're very excited to have this excellent show here for you today. Got a couple new friends on the show, a couple great guests, and we want to take the opportunity right now to introduce themselves. So first, and foremost, we have our friend Andrez Perez who is from Club and District Support. Andrez, if you want to go ahead and introduce yourself?

ANDREZ: Yeah, thanks so much for having me Nick! I am Andrez and I work with John Hannes, who some listeners might have heard in the very first episode. We kind of represent the area from, I would say, about Maryland or Delaware up until about Nebraska, kind of like that, sort of, area horizontally. And we help interpret the Rotary constitutional documents, help provide Rotary resources, also navigating through My Rotary, and - the main part of what we're here today is - our operational procedures such as starting a satellite club.

NICK: Excellent! Thanks so much, Andrez. And we have our two Rotarian guests with us, as well. Andile Songo, if you don't mind introducing yourself and telling us a little bit how you got involved with Rotary.

ANDILE: Ah, thank you so much Nick! My name is Andile Songo, currently resident in Indianapolis. I'm originally from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe. I got involved in Rotary back in Bulawayo in 2002 - the Rotary District 9210 was having their District Conference in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I was in high school then and we helped, basically, as ushers, you know, and gophers as members of an Interact club. You know? So, from there, that's where I learned all about Rotary, I joined various different clubs after that. I was a member of Rotaract and a member of Rotary clubs before I came to the United States. When I then moved to Indianapolis in 2018, I put in an application to join the Rotary Club of Indianapolis and that is where, then, I was interviewed and the whole idea of a satellite club was then introduced at a later stage, and I think we'll get into that detail as we, as we progress.

NICK: Absolutely. Well, fantastic! Great hearing a little bit more about your experience, I didn't know that it went so far back - all the way to Interact - which is really interesting to hear, so thank you for sharing that Andile!


NICK: And then we also have Jeff Lake from the Rotary Club of Indianapolis, if you don't mind introducing yourself.

JEFF: Sure, thank you Nick! My name's Jeff Lake and I've been a Rotarian for a little over 30 years, now. Spent many years as a Rotarian in Evansville, Indiana before moving to Indianapolis in 2008. And, currently, I'm an assistant governor - I'm also the district chair for the creation of new clubs in our district, and I just have been around Rotary and many different aspects of it over the years - including our club's foundation. So I have a wide variety of interests within Rotary.

NICK: Absolutely! Well, if you can't tell already, our guests today are locked and loaded and full of great information that they're going to share with us, so I'm really excited to get going. So, first of all, let's talk about what we're talking about today: the formation of a satellite club. Which is a slightly different process than the formation of a Rotary club. So, Andrez if you don't mind going ahead and giving us a little bit of background and the logistics of what a satellite club actually is.

ANDREZ: Yeah, absolutely! So, when we're discussing a satellite club we are essentially discussing an extension of an already established club. So satellite clubs, unlike a Rotary club, you don't need 20 members to start one. You can start with 8 members, as little as 8 members, and then just go on from there. And, what we were hoping to help with this, sort of, model is to allow Rotarians to have a couple different ways to, well, essentially do many various things. Let's say a club that you enjoy being a part of is meeting at a time that you may no longer have the option to attend - you can still be a part of that club by being part of a satellite club under that club, that Rotary club, and then just still join in whenever you're able to. It also allows members to focus on some community projects that maybe are a little more specific to a smaller group of Rotarians while still being a part of a parent club.

NICK: Excellent! Yeah, so with only having the need to have 8 members to start the Rotary club, right? That - er, the satellite club, that's kind of like the biggest difference. And then, like you said, going from there there's usually different needs and wants and it's a great way to kinda introduce people into Rotary and not, you know, have that full-on Rotary club - especially if they're not sure they want to start a Rotary club. So it's a little bit less risk. Andile, you kind of alluded to it earlier, but I'd love to hear a little bit about why, you know - so you started with the Rotary Club of Indianapolis, and how did this idea of forming a satellite club kind of start?

