How to fix Rotary in only Eight-Minutes

This time two years ago – I published a blog which asked the question “Would you Join today?” The blog post basically posed the question, if you knew then what you know now – would you still join Rotary International?

Two years on – has much changed?

Well to be honest – not really.

The organisation in these islands still seems to be perilously close to the soft sands of the beach with an increasing number of deserters taking their chances and jumping ship to find other ways of doing ‘their Rotary’ in local communities around the country that doesn’t involve wearing a tie, attending lunch or sporting a small lapel pin. In other words – doing Rotary without being a Rotarian.

So what is being done to get the ship afloat again?

Well, credit where credit is due to whoever had the idea of bringing together a bunch of individuals around a table at RotaryGBI Headquarters in Alcester a couple of weeks ago to discuss the future direction of travel for Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland.

The group was made up of a cross-section of individual Rotarians – all understood to be representing themselves and with no delegated authorities from their Districts or Clubs or other groups. It seems the average age in attendance was over 60 and around half to be Past District Governors. However, the one common-denominator in those invited to attend being that they all currently or previously held strong views regarding the way in which Rotary in these islands was being managed and operated.

Was this an internal attempt to curtail the ‘keyboard warrior Rotarians‘ or perhaps even to divide and conquer a perceived bunch of ‘mavericks’ – who knows? But let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say that it was a positive step forward in considering how RotaryGBI will be positioned in the future.

The group was chaired by Rotarian David Hodge, Leader of Conservative led Surrey Council – himself a focus of national news surrounding alleged “sweetheart deals” on the very week of the future direction meeting. So he may have had other pressing issues on his mind over and above the management of a bunch of Rotary egos. But from all accounts – he seems to have been able to keep focussed and has been credited with chairing the reasonably meeting well.

In terms of who else attended in addition to those who received their personal invites; conspicuous by their absence was the RotaryGBI future leadership. It does seem strange on the basis that this meeting was about the future direction for RotaryGBI that some of our incoming Presidents were, well, to put it politely under-represented? Just a minor thought…if we are looking to the future would it not have been appropriate for those receiving the chain of authority to have been in attendance – even just as observers?

So RotaryBlogger.co.uk understands that in a meeting which was concluded in under four hours; those in attendance were given eight minutes to make their ‘pitch’ on what they thought was needed to improve the organisation – and give it a better chance of survival as we move towards the second decade of the new millennium.

What were they hoping to achieve in such a short window? Only they will know…

Anyway, having given it some thought if I had to make an 8 minute pitch – here are some suggestions that I would have presented:

  1. Openness, transparency and accountability – there are still too many meetings and sessions taking place in camera. The world in which we now live expects and requires meetings to be undertaken in public. From our Parliaments to our local Council’s – ‘the people’ can now watch either in person or online. So should we expect anything less from a modernising Rotary? Whether interpreted rightly or wrongly – there does appear to be a level of secret-operations in what is going on behind the scenes.
  2. Operated as a business – yes, RotaryGBI is a membership organisation, but there are a number of issues around the way in which the finances are being operated. For example, how many members realise that the Annual RotaryGBI soirée – otherwise known as the Conference has consistently returned a sizeable loss? In business one may get away with that position for a year, but in year two it either washes its face/turns a profit or it’s binned. There needs to be a review in terms of how the organisation works to make sure it – at the least – breaks even.
  3. Remove the position of RotaryGBI President – the organisation already has a worldwide President, is one not enough? Is the actual Rotary International President not good enough for these islands? Why do we need our own? Does this not simply create an additional layer of administration and unnecessary bureaucracy? Have we ever measured the Return on Investment of the national President? Surely a saving to be made there…
  4. Create a ‘Board’ – part of the problem as I see it with Rotary is the fact the ‘Administration’ changes annually. In fact for those in the know, the Administration team only really have nine months to do their ‘thing’ before they become yesterday’s news. The creation of a Board that would allow longer-term governance in a more strategically structured manner – with more business and less ego involved in driving RotaryGBI forward. Oh, and one more thing – Board members should be the right people for the job, not those who have previously held senior positions in the ‘old guard’.
  5. Let District Governors run their Districts – Number 4 removes the need for a General Council of District Governors. Let them play with their own District and leave the national positioning and strategy to the Board, dovetailing with other Rotary International worldwide initiatives.
  6. A clear membership strategy – Not some gimmicky initiative which on paper looks like a success but out there doesn’t actually put more ‘bums on seats’. We need  rethink about how we can engage communities and individuals to make them want to become part of Rotary again, which leads me perfectly onto my final point…
  7. Allow Rotaract to become part of Rotary – This is probably the one for which I would have made the strongest pitch.If Rotary is to survive then we must look to the younger generations. And unlike many other membership organisations, Rotary has a ready-made organisation right under our noses – It’s called Rotaract. However, all too often, Rotaractors are ‘kept down’ or patronised as ‘the youngsters’ by the Rotarians who are actually trying to support them in other ways.Isn’t it interesting that for a meeting looking to think about the future of Rotary that there were absolutely no Rotaractors at the table a couple of weeks ago? Why?I spoke with someone earlier in the year about the role of Rotaract in the future of Rotary – and they were keen to have them at them involved – but only as an observer! Really? Yes, why not bring them along, let them watch how the ‘adults’ do it and they can learn from us. They can observe but not contribute! How very patronising…I’m not sure I know many Rotaractors who would sign up to this ‘non-participative’ position. The Rotaractors I know are actually more into ‘doing’ than most Rotary Clubs.

