All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast

But Like, What Does CDS Actually Do?

May 18, 2021 CDS Americas Season 1 Episode 5
All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast
But Like, What Does CDS Actually Do?
Show Notes Transcript

Ever wonder what CDS means and what our team does? Join us for our 5th episode for a conversation with two fellow CDS officers. You will learn more about what Club and District Support is, debunk some Rotary myths, and clarify how we can work with you! 

Host: Nick Taylor  

Alicia Pijal-Avila 
John Hannes 

Producer: Sarah Steacy

All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast 
1.05: “But Like, What Does CDS Actually Do?” 
Host: Nick Taylor 
Guests: Alicia Pijal-Avila, John Hannes
Produced by: Sarah Steacy 

[Intro Music begins] 

NICK: How can we be flexible with all this policy? What's the difference between Honorary and Active membership? Who do I call about Foundation questions? And who creates all of these policies, anyway? In this episode, I sit down with two, experienced Club and District Support Officers to answer these questions, debunk a few Rotary myths, and learn more about what we do in Club and District Support and how we can collaborate with you. Enjoy!

[Music continues]

NICK: This episode is sponsored by all of Rotary's governance documents. No...really. All of them. All 500+ pages of them.

[Music fades]

NICK: Welcome, everyone, to episode five of All Things Rotary: A CDS Podcast. Very excited for today's special episode! We asked you, the listeners of this podcast, what you wanted to hear and one of the overwhelmingly large amount of responses came back was "What is CDS?" and "What does Club and District Support do?" And so we figured it would be a great opportunity to take this time to actually explain, first of all, what even is CDS - I mean it's just an acronym, right? And what does Club and District Support do? So, to help us with this, we have our two colleagues here that are experts in the field. We have John Hannes and Alicia Pijal-Avila, and they're gonna help walk us through what CDS is, and we're gonna go through some of the myths that exist within the Rotary world about how Club and District Support actually runs. And hopefully at the end of this conversation, you have a little bit better idea of not only what we do, but how we can help you improve and be better as a Rotarian. So, first off, John if you don't mind introducing yourself - I know we've had you before, but explain who you are and how you fit in to Club and District Support.

JOHN: Hello again, everybody! My name is John Hannes. I am a Senior Officer with Club and District Support Americas. I work with 39 districts along with my teammate Andrez, who you heard in a previous episode, as well. We work with 39 districts throughout the United States - kind of from around the Midwest region out to the East Coast. And, I've been with Rotary for just over 10 years - I think I'm coming up on my 10.5...anniversary?...on Club and District Support. I've been with this team the entire time, and so I've had the opportunity to watch the organization grow and change over the years. I haven't been here as long as Alicia, but I feel like I'm starting to get into that "club" in a way! [laughs]

NICK: Well, with that being said - perfect! Alicia, the veteran of the group here! [Alicia laughs] Do you mind introducing yourself?

ALICIA: Well hello, everybody, and thank you very much for inviting me to be part of this podcast - it's an honor for me to be part of this! My name is Alicia Pijal-Avila, yes, and I work with the Southern US and Latin America. I'm sorry, yeah, Southern U- ...Southeastern US, Latin America, and the Caribbean. And, I've been working with Rotary for just, uh, just 20 years. So, you are half way there, John - keep going! You can do it! [chuckles] And, yeah, I am also a Senior Officer. I have the pleasure to serve you for these many years and am still happy to be part of Club and District Support.

NICK: Awesome! Yeah - and there it is: Club and District Support. What is Club and District Support? What is CDS? So I'm gonna open it up to the floor here with our two experts. Jump in at any moment, if you could explain, how do we explain to our listeners what Club and District Support actually is?