ANDILE: I think the idea to set up the satellite club on the Indy west side was two-fold. I think the first one, of course, is, I think, historically there was a club on the west side and there wasn't one anymore. So I think it was just to, sort of, extend the, you know, geographic footprint of the club. And the second one was, sort of, to form and incubator I think. We're looking at it as an incubator for, sort of, a - you know, allowing people to easy in to Rotary. I think if - those of use who've been involved in Rotary in some form or another for many years know that there's just so much to do. Which often makes the question, that "What is Rotary?" very difficult to answer. So, for example, the club we've started on the west side has got not only the geographic focus, but it's also mainly the members are an immigrant sort of membership. And the focus is around that, sort of, world services working back towards home, you know. But, I think it, for us, provided a very nice entry into the bigger club for a lot of people.

NICK: Mhmm! And Jeff, last time we spoke, you mentioned a little bit about, like, how you pitch this idea to somebody. I think, like, Andile, you just alluded to it as well that there's a lot to Rotary, right? And so when you're going to somebody and you're saying, "Hey! Do you want to join Rotary?" I mean, there's a lot of layers - and so there's a lot that goes with that. So with both Jeff and Andile, when you're trying to get new members specifically for this type of club, what does that look like? How are you approaching them?

JEFF: Well I think, and I'll let Andile finish up on this point, he understood that we had a gap on the west side. You know, there used to be a club in Speedway, Indiana and it closed many, many years ago. And so we knew there was a geographic hole that we wanted to fill on that near-west side. And then, very fortunately, Andile joined the club and happened to live on the west side, and we happened to have visited the International Marketplace which is also on the west side - near where Andile is - and so, you put all those things together, and we saw a great opportunity to have a special kind of club that not only was just people from Zimbabwe, but it could be people from all-over. And I think that's what Andile is thinking, that the base of it and the basic group might start out being a lot of his friends from Zimbabwe and around in that district that he was from. But, beyond that, I think we look to open it up to much more of an international focus.

ANDILE: Yeah, and just to carry on from what Jeff is saying, I think if I give you my personal example, is I got to Indianapolis and I didn't know anybody, you know, and I looked up the Rotary club nearest to me and I joined there. You know? So, by setting up the satellite club, the hope is that it then becomes, sort of, the beacon for anybody else on the west side who may have been involved in Rotary in the past to obviously have a quick entry, but also we can then actively recruit within that west side community without then asking them, you know, to come for meetings downtown, or Zionsville, or whatever the case may be.

NICK: Mhmm, yeah it's a really good point, I mean, you saw the need - that there's a region that didn't have a club going and there was a specific group of individuals living there and that you thought, you know, you can garner that interest over kind of, you know, a cause so-to-speak, which is really great to hear. And you kind of brought it up a little bit there, Andile, like, looking into the future, right? You - you're looking to grow it, you look to want to bring others into the club, right? And so when you're setting up this particular satellite club, specifically working with Jeff and the Rotary Club of Indianapolis, which you were - or, are technically still a part of - how are you forming that long-term plan? How are you communicating with the parent club?

ANDILE: Well, I need to say, too, that the parent club has been very supportive. Just from the perspective, then, of all the help, you know, from Jeff and even our president Nick. On the long-term question is, my personal view - and I'll say this personally because the club, the idea is that the club grows and gets a life of its own, you know? So, I wouldn't hazard to, sort of, say "this is where the club is going," because the idea is to set it up and with the new membership, you know, they will then decide. Do they remain a permanent satellite, you know? Or, are they [phone rings] looking at eventually getting the numbers to actually becoming the Rotary Club of the West of Indianapolis which will then become independent? So, I think it just opens up all the possibilities. I don't think the connection with the parent club will ever go away, you know, even if at a later stage they do decide to become their own club, you know, that - I think Jeff is with the Indy club, but I mean he really is a district chair, you know? So, I mean, Rotary is all about that connectivity in any case, you know?

NICK: Yeah, I mean, absolutely - it's all about that connection with other clubs, and it seems like you guys have a really great connection with that sponsor club. Is there anything - and this is for either, you know, Jeff or Andile - is there anything specifically that you guys have done to kinda ensure that that connection is strong?

ANDILE: I think what was very positive that helped me, personally, in being the champion of the club and getting it start was we received a pledge - which is very uncommon - from the parent club to say, "look, your first world services project: we are going to support it." You know? So, we actually have a pledge of support from the parent club for our first project, you know, to get us, sort of, started with that. So I think that was one of the biggest, you know, sort of, support initiatives we've received.