There are many more issues (as you’ll find trawling through previous blog posts) but those would be my thoughts in terms of the key priorities to take the organisation forward.

The meeting referred to earlier in this post took place the day before a General Council meeting – and it is understood a report on what was discussed was then issued to District Governors at their meeting the following day. What impact can a ‘hot off the press report’ make to a General Council meeting? Will the notes/minutes be revisited in the future? I guess what becomes of the original meeting remains to be seen?

So, I’ll end as I started – and will say well done to those who made the effort to have the meeting and for having the courage to look to the future of the Rotary Product in these Islands. Well done for ‘fessing up face-to-face with some of Rotary’s more vocal contributors who have actually been critical of some of the ‘Establishment’ sitting in the room. What happens next? Who knows.

And anyway, does it really matter? Do the Regular Rots out there actually care what is going on beyond their own Club providing Rotary survives? In all honesty, probably not. But that is for another blog on another day.

Either way, let’s make that first meeting in Alcester earlier in February the start of a process and not just another tick in the box, purporting to be a consultation session like many that have gone before and then found themselves ultimately destined to File 13.

 

Images in order of appearance by Stewit by CC

80 thoughts on “How to fix Rotary in only Eight-Minutes

  1. Josh says:

    I’ve spent two years working towards chartering a provisional club. And I’m likely done as soon as my term as an officer ends.

    1) There are too many sacred cows. A few current Rotarians who are members want to enforce certain traditions that make others uncomfortable.

    2) Timetables and meddling. People want to be involved. Which is great. But I’ve seen in both my club and others in which people arrange things, only to have them disrupted by others swooping in at the last minute with new requirements or suggestions that manage to derail the project.

    3) Rotaract. My jaw hit the floor when at a PETS session, people talked about how there was no formal, streamlined process to incorporate Rotaract members into Rotary. This is the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen.

    Tradition and culture are important. But my experience so far is that they are being placed over being relevant to the community. I’ve no interest in that.

    1. Hang in there Josh and I would like to talk with you … I set up the eClub of East Anglia and it took me nearly two years .. We eventually chartered with 33 members abd now going from strength to strength … We are not traditional! .. Would like to sgare experience – drop me a note please …

      Also visit wwwrotary2020vision.com to see a movement starting ..

    2. Thanks for your comments Josh. Your comments reflect the views and voices that I consistently here (even ongoing while has been sitting silent). It seems that despite efforts to modernise the organisation there continues to be a contingent who simply want to keep Rotary in a time where society worked in a very different way…thanks again for your comments and keep pushing forward.

    3. says:

      Martin
      I fear that some clubs that get involved in producing a “satellite” come with the wrong premis! They think a new club should be a clone of them selves! A Rotary Bell, Toast the Queen, Grace before dinner, indeed a dinner!!!!! My new club has none of that and it suites us fine and we have a much lower age profile.

      The only things a sponsoring club should be providing is support when asked for and a conduit for paying subs……. To many think is Governance (for that read interference).

      New Rotary means New Rotary

        1. says:

          part of the problem is how it is being “marketed” to clubs by the District Membership team! We are very lucky to have Tony Cotton in D1180……

          The promotion stuff available is quite clear – a new club will make all there own decisions on all things.

          Sort out the sponsoring club first so they know the ground rules perhaps.

          1. I love 1180. My charity Roll Out the Barrel (www.rotb.co.uk) started there with Bill Leslie at Ellesmere Port club and supported by Les Wilson and so many others including the wonderful Frodsham and Helsby.

            Advice taken for sure but will they listen and if they do not do I just walk away….dilemma for definite…

          2. says:

            Adrian

            As I understand the “sponsoring rules” it can be any club in a District that is willing.

            They don’t have to be an adjacent club….. Southampton or Portsmouth clubs would be fine and work out from there.