ALICIA: Well, I can take that one. We mostly work with club and district leaders and we help answer questions related to governance documents and interpretation of policy. We also offer support and guidance in procedures such as chartering new clubs, admission of satellite clubs, change of names - of club names, mergers, etc. We also help Rotarians to contact those online resources that are available to them through My Rotary. And, when necessary, we also put Rotarians in contact with other staff members that might be able to help them with what they need. Within CDS Americas, or Club and District Support Americas, we have four two-person teams supporting districts in North, Central, and South America - including the Caribbean, of course. But there is also CDS departments in the International Offices of Rotary. They are located in Brazil, Switzerland, India, Korea, Japan, Australia, and England. Many of us speak a second language, and I think that we really enjoy this opportunity to work with with many Rotarians from diverse countries and cultures. So this makes our work quite interesting!

JOHN: Yeah, I agree! And to add a little bit on to that, one of the neat things about being a member of the CDS team is that we really get to represent the organization to our districts, to the leadership that we work with. We primarily work with the governors - in fact, we work with them pretty much from the time that they're a governor-nominee-designate [chuckles] or a DGND, all the way up through the end of their term, and throughout the year after. So, they're IPDG, or immediate past district governor, year. And yes, like, we get to represent all of these different aspects of Rotary, the organization, the policy out to our fields. But, I think that the opposite's true, too, or sort of the other side of things is true. We - because we're a group that is found in each one of our offices around the world - we also get to represent our regions to the organization. There's not a lot of decisions that are made very quickly, I think, on behalf of Rotary. I think that, in my own experience, and correct me if I'm wrong - I've only been here for ten years - but, it's through conversations where something might make a lot of sense here in the Americas, it might not apply as easily to India, or Australia, or Japan and so we get to hear from our colleagues - our counterparts - and then build messaging, or build a structure for something, that can be applied all around the world. Or regionalized if necessary. So I think that's something cool that we also get to be a part of!

ALICIA: I will agree with that, John. You know, I think that's what makes our job quite interesting because, you know, even though we know policy, we also have to apply it and convey the message depending of the culture, of the Rotarians that we're working with. And that makes it sometimes challenging, but also interesting to do, so, I agree on that part.

NICK: Yeah it's super fascinating - I mean, we're one of the few teams within Rotary that is represented in every single International Office. And so, because of that, there definitely is like a regional expertise and I think, like, Alicia, you just mentioned it great like - how we are going to say something in Chicago may not not be the same way you're going to present it in Argentina. And so you kind of have to know your audience, know the region that you're working with and be able to communicate it in an effective way. Which, also, like - whenever I talk about CDS and how we work - I also love to highlight how we work with other teams within the organization. So, within Rotary International. And so, for example, I cover, I support Zones 26, 27, and 25b and alongside Zones 26 and 27 there's a Regional Membership Officer  who also supports Zones 26-27. There's an Annual Giving Officer who supports Zones 26 and 27 and, you know, there's a Grants Officer that supports most of those districts, as well. And so while it might seem like a lot and, you know, if you're in one district you reach out to us not knowing who else we're working with - from Rotary's perspective, we're all working as a team focusing on the same region. And so whenever I talk to the Regional Membership Officer, generally they're dealing with the same side - just on the membership side - that we're doing on the policy side. And, that way, we can work together to kind of achieve, you know, a resolution.

JOHN: And I think that's also important to highlight, that we might be regionalizing the way that we' present something to our clubs or to our districts. But at the heart, the policy is the same for everybody, everywhere. The issues that we address kind of are the same everywhere around the world - it's just that we're finding the right way, or the more comfortable way, of saying it for the areas that we represent.

NICK: Yeah, and there's 400...500 - I don't actually know the specific number of pages - but there's hundreds of pages of policy, right? And we're not expecting every single person to know this. You know, we don't expect everyone to read all those policies and understand them. Which is why, you know, our job really does exist to help walk you through something as simple as changing your name, to all the way to something way more complicated, like an internal club issue that needs to be resolved. Whenever I'm talking to Rotarians and I'm talking about, like, what we do in Club and District Support, [chuckling] sometimes I say "it's almost easier to talk about what we don't do in Club and District Support." And so, we thought it would kinda be fun - I'm sure everyone's aware, or maybe you're not aware, but - there's the popular show "Myth Busters" that, you know - I don't even actually know if it's still on. Does anyone know? Is it still on TV?