NICK: Perfect! Yeah, and I think, like - we've talked about before, having that strong communication from the beginning, having that understanding between the parent club and the satellite club of kind of where you're headed, and what your goals are is really, key. Andrez, like, I know you cover a vast region, outside of just Indianapolis, and have you seen this kind of - or, what have you seen in your region as far as, like, satellite clubs? Do they often times want to become full Rotary clubs? Or, are they kinda content just maintaining a satellite club?

ANDREZ: That's a really good question, Nick, and I think that's actually kind of the beauty of Rotary! You see things kind of going in all sorts of directions. So, yeah, we do see that there are satellite clubs that are starting in the hopes to one day become their full-fledged, chartered Rotary clubs. And then, we do see that there are some satellite clubs that have the idea of just providing some sort of extra option for members already in a parent club, and they're satisfied with just staying a satellite club. And, I do want to sort of reiterate what has already been mentioned that once you get to 20 members in a club, feel free to stay a satellite club. If that's something that you guys want to continue, all the more to you! You guys can enjoy being a satellite club! That is something that, I think, might be important to, sort of, at least mention in some sort of bylaws when you start a satellite club - that way that sort of understanding between everyone who's part of this club, that these are your aspirations.

NICK: Yeah, absolutely! There's no wrong way of doing it, essentially. You know, satellite clubs, if they want to maintain and stay a satellite club, that's absolutely fine. Or, if they want to grow to a certain point and become a regular Rotary club, that's also great. I think it's having - like we've been saying - that communication, that idea from the get-go of really where you wanna go. And it sounds like you guys are really doing a fantastic job of taking advantage of, like we said, of this kind of unique opportunity and creating it. Rotary: a more accessible option for those living in that region. Focusing on specific, you know, like, Andile having your friends from maybe your home country - where do you see, like, the membership type going from there? Like, do you expand? Do you - how do you expand from just your friendship circle to, you know, other peoples and, maybe, other cultures?

ANDILE: Ah, so I think the main thrust for us here on the west side was, sort of, to become a big umbrella. So, we have a very diverse community in Indy's west side. I think Jeff mentioned earlier that we did visit the International Marketplace, which is out here promoting, you know, all the various cultures that now live on Indy's west side. So from a vision perspective, you know, we got it started with predominantly people I had met - there's a few family members as well - but the idea is to become the beacon, you know, where we can then put up signage and say "there's a club on Indy's west side that meets every Wednesday," and then attract as many people as we can from as many diverse backgrounds. I think that is what we're trying to achieve here on the west side. You know, we're not trying to keep it just as a closed group of people that I knew, you know. We are trying to grow. We are trying to keep connected to the parent club - I know there's no law on it, but I feel it's important to stay a member, you know, sort of, stay connected because, remember, there's the who Rotary culture to pass on as well. You know? You need to provide the guidance for - Rotary will be new for some people, you know, and they need to see how things are done. I think an important thing, too, is we do have the chairperson on the west side sits as a non-voting member on the parent club. That's another, you know, sort of, permanent connection that we have.

NICK: Mhmm, and being that beacon - I like how you used the word beacon, kind of like an example of what a Rotary club should and could look like specifically in regards to diversity. Jeff, like, other clubs in the district or the district, in general, are they, you know, kind of trying to follow a similar suit? Is it, you know, is this kind of model working?

JEFF: Well, I mean, initially, it started out with the Chin group that I've been involved with since 2016. And these are refugees and immigrants from Myanmar, and there are 25,000 of them living on the south side of Indianapolis and we wanted to find a way to help them assimilate into the broader community. So we thought, "well let's start a satellite club" right there in what they call the Chin Center - their Operational Center - and that way we can have them become members. And we have Chin members, we have non-Chin members, and that went on for probably almost a year and, pretty soon, they had 21 members and now they're a full-time club. And think what's interesting about it is that there's a power to satellite clubs when it comes to growing Rotary. Because if you look at the heartland of America, Zones 30 and 31, you know, our district 6560 - central Indiana - was the only district that did not have a loss of membership. And the difference, pretty much, was the fact that we had added three or four satellite clubs. And so growing Rotary, as we all know, was something we always want to keep doing - but it's been difficult for many traditional clubs to do that. And that's why we're being more creative, and we're thinking outside of the box by looking in places we've never talked about before. And, frankly, we have to go out in some cases and look for 'em.