            Dont give up ……

          3. You do not have to be in district if everyone approves … As an eClub we have fhelped form the eClub of Aviation and we are setting up an eSatellite in th South East of England.

            Just keep going Adrian as the supporting club needs to understand it should be an aid not rule it. .. If you need any help just holler 😉

      1. Brian White says:

        I certainly am. Nice to see another post. I’m now a 2nd year AG, and enjoying it, but I’ve learned and seen such a lot in my last few years from when I started as a President Nominee until now.

        Being on a District Exec and seeing what comes in from above is an eye opener. Some good but unfortunately some bad, most seems deliberately confusing, as though to put you off the scent. Some of the previous posts and replies have helped demystify the messages.

        Keep it up

        1. Thank you so much Brian – and delighted that you have taken time to comment on this blog.

          Again, I am pretty sure that you will not be the only District Executive member who has this feeling about the governance of the organisation.

          It is good that social media (including blogs such as RotaryBlogger.co.uk) can help bring people together with a common thread and talking point.

          Thanks again for your comments.

  2. Rodney Howell says:

    As one of the 10 invitees to the meeting, I can confirm that the points you have made in the above blog were raised (and more). The meeting was, I felt, potentially constructive for the future – David Hodge chaired it excellently and fairly although it would have been better to have informed the 10 “mavericks” in advance that they were going to get a seven (not eight) minute slot in order to make their points.
    Although President Eve was in the room, there was an absence of anyone else in the succession chain, which was especially disappointing because Dennis Spiller and Debbie Hodge were presenting a plan for the future at the subsequent GCM and you would have thought that they might be curious to have seen how the complaints stacked up against their proposed reforms.
    What are those reforms? Who knows? Which brings us back to the unnecessary level of secrecy involved – although presented to, and amended by, the GC, we still have no idea what was said in the plan as DGs are, apparently, sworn to secrecy.
    In your penultimate paragraph you mention the apathy of the average member and this is the biggest obstacle to reform. With on-line voting now available, all clubs can affect the progress of ABM resolutions without leaving home but the take-up of this voting is pitiful. There is now no excuse for allowing the passage of measures that the grassroots dislike but the grassroots must make the effort.
    Look at the list of resolutions for this year to see the potential for moan-inducing results.
    More on this is available in the March 1st issue of my D1080 News – anyone who would like to be on the subscriber list should email me at .

    1. Thanks for commenting Rodney. I am obviously in the know as to those in attendance at the meeting, but in the style of this blog throughout I didn’t identify anyone without their permission (unless they hold office as that goes with the territory) – deciding to leave it to the individuals’ themselves to come forward…as you have done.

      So thank you for being so open and transparent about your attendance at the meeting and obviously for your subsequent comments.

      I will be coming back in the future on the apathy issue and whether this is contributing to the direction of travel, but it is a great point you make in terms of the online voting at the Annual Business Meeting and members should start to look into that. As an example, I believe that more than half the Clubs in RotaryGBI didn’t vote in the Presidential Elections (perhaps that further enhances one of the points I made in the blog).

      Thanks for posting your D1080 link – it is a great example of a Rotary District e-Newsletter that gets to the nub of what is going on in and around Rotary. I look forward to reading your March edition.

    2. Rob Thurston says:

      On-line yes but unable to actually post our club’s vote against the budgets etc.

      Rotary is not really moving with the times as the vast majority of the members do not want change – I think the dinosaurs were against change too and we know what happened there. There has to be serious change and very soon in RIBI. Perhaps getting rid of RIBI itself would be the very best step…..

  3. Richard Cooper says:

    Worth reading in conjunction with the Feb GC minutes. No GC newsletter yet though.

    Agree re all the Rotaryblogger points above.

    Even locally the secrecy is ridiculous.

    1. Thanks Richard – appreciate you picking up the blog again.

      It seems the whole ‘openness, accountability and transparency’ in increasingly becoming an issue. As I said in the blog, I’m not sure some of the covert/sercretism is deliberate – but it is certainly causing some concerns and definitely not the standards we would expect in modern society. (But therein lies the issue with Rotary – those two words ‘modern society’ which just don’t seem to sit well in the organisation.)

  4. Sue Hind says:

    Thank you Rodney – how were the 10 Rtns chosen – if personal invitation – by whom? Great that Eve was there; perhaps she will cascade thoughts from the meeting to her successors who chose not to be present. As one of the tenets for our future is greater transparency, perhaps circulated notes from David Hodge would be helpful……..

    1. Thanks for commenting Sue.

      I agree it was great that President Eve was in attendance, but ironic that she is effectively yesterday’s news and therefore far more important that the ‘future leadership’ were present. In Rotary terms we are now focussed on 2017/18 and beyond and this Rotary year is now all but over other than probably more ongoing pointless Presidential visits around the country.