ALICIA & JOHN: [overlapping] I don't know!

NICK: Yeah, I don't know. But, it was pretty cool - they went through and, you know, busted all these myths. And so we are gonna do our own, little section called "The Club and District Support Myth-busters Section" where we go through a few of these myths that float around the Rotary world and see if we can kinda debunk those and help you understand how and who can help in these situations. And the first one is: "The Rotary Police" [Alicia chuckles] First off, who is the "Rotary Police?" Does it exist? Do I gotta watch out for them? Like, is there a 9-1-1 call that I can, you know, make to get the "Rotary Police" to where I need them? What do you guys think?

ALICIA: We are Club and District Support Officers...but it doesn't mean that we are the police [all laugh], ok? So, I don't know - I don't think we have a "Rotary Police" here in Rotary International. We do try to follow the policy of Rotary International indicates, but we definitely don't think that we are the police that's following, you know, trying to "get you" for whatever bad things you're doing, Rotarians! Mmm-mmm I don't think that's the case.

NICK: So, Alicia, you're not - you're not like, investigating Facebook and [Alicia laughs] scrolling through messages to see if you can, like, be a detective and figure out who's doing something wrong?

ALICIA: You know, with the amount of work we have in our everyday basis, I don't think we have all the time to do those type of things.

NICK: Absolutely.

JOHN: Yeah, I think if I could be paid to be on social media all day, that would be interesting [John and Nick laugh]! Like, I might not turn down that opportunity. But, I think like, you know, as I was saying a little bit earlier, we really try to collaborate and so there's a lot of, I think, concern that if we do come across something like, say, somebody's using one of our trademarks in an improper manner, that we're gonna swoop in and shut your club down, or shut your district down, and say, like, "Thank you so much. Please get out." We're not gonna do that. What we do is continue to have a conversation and talk about the importance of protecting those trademarks, or following the policy as-written in its current form. And, if something doesn't match with what's happening out in the Rotary World, then we start to talk about, like, "Well here are what the next steps are," "Here's how you get legislation before the Council on Legislation," "Here's how you propose an enactment," and "here's the other teams throughout the building that can help with that process, too." Because, really, the change comes from the people and the policy's set by the people. And our role is to support and uphold the policy as decided by the people.

NICK: So, this is - this is a perfect segue. This wasn't going to be, in particular, one of the myths that we addressed right now, but I think it's just too - it's too good not to do it. So, because, often times, we can sometimes get labeled with the title of "Rotary Police" which we've now debunked: we are not the "Rotary Police." People often times think that we create the policy. You know, that we're like the policy creators and then we enforce the policy. But, that's not the case at all, right?

ALICIA: No, not at all. We have directors and trustees in The Rotary Foundation who get together and review the constitutional documents of these organizations, and they are the ones who review what has been the policy of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation. And also, during the Council on Legislations, clubs and districts also have the opportunity to present things that they would like to see changed in terms of policy or procedures in Rotary. But we are not the ones who set up all those policies.

JOHN: Yeah I think that - well, I know that Rotary staff has the ability to, maybe, advise on a question if somebody is proposing legislation. Or, maybe make suggestions about the wording, maybe finessing just a little bit. Our colleagues in our Council Services area do a really incredible job of consolidating proposals - like, if things match from different clubs from around the world - they work really hard to get those proposals to say a unified language, they get everybody to be on-board or support, if they can. And then the Council, I think, really could be its own podcast episode, maybe, but it - really briefly - it brings one representative from every district around the world together to have the conversation, to have the debate and the argument about policy changes, or proposed changes. And then, by the end of the week, they've agreed on them. And those policies get set, they get released the following July, and then they're good for the next three years. And so, we're actually coming up on another Council - we're starting to go through the training process for our representatives - the next one comes in April of 2022, which feels like it's a far [chuckles] long way away, but it's actually not. It's going to come up pretty quickly! And that's where we get to see those changes come. We saw a lot of flexibility get introduced into the organization through the Council. And so, Rotary today is, as a result of all of you - everybody that's listening - that's helped this process go along.