NICK: Yeah - oh, go ahead Andrez!

ANDREZ: Oh yes, no what I wanted to mention is that - I think, kind of to arc back on what Jeff said, learning from a satellite club is just as, I think, helpful as learning from your parent club. I think that there are a lot of ways that a new club might look at a sponsor club, or a parent club, and learn a lot from them. But I think it also goes the other way around. I think, being able to look at what is working for some clubs and seeing that, "ok this might be something we haven't tried yet - why not test it out?" is beneficial to everyone, and being able to look at your community and then just say, "why don't we try something new that we haven't done before, and bring in some people who we might not have spoken with?" really allows everyone to sort of understand, like, who Rotary is and that there isn't just one club that really fits everything. There might be a club that you enjoy, and another club that you go to and you realize, "oh, actually their interests align a little bit more than what I previously thought," and then, you know, just arc to another satellite club or Rotary club and - I don't know, I think that that's something that's great about satellite clubs and parent clubs working together just, you know, that learning back and forth.

NICK: Yeah, absolutely! And, like we said before, being in a satellite club, having a specific focus, you know, doesn't tie - you're not tied to there for life and, you know, it - hopefully, it breeds this, you know, not just having an international club, but an international district where, you know, you're joining other clubs: you're creating, you're collaborating, you're communicating with everyone in your district, which it sounds like Andile and Jeff, you know, this is the goal. This is where you want your district to be. Not just a beacon, Andile, with your club - but, your district as a whole, to be a beacon of what could be, right? In Rotary.

JEFF: And Nick, I think - just to follow up on that - I think a lot of this can relate to grants that are based on, for instance, our club has a committee and all they do is fund projects outside of our country. And so, this year they're probably funding eight or nine, you know, projects outside of our country. But, in many cases, we don't know of all the opportunities in these other countries unless we actually dig a little deeper and find out, "well who are the people who live in this community?" It's not just all people that look like us, it - there are a lot of different people in these communities. And even in small communities we have found that satellite clubs are important, because people will say, "well, I'm not a big club. How can I form another - a satellite club as part of my club? I'm not that big to begin with." Well, the beauty of a satellite club for a small club is if you only have 12 or 13 - or, well, you wouldn't, probably - if you only had 22 members of a club and you could add eight [chuckles] - you made a big jump! [laughs] That's a great way to grow a small club, not just medium and large clubs!

NICK: Yeah, absolu - that's a really good point, and I'm glad you brought that up because, you know, the way that the system works with satellite clubs is you're actually, as we mentioned, part of the parent club. So, if you have a club of 22 as your full Rotary club, if you add eight members to a satellite club, that still brings your entire membership up to 30. And, I think Andrez mentioned this before, sometimes, you know, one small club meets at one time, and maybe they wanna offer another time or another, you know, way being a little more inclusive in their community And, so having a satellite club gives you that option to also reach out to other people that maybe, you know - you'll be an online satellite club, maybe you'll meet at a different time - and it lets people, kind of, get involved in various ways. And Andile, just like you said - kind of, lowering that barrier and kinda making it less scary, less risky at first and letting people get involved, which is great. And, I also did want to bring up really quickly, also, the Rotary bylaws - or, the bylaws for the club. How has that gone so far? Have you worked on your own satellite bylaws, or are you kind of just using what is already in-place in the parent club?

ANDILE: I think the idea is to use what's in place. Definitely, you know, sort of as a starting point. I think, as I alluded to earlier is, part of the ease of setting up the satellite club actually comes from leaning heavily on the parent club. And, I think for anybody who's out there trying to increase their membership, satellite clubs are definitely one of the things to consider, because, you know, it allows you as well to get members at a lower price than what it would be to join the parent club. I think that's another huge thing, you know, for a lot of us who've been involved in Rotary, we take it for granted, you know. It makes sense to us. But, for somebody else - you know, they still ask you the "what's in it for me?" question. And, they'll still ask the "why so expensive?" question. So, you know, those are some of the things that we need to look at and I'm now talking from people who're already in Rotary, trying to increase their club numbers. A satellite club is definitely one of the easiest ways in which to do that.