      I understand from information (as outlined above) that notes from the meeting are available but haven’t yet been circulated.

    2. I was one who was invited but decided not to attend because such an important meeting was far to short as little can be achieved by ten invitees … (It is a 4.5 hour journey each way for me) How can 10 “talkative” invitees achieve change if they are told on the day that they have 7 minutes and the immediate future leadership is absent !! I wrote to ask how and who was invited (along with 8 other questions) and I only got a verbal response. The average age of the invitees was 62 and over 50% were PDG’s .. There was no representation from the next generation (Rotaract and others) which is fundamental to the issue … How are we going to pass on our organisation to the next generation.

      I am aware that one “younger” member was invited on the Monday to atrend on the Thursday which is difficult when working .. The meetung needed at least two days of sincere discussion and open mindedness.

      I also wonder how the next leaders produce a presentation on the future to the GC the next day PRIOR to the Thursday meeting annd was not available to the group … And is STILL secret!!

      I am really saddened by the way the organisation leadership seeks to retain the status quo through all the rhetoric.

      1. Thanks for commenting Martin.

        The point you make about the age profile of the session is very topical. As I said in the body of the blog, how can we talk about the future of Rotary without involving Rotaract?

        I am not saying that Rotaract was excluded deliberately – what I am saying is that in pulling the meeting together, it is sad that no thought was given to including some Rotaractors in the session – and perhaps sadly portrays the actual truth as to where Rotaract sits in the ‘pecking order’ of our leadership’s subconscious filing cabinets.

    3. Rodney Howell says:

      No idea how the choice was made although I have been both vociferous and persistent over a long period via the pages of D1080 News so it may well be that it was on the basis of those that shout loudest.

  5. Kate Keter says:

    We’ve been talking about “the future of RIBI” for years and years. And what has changed? Nothing.

    Personally, I’d get rid of RIBI. There, I’ve said it. Let me make it clear, I’m talking about “the Association” – not the secretariat who do a fantastic job; we’d be lost without them. But as for the rest. Totally unnecessary today, adds a layer of bureaucracy, administration, effort that we just don’t need. No other part of the world needs another President, General Council, committees etc etc. The DGs should be based solely in their districts, worrying about and working on district “things”. I know there are zones; we are part of a couple. We are making more use of the RI zone appointees than we once did but we still only do so in the context of RIBI.

    I could go on, but it would probably turn into a rant so I’ll stop now.

    Unfortunately, the only way to abolish the organisation would be to vote for it at the Annual Business Meeting, but as that would be like turkeys voting for Christmas I guess it will never happen.

    1. As ever, thanks for posting Kate.

      I think your views are increasingly becoming the norm.

      I think we all agree on the Secretariat team who do a fantastic job in servicing Rotary across these islands – but I do think the clock is ticking on the survival of the bureaucracy and governance that is the RotaryGBI structure. Something has to change.

      You mention zones, I have heard it mentioned through the grapevine that there is a possibility that the two zones in which GB and Ireland sit could be merged with our European neighbours on the continent – at the behest of Rotary International. Who knows?

      Thanks again for commenting Kate.

  6. Herbert Chatters says:

    Hi Sue and all readers. As a point of information, all who attended were invited on the background of them having forthright and positive views on how to modernise Rotary. Naturally the General Secretary had a prominent part in this with her big picture knowledge. James Martin and Martin Brocklebank were also invited, both declined for acceptable reasons as no doubt Denis and Debbie had, and invited to submit their thoughts prior to the meeting. Certainly one chose not to. To continue the openness, Eve will be live on-line on Tuesday when you can ask her her take on this and many other issues. The transparency is starting to shine through. Thanks to James for reflecting my views, put to the meeting, but one addition seismic change is missing. I would advocate offering associate membership to parents of RotaKids on a controlled basis to extend the molecular structure and square the circle.

    1. Thanks for commenting Herbert.

      I actually agree that the transparency and openness is coming – but it needs to come much faster. To sit back on this one and take time is no longer an option.

      It’s good to know that President Eve Conway will be online this week coming to answer some questions – I wonder if anyone will pose questions about this meeting and what the outcomes are likely to be? That said, I’m not sure there are many acceptable reasons for the future leadership not to be at a meeting like the one to which we are referring to in this blog.

      In conclusion, I absolutely LOVE your idea of parents of Rotakids becoming Associate members of the wider organisation. These people really are the future of the organisation – a great opportunity to engage with the wider Rotakids families. I mean, every single one of us as adults remember the groups and organisations we attended as children. What a great thought!