NICK: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's - it's one of the unique aspects of this organization and I think, really, one of the coolest parts of this organization, is that staff really doesn't determine much of what happens. It really is determined by Rotary, Rotarians in the field through things like the Council on Legislation and the Council on Resolutions which is pretty cool. And, a teaser: we will have a full episode on Council on Legislation and how it works - coming soon, at some point. So, keep an eye out for that - very exciting! Alright, let's move along to the next myth, if that's ok with you guys. So, the next myth - and John you kind of alluded to this earlier, whenever you talked about, like, how the organization has become more flexible and innovative along with this policy - but, what even, like, how can a club be flexible? Or how can Rotarians be flexible and innovative when there is policy?

JOHN: That's a tricky one, uh...because there's a lot to say! There aren't, as we said earlier, "Rotary Police" that are gonna come by your club and say, like, "Oh, no. You can't be this cool. We're gonna shut you down," like, for coming up with an idea. I think what a club might do, or a group of clubs might do, is try something a little bit different. Understand that in that space, they're really responsible for that experience, or figuring out all the highs and lows of it, or what their membership's going to get out of that experience. Just because they're experiencing this thing or coming up with this idea doesn't mean that everybody around the world is, and until something like that is set in the policy we really don't have the ability as staff to fully support what's going on. And I don't mean emotionally support, I think I mean, like, logistically support that idea. You know, the idea - I'm thinking back to, like, satellite clubs that went through a pilot phase of the organization. You know, until that was a pilot, we weren't able to go to clubs and say, like, "Hey, well this is how you do this thing," or "Here's what we're seeing everybody else do." We only have anecdotal evidence in those cases. So, a club really could identify - through its bylaws - how it would like to operate, what kind of offerings it would like to have with their community - as long as they're also respectful of the Rotary constitutional documents. And that's something that our team can help advise on. That, I think, sort of is how a club could explore innovation and flexibility in this world where policy does exist. I always like to give this idea of, you know, it's really hard to think outside the box if you don't know what's in the box. And so, for us, we're really the box people - we can tell you what's in the box [chuckles] and what is supposed to be happening, or supposedly happening. And then, hopefully, that ends up being a springboard out to these other, great ideas. And then when these ideas work, if they continue to catch, that's when we can reach back out or be reached back out to and talk about how to codify that, how to make that a part of the policy for everyone around the world, or the experience for everybody out there.

ALICIA: Just to add a little bit more, what you just said - what you already explained very clearly and very good, John [chuckles]. Yeah, and I'd just like to add one thing that, you know, there is flexibility and innovation, and there is also policy, but we also have to remember that clubs also have autonomy. Clubs are autonomous. And that autonomy is great because that gives them the flexibility to apply whatever they think is best for them to function in their community, locally. What is applying, what will apply to them depending on the circumstances they have. Like, right now with this pandemic, a lot of changes have come along the way. And so, that flexibility will - I mean, because of that flexibility - we also have to remember the autonomy that exists for clubs. And they can apply that in many ways.

JOHN: But I think that that also leads to another thought - and I don't think that we have the money to pay for the rights to what I'm about to say, so my apologies to whoever wrote this - but I think there's a phrase out there [chuckles] that's like, "With power comes great responsibility," like, "With great power comes great responsibility." So, even though your club is autonomous, you know, in experimenting with these flexible things, if it's not in our Code, if it's not in our policy, then it really does fall to the club to be responsible for the good and the bad that might come out of that decision.

ALICIA: Yes, I agree with you. Mmm-hmm!

NICK: Hashtag uh Sorry Marvel. Not sorry. But, thanks for that quote there, John, that was great.

JOHN: [cutting in] I mean I  wasn't going to say it...