NICK: Yeah, I love leaning on the parent club, right? That's why it exists. I think that's a great, great thing to do. And you did mention, Andile, really quickly there, about dues and maybe lowering the dues for satellite club members. Andrez, do you mind explaining a little bit about how the dues structure can work with satellite clubs?

ANDREZ: Certainly! Yeah, so since the satellite club members in our system are going to be grouped under the same membership as the parent club, what will end up happening is that the parent club get an overarching dues invoice saying, for example, "we have 30 members overall, and this is what the invoice will be." And then, it is up for the parent club and the satellite club to work together and say "ok, eight of these members are actually part of the satellite club and this is how we'll collect the Rotary dues." As far as district and club dues, that might be something that they'll want to continue, again, having another conversation on. But, when it comes to the Rotary dues, everyone will, sort of, be paying the same amount under the same, parent invoice.

NICK: Mhmm, yeah, so there's a lot of flexibility in there, and it's really like - what we were just talking about -having that communication with the sponsor club, or the parent club, to really understand how you want to break it down and how you want to work together. To wrap things up though, I'd love to, you know, always hear - and this question is for everyone - if you had one piece of advice for somebody listening who is thinking about starting a satellite club, what would be your biggest piece of advice?

JEFF: Well I guess I'll jump in and say, first of all, you need to figure out who it is you're trying to attract. It could be a cause-based club - which also could be thought of as an interest-based club - it could be an international club, it can be almost anything. You know, the world is open to a lot of different things for Rotary, so I think once that is figured out there has to be a champion - at least one champion - from the host club like Andile. And then there has to be cooperation and agreement from the host club that they will be doing these things like collecting dues and doing club administration, you know, for the satellite club. So, there has to be an understanding which means there has to be a lot of communication between the host club champion and the host club itself.

ANDILE: I think I just want to take a minute, perhaps, to say "thank you" to Jeff, you know, for all that he's done. You know, the satellite club we're setting up on the west side isn't the first satellite club that Jeff has assisted with setting up and I think he's doing some fantastic work for us, personally, and probably wouldn't have been possible without him! So I want to say "thank you" to Jeff, right now.

NICK: Yeah, it makes a huge difference. Like, what you guys have been saying, having that person who really knows what's going on and really leaning on those individuals. If you are looking to do something like this in your area, Andrez, who are some good people that, you know - cuz Jeff's not everywhere, unfortunately! [chuckles] You can't help everyone! But, who are typically those people that, you know, individuals can rely on?

ANDREZ: Yeah, definitely and - I'll actually want to tie this in with my, sort of, advice. I like to think you can rely on your club officers, your assistant governors and, also, your regional officers that you can reach out to them. You can also come to us, your Club and District Support team and if, at anytime, you have an inkling of a question feel free to ask us. I don't think it is every too early, and I also think that it's pretty important to make sure that you have any questions out of the way so, that way, when you work towards a process you don't feel like you have to rush through anything, that you have everything at your disposal, and - once you end up submitting that application to Club and District Support - it's just a smooth-sailing process. We get it, mark it all done, all good-to-go, and you guys are ready!

NICK: Perfect!

JEFF: Nick, I just want to - if I could - just say one more thing! We've left somebody out of this equation! And that's the district membership chair, because: this is membership. And so I work directly with the membership chair and the assistant governor - but the membership chair of the district, you know, probably should be working hand-in-hand with the person who's in charge of club extension for that district. 

[Outro Music begins]

NICK: Yeah, absolutely! Like we've said, this is a great way to increase membership. It's a great way, you know, to have people get involved - specifically if they're new to Rotary. Make sure we're communicating with everyone, make sure, you know, the satellite club and the parent club are on the same terms. You're working with your assistant governors, your district governors, your district membership chairs and, of course, just like what Andrez said, always reach out to Club and District Support. You can reach us as if you have any questions or just go on the My Rotary website,, to get all that information, as well. Jeff, Andile, Andrez - thank you so much for your time today, we really, really appreciate it. And hopefully we'll see everyone back next month with episode five of All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast!

[Outro music]