  7. Arthur Jones says:

    Re Rotaract: I suggested some time ago that Rotaractors should be given the status of full members of Rotary. After all they are adults not children!! The fudge from CoL that Rotaractors can also be a member of a Rotary club makes no sense to me. Why would they want to join an aging membership of their local Rotary club?! I understand that at RI Assembly DGEs were encouraged to ” persuade” Rotaract clubs in the process of being formed to go directly to being a Rotary club. Clearly RI don’t fully value these young enterprising people. I know anyone of the age of 18 can join Rotary as full member so is Rotaract now an obsolete category? Is this what RI are suggesting by the CoL decision? If we had the 18 to 30 year olds able to vote at RIBI ABM we may have very different outcomes which would bring about the modernisation of Rotary to becoming more attractive to ‘younger’ working Rotarians.

    1. Great comments Arthur – and what you say makes a lot of sense to me and I am sure many others.

      The fact is there are very few under 30’s who are going to join a club with an average age of 65+ let’s be honest – why would they?

      In my experience, Rotaract Clubs have a very different view to the ways of the world and want to work in their own way. However, the input of Rotary Clubs may not always be a positive thing and we have to accept that. (Look above at the comments made by Josh – and this was an actual Rotary Club far less a Rotaract Club.)

      If our Rotaractors were viewed as full members of Rotary and able to input to some of the discussions currently taking place – then I am absolutely certain we’d be getting a completely different perspective than we are at the moment.

  8. says:

    Get article, it gets me thinking about what at a bare minimum is the purpose of RotaryGBI?
    It seems that its purpose is to promote Rotary and all of its programmes,
    Facilitate communication between the membership and therefore maintain the membership and distribution lists,
    Provide resources for training for clubs and districts,
    Negotiate insurance, remind clubs of any due diligence and procedures necessary to run a successful and legally sound set of clubs
    Provide the services necessary so that clubs and districts can run
    Ensure continued membership growth.
    Although are lot of these are down to the clubs themselves being open and receptive and having dynamic and interesting programmes where all aspects, as far as possible, of the organisation are member centric.

    1. Interesting as most of what you list is the secretariat and I think most of us are more concerned by the rest of RIBI structure and governance … Telling that Ian Risley when asked the question “if RIBI did not exist would you create it?” The answer was a definate “NO” ..

      1. Thanks for your comments Mike.

        Martin has actually covered what I was going to say in that your list of references actually refers to the staff in Alcester and not the Office Bearers and members of the Committees. All of what you mention could be undertaken without the necessity for the Office Bearers, Executive or General Council and Committees.

        Interesting thoughts there….

        1. says:

          Just thought you might like to know that an RIBI document aiming to address at least some of these problems has now been issued to clubs. It’s also no doubt on the RIBI website but not able to check at the moment.
          It’s a long read so sit yourself down with a hot drink – or maybe a beer or bottle of wine or two. Happy reading!

  9. David Ellis says:

    I too was an attendee at the meeting and although the main structure of the meeting was well run I was surprised that the provided flip chart was not used. I would have listed the salient point of each of the 10 invitees and then together we could have prioritised them into a basic action plan. What we were left with was a shopping list put to the GC. The GC the following day still went through a packed agenda and probably left little time to discuss our proposals. It is interesting to see on the archived GC minutes from 11/12 that in Ray Burman we had a president with the courage to tear up the agenda and discuss the future of RIBI, from that GC came the plan for the RIBI Board which was subsequently voted for by the membership only to be defeated at COL. We need leaders to grow a pair instead of the self promotion we have at the moment, I have not heard anything publicly from the presidency this year on our major issue…membership. As I stated at the meeting, the presidency is totally irrelevant to the members, if you disputes that 53% of clubs not bothering to vote in the recent election tells us so.

  10. Lindsay Pearson says:

    I attended the National Leadership Assembly last week, as an incoming AG, and had the opportunity to talk to Eve Conway and Dennis Spiller. I don’t think I am being unfair to Eve in saying I got the impression from her that she would have liked to see change occurring, but the inertia of RIBI prevented that from being anything but painfully slow. Dennis, however, acknowledged changes were urgently needed, and would be looking to make them. We shall have to wait and see.

    At the end of the Assembly, we had an “Any Questions” session – one of my District 1080 AG colleagues had submitted a question, and this featured as one of the questions put to the panel. Apologies if I have the wording incorrect, but the gist of it was “If RIBI didn’t exist, would we invent it?” It is perhaps telling that Ian Risely’s (Incoming RI President) gave a terse “no” (again apologies if the wording is incorrect !)

    If RIBI can make wide and rapid changes, all may be well. Perhaps the idea of an RIBI Board should be re-visited. But unless things do change, I fear the days of RIBI are severely limited, either by RI pulling the plug, or Districts stopping supporting the structure by paying only their RI, District, and Club subscriptions.