[All laugh]

NICK: Man, and these are just great thoughts and they're totally leading in to the next myth. It's as if these were like, pre-planned somehow...I don't know how this is playing out. This is great! But, the next myth is actually - alright, now that we've got - we want to change something in our club, the myth is: do we update the constitution? Or, do we update it in the bylaws? Do we do both? How does that work?

ALICIA: Well, you know the Rotary Club Constitution cannot be changed - only by the Council on Legislation. Clubs cannot change it, ok? But, clubs can definitely update their recommended club bylaws. They can update that as often as they want to, as long as they don't contradict whatever is prescribed in the Rotary Club Constitution, and goes along with the Constitution and Bylaws of Rotary International, as well. So, that's what I have to say about that - would you like to add something else on that, John?

JOHN: Well I think that, you know, the process for updating the constitution is a little bit lengthier, and it involves getting an enactment supported by your district and into the Council. And so, if that is something that you would like to address, read up on it. Our website actually offers a really nice, and succinct, version of the process. So it's not impossible to change the constitution but really, when it's set, the club only has the ability to update, I think it's, like, Article 2: Name, Article 4: Locality - but everything else stays the same, and the very neat thing about that is every club around the world follows that same constitution. So, when you go to a Rotary club somewhere else, they're subscribing to the same policy, and you've got the same experience there. It's a little bit different, a little bit regionalized by their bylaws - but, at the core, we're all the same.

NICK: Alright, perfect! Well, thanks so much for that section, here. We're gonna try something also a little bit new. We're gonna do the same thing with a few different myths - but do it rapid fire style, here. So I'm gonna shoot these out - just give me a real quick answer, and then we'll kind of move on to a couple of these. So, the first rapid fire myth is: Dues. Why are they so expensive? Why does Rotary International make them so expensive?

JOHN: I'll take this one! Rotary doesn't really make them that expensive. The Council on Legislation is where dues are decided for the organization. But, from there, it's possible that a district will have its own dues structure to help take care of things at the district level, and then your clubs usually have something to consider with overheads and room rentals, and meal plans, and that sort of thing. And so, we ask anybody who has this question - when they come to us - to take a look at the full picture and see where savings might occur, if possible. 

NICK: Yeah, and ask your club. Ask your club for the breakdown of the dues. And we're more than happy to share our specific breakdown of Rotary International dues with you, as well. Alright! Number two, rapid fire! Questions about The Foundation. Paul Harris Foundation, all those points and everything - where do I go for that? Is that - is that Club and District Support?

ALICIA: You know what? In our daily basis, we do receive a lot of questions about Foundation donations, the forms they need to use for contributions and, unfortunately, we don't handle those. But, we do have a great team through the Rotary Support Center that have all the knowledge and all the tools necessary to help answer those questions. So you can refer those questions to the Rotary Support Center.

NICK: Alright, so if the Rotary - if Club and District Support doesn't help with The Rotary Foundation questions, I'm sure you guys help with the Awards questions like Rotary Citation, right?

JOHN: Well, kind of like Alicia just said - we tend to get a lot of questions on this. But we do have some great colleagues in our Awards area who helps address questions like the Citation, but then also all the other offerings from Rotary and The Rotary Foundation in the Awards area. And they're just There are, I should say, some busy seasons for them - especially toward the end of the Rotary Year when a lot of questions come in about the Rotary Citation, because those are due by June 30th each year. So, just bear that in mind while you reach out to that team.

NICK: Alright, good to know! Moving on here, the next rapid fire one: How often should you update club bylaws?

ALICIA: I think club bylaws can be updated as necessary by the club. But if you don't do, like a - very often, if you can't update it every year, or at least every three years after the Council on Legislation takes place - just to make sure that you have the most updated bylaws in your records. And once the Council on Legislation takes place, the document with the recommended club bylaws is also updated in My Rotary. So, you can download the recommended club bylaws directly from My Rotary and adapt it to your club.

NICK: Perfect.

JOHN: And I would add that it's always something that you want to keep current. It should always reflect your club and the way that it operates today, not 15 years ago.

ALICIA: Mmm-hmm, correct.

NICK: Awesome! And, alright, so...tracking classifications and attendance.

JOHN: That's a great question, too. So Rotary, itself, does have language in our constitutional documents that talk about keeping track of classifications and attendance to make sure that people are not only attending things, but also engaged. That there also - there is a diverse representation of professional fields in your club. We don't collect that at the headquarters, or any of our other offices. Instead, we ask for you to keep that at the local levels. Classifications, really, are meant to just make sure, again, that you've got a fair representation from your community. We have tools that we could point you toward on the membership pages of My Rotary that help you survey the club. But, we don't need the results of that survey - that's really meant to be a tool at the local level.

NICK: [chuckles] Absolutely! Thanks, John. Two quick ones to wrap this section up: Honorary versus Active. What's the difference between the two different types of memberships?

ALICIA: That's a very good question! Active members: they have to pay dues, they have the chance to participate, you know, when elections - vote in the club, make decisions at the club level. What else? Well, Honorary members. Honorary members is a little bit different: they are allowed to attend meetings, they don't necessarily pay dues, they are entitled to wear the Rotary emblem, they do not hold a classification, they cannot vote in the club where they are Honorary members. And, yeah they're just entitled to attend the meeting of the club - but they are not eligible to vote, or make decisions within the club. That's what I will say - something else to add, John, on that? Maybe for Active members?

JOHN: I think you've covered it! I think a different way of looking at this is that you're looking at Rotarians versus not-Rotarians. Rotaractors versus not-Rotaractors. Like, I earned some wings when I was a youngster on an airplane, on my first flight, and I was like, an "honorary pilot." But, that didn't mean that I got to go to the front of the plane and [chuckles] take the plane off of the ground and put it back on the ground. It just meant [laughs] that I still got to wear the insignia of that airline.

NICK: I was hungry, and so when you said wings I was like - 

ALICIA: Chicken wings!

NICK: "Ahh, chicken wings"

JOHN: Yeahhh!

[All laugh]

JOHN: So sorry! I meant: a pin. [laughs]

NICK: It's lunchtime. Perfect! Well, thanks so much for that, guys. We're gonna go ahead and wrap this up with - I'd like to hear from Alicia and John - your final words of advice for those listening or, you know, for those looking to see how they can use and benefit from Club and District Support.

ALICIA: Well, for those Rotarians who are listening I would like to say that if you don't know yet, who your Club and District Support Officers are: I invite you to please go to My Rotary and find our contact information. We'll be happy to be of any help to you guys. And, for those who already have contacted us and know who Club and District Support is: I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for giving us opportunity to serve you and to be part of your journey in Rotary International. So, thank you very much for that!

JOHN: Yeah, and to add to that - by going to you can find us, you can also find our counterparts in our Finance team through that same link - just click over the toggle to the Finance Representative. They can answer a lot of questions about invoices that we don't necessarily have access to. But that said, like, I agree with Alicia. I'm very thankful for the opportunities that we've had to talk a little bit about ourselves today. There's many more stories that can be shared - probably in a future podcast episode! But, there's a reason that I've stuck with CDS for the 10 years that I've been here, Alicia's been here, like she said, for 20 years - we have colleagues that have been here even longer.

[Outro music begins]

But there's something really magical about the connections that we've been able to make over the years, and it's having these either tough conversations or fun conversations with our volunteers that really keeps me coming back. As we said before, our role really is to collaborate, to talk through the policy as it's currently written. So, if you have any questions about that, or you wanna make sure that you're understanding of the policy make sense, reach out to us and we'll help chat you through those questions you've got, and offer advice, and quote the policy back at you, and provide it in an email if you need to refer to it later, and all of the other fun stuff that comes with that!

[Music swells]

NICK: And there you have it, folks. I want to thank John and Alicia for joining today. It was great to hear their perspective and knowledge that they have gained while working in CDS. As always, feel free to reach out to us at if you would like to hear us talk about something specific on this podcast. And, of course, please like, rate, and subscribe to our podcast on your preferred streaming service.

[Outro music]