    1. I love this blogging stuff…..the thing is Lindsay that if there were no RIBI we would only have to pay RI and a possibly small district fee as the district might well be both Zones at the most two. I met DG’s in Africa that covered three countries and their rotaries are thriving…..

    2. Thanks for stopping by Lindsay.

      I agree that to be fair to Eve, Denis and to be fair probably most of their predecessors they have all wanted change – but for some reason there has been inertia in RotaryGBI for some time. So to use the vernacular – we really need to get our fingers out if the organisation in these islands is to survive.

      Very interesting comments from Ian Risely – and they certainly reflect other conversation that I have had with those in the know in and around Rotary International. It would seem that there is a close amount of attention being paid to Rotary in these islands.

      I have to say that I never even considered the consequences of a District refusing to pay the RotaryGBI dues…now that is an very interesting scenario. Could a Club/District refuse to pay their RotaryGBI dues and simply become a member of Rotary International…?

      Now you’ve got my mind thinking…is there a loophole there for a Club or District to test?

  11. says:

    Interesting blog James – very thought provoking as usual – well done.

    A few years ago the average age of my club was 65 and we are all male. We have no objection to lady members – why would we? – but we can’t find anyone who wishes to join a lunchtime club with a now average age of 74.

    And therein lies the problem – Rotary in these islands is sitting on a demographic time bomb. It has come about in part because year ago we skipped a generation or two. A lot of clubs had a membership of around 60 members and they pulled up the drawbridge. “Why do we need more members?”, they would say. Well now we know as many clubs reap that ‘benefit’, in some cases dropping down from 60 to 30, and many have fewer than that.

    The format is also tired with traditions like chains, collars and ties etc. I sometimes wonder what our speakers say about our clubs when they return to colleagues who ask “never been to a Rotary club – what’s it like?” In many cases I’m sure they say something like ‘”well they’re a bunch of men who go to lunch and wear chains and have an agenda that they go through telling them what last week’s attendance was’.
    Why do we do that? RI recently relaxed the attendance rules but said clubs still have send figures to the DG. Why? What relevance does it have in the 21st century?

    As for the format I heard about one of the newer clubs – yes there are some – who meet on a Sunday morning in a coffee shop and plan their next project, and then go on their way. What a brilliant idea.

    And then there’s the cost. I recently told a friend about my club and he seem interested. “Alright Ron – how much does it cost to be a member?” I told him “£115 a year plus the cost of your weekly meal.”
    “What?” was the reply. “Why do I have to pay to do charitable work and help those less fortunate?”
    I told him that £52 of that goes to RIBI and that includes our dues to RI. I thought it best not to mentioned the prop0sed 15% increase to £60.00!
    I have seen the arguments and figures about how much extra it would cost if RIBI did not exist. One of the reasons given that RI is dearer is that you HAVE to take their magazine. Why – and should the magazine not be at least self-financing with advertising revenue like most periodicals?

    Like others I think that the Secretariat at Alcester does a brilliant job and we should be applauding them. I knew about the meeting referred to beforehand even though it appeared that it should have been kept a secret. Again – why? Also to have to do a timed presentation with no warning. What are we – schoolchildren?

    As others have said, not to have the incoming Presidents was a big mistake and endorses the view that this might have been a ‘pat them on the head – we’ve done our bit – and they will go away’ exercise. I sincerely hope we do see some change and quickly.

    Believe it or not I feel a bit sorry for RIBI and the stick they are getting, as reform should start at the top with RI.
    As a District Governor I went to San Diego to be brainwashed (sorry – all that was deemed necessary to become a DG). I HAD to go to become a DG – why? The opening session started with Rotary Past this that and the other trooping onto the stage – a procession that took almost an hour to complete before we even started. How much did that cost – and why?
    Then we came to the unveiling of the theme for the year. Here’s a little exercise for you. The next time you go to your club ask each member – with consulting each other or Mr. Google – what this year’s theme is and see what answer you get.
    So why do we have an annual theme? Why not stick with ‘Service Above Self’?
    Personally I think that has served Rotary well over the years but is it relevant in 2017?
    Why not something like I saw a few years ago ‘Rotary – ordinary people doing extraordinary things’.

    Something that might provoke a question or two from prospective members like ‘what extraordinary things do you do then?” and you can give them a snapshot of what is done locally, nationally, and on an international scale, and they’re on the hook and can be reeled in.

    Rotary is a fabulous organisation and believe it or not despite the preceding rant, I’m proud to be member and contribute in my small way because when a collection of individuals come together as Rotary does we can do extraordinary things but why don’t we shout about from the rooftops?

    I know that many times the media ignore what is sent so them and it can be very disappointing and discouraging, but we must keep sending it so that one day some journalist might say – ‘what is Rotary then?’, and you can tell them – ORDINARY PEOPLE DOING EXTRAORDINARY THINGS.

    1. Herbert Chatters says:

      Hi Ron. Excellent points as ever not totally on the same wavelength, but generally yes. When you are faced with a cost question please explain that whilst we don’t pay to collect for Cancer Reaserch etal they take running costs out of income Some Charities pass-on only 80% ish, we give 100% to causes. Reference meals: we can control that instantly. Meet for coffee three/four times a month, meal only once. We did that in Portugal, partners were invited also great inclusivity and saved money. Trousers fitted better.

      1. Actually Herbert is is not absolutely true that TRF hand over 100% as there are cost that are deducted … If you look at the TRF finance structure you will see it … TRF is one of the better charities granted but we do need to be aware.

      2. says:

        Thanks Herbert.

        You probably can’t pick up my wavelength in Scotland! LOL.

        Re the idea of coffee meetings etc and a meal once a month – as I said in my post, a great idea and exactly the one that was pursued by the RC of Furness Peninsula, a mixed club in Barrow-in-Furness, a town that is well known to you and now has three clubs and around hundred Rotarians.

        I was delighted to be part of the team that founded that new club and indeed I could say I was the driving force – but you know me and my modesty!

        As for introducing such a model into my own club I’m afraid that would be a step too far for most existing members who like their weekly meal. That might also go for many traditional clubs and who’s to say that’s wrong? Like many clubs, ours has good fellowship and achieves much in the true spirit of Rotary.

        So why didn’t I refer my prospective member to one of the other two clubs in town? I did actually as I believe in Rotary and not just Rotary clubs. The sticking point again was the cost which in one case is much more than ours.

        IMO the answer is to let the existing older clubs carry on ‘doing Rotary’ in their own way until they wither on the vine. The important thing is that we attract new clubs with a new format to take their place and Rotaractors should be at the heart of this and they should be included from hereon in.

        Sorry Herbert but I can’t see an answer to some of the existing problems due to the cumbersome and deadly slow way in which Rotary changes things.

        As David Ellis said Ray Burman tried to throw away the rule book when he was RIBI President. Unfortunately for him, due to those outdated procedures he ran out of time before the next President took over, and we were back to square one because of the lack of ‘joined-up Rotary’. Not to have incoming RIBI Presidents at you recent meeting was a prime example.

        It seems we’ve been talking about that since the year dot but there’s very little evidence of it at a national level. We do it at local level with our three clubs getting together to tell people about the wonderful work that Rotary does and what it achieves.

        We recently also had Roger Frank from Upper Eden in town demonstrating the way that the iron lung was employed in the days when polio was in Great Britain. Four clubs working together for Rotary with a good news story – brilliant. For once it also got a good spread from the local paper. They got one or two things wrong – but you know what the Evening Mail’s like!

        I’ve said enough now Herbert but despite what some may think my glass is always half full, so I look forward with interest to the positive results from your recent meeting.

        As always regards to you and Joy.

        1. Ron – great to have you contributing to the return of the blog and thanks for your kind comments.

          You make excellent points – some of which have been picked up in previous blog posts and others which will continue to drag and drag.

          I am with you in terms of cost – the cost of doing ‘normal’ Rotary in a standard lunch-club is ~£550 per annum. The issue is that many people can engage with other charities – and ‘do rotary’ in their own way without any near the costs associated with Rotary.

          Like I say, all great points – oh, one more thing….

          You ever thought about perhaps being a Guest Blogger – get in touch as you’ve pretty much written your first blog in your comments. Go on give it a go…

    2. Herbert Chatters says:

      Hi again Ron. Martin correctly pointed out about how RF treat donations. However what I should have reiterated is that 100% of funds collected at local level by Clubs for local and or District distribution finds its way to the cause. Certainly that applies to RoundTable and Lions but hay, we are leaders.

    3. Sarah says:

      Spot on: This is how I feel about “my Rotary”, and am working toward change however I can. The single biggest improvement to weekly Rotary (meetings) would be that all meetings are working meetings. Laptops on table; flipcharts on wall or notebooks and pens out. That feeling of accomplishment and usefulness is what will keep people coming back.

      1. says:

        Completely agree Sarah. That would work with the younger members, but not the old guard. As I said earlier there’s nothing wrong with the older ones carrying on the great work they’ve done over the years and continuing to enjoy the fellowship of a weekly meal.

        Others can do their own thing in coffee bars or wherever with flip charts etc. The trick is to get younger ones to join when they have a perception of Rotary being the old guard with chains etc. How do we do that?

        Perhaps ‘Friends of Rotary’ is one answer that would help. We’ve are currently recruiting such a team, and they don’t have to pay Rotary dues because they are not Rotarians, so that addresses the financial barrier which sometimes arises. Friends pay just £10 a year.

        In order to stop our club collapsing we have a rule that existing Rotarians cannot join Friends without a gap of at least 12 months. In practice we also find that they don’t want to transfer anyway because they are quite happy doing Rotary in their way, which is where I started this reply! Regards Ron

      2. Great comments Sarah – I think the key issue is letting people do Rotary the way they feel most comfortable. As Ron said previously, this could mean letting the lunch Clubs and dinner meetings continue (providing they maintain a level of commitment to the changes of Rotary, i.e. equality and diversity etc.) and then let the new Clubs develop and flourish.

  12. can I add that I too was hoping for a lot more from Eve. She effectively was working really hard 5/6 months before her tenure and as I witness is still doing that but I was hoping as with Nan, that women in Rotary and Female a Rotary president would be a watershed and hail a new outlook and approach. Saddened that has still not materialised…added to that Presidents local and RI seem to start their term of office on selection (6 or 8 months before July 1st) when they have no ‘power’ and then only have 6 months to make an impact before the next PE is selected and does the rounds. Ian Risley will undoubtedly be a good President but it is him we see now, even though John Germ is actually the President. This surely is a case for extended Presidency where ideas can be put into action, instead of being stifled by time constraints.

    1. Chalmers Cursley says:

      The Rotary International Presidental role is a four year commitment. President Nominee, President Elect, President and Immediate Past President. Two of those years require the President Elect and subsequently President to live above the ‘shop’ in Evanston.
      A similar time commitment is expected of Rotary Britain and Ireland Presidents, District Governors and Club Presidents, save that of living above the ‘shop’.

    2. Good points well raised Adrian.

      To be fair to the President and those before her – I think the issue is that I’m not sure anyone has ever undertaken a study on the Return on Investment of the position. Like I said in the blog – why do we need our own President when the real one already exists in Evanston? So our President try their best with visits to Clubs and Chairing meetings apparently being the [perceived] role that they undertake.

      Again, Ray Burman tried to change that and make the role far more ambassadorial and external facing – but guess what….? He was criticised by some for not ‘towing the line’ and doing it his own way. Remember this is the President to ripped up his General Council agenda on is first meeting and decided that him and his team were going to ‘get to work’ straight away.

      The big issue (as I said in the blog) and you have confirmed Adrian is that you already yesterday’s news before your even 2/3 through your year as President – then you become a ‘past’ as you observe your Depute pick up your mace and start to rule the roost….

      It is a very strange set up…

  13. Allan Berry says:

    It is disappointing that the meeting Rotary Blogger is covering had to be called at all. If the leadership of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland had a total grip and understanding of what is happening within the organisation they would not have needed to call this meeting. On the other hand we must give them some credit for admitting their failures and trying to do something about it. Let’s face it RIBI is not in a good place at the moment and we delude ourselves if we think otherwise. Members have been pointing this out for years now but as ever almost nothing has been done to rectify the situation. RIBI is unique in the world of Rotary International and just imagine if led properly the opportunities that are on offer. However, with the set up within the UK and Ireland the members are not being engaged by RIBI so it is not adding value and that is what it is there for.

    Was the leadership looking for a ‘silver bullet’ or a ‘white knight’ from the attendees of the meeting to cover all the failings of the past and then look to the future. Although one wonders how they could look to the future when the upcoming leaders were not in attendance.

    It is admitted and is transparent and open that the ‘elephant in the room” as it has been labeled, is the exponential drop in membership moving into the future and any project/initiative presented should in the outcome go some way to addressing that requirement. As the membership drops those left will be asked to pick up the shortfall. It will hit their pockets and they will need to dig deep into their commitment to ensure projects come to fruition. One does wonder when that penny will drop.

    The ‘silver bullet’ being looked for does not exist neither does a ‘white knight’ since addressing the shortfalls of RIBI needs a many faceted solution and Rotary Blogger has attempted to address some of them. It’s a good effort and is commended and I guess people attending “The Meeting” had raised some, if not all of the points.

    So what is being done? What changes can we expect to see? What opportunities will be on offer for members to embrace and take on board with enthusiasm? Will there be plans that can be implemented with great motivation?

    All of this needs to be done to save RIBI for the members sake.

    1. Thanks for your comments Allan.

      I love your ‘silver bullet’ and ‘white knight’ analogies…I wish I had thought of them. (Might be time for a Guest Blog in that case!)

      They key question you pose is ‘what changes can we expect to see?’

      I think this is burning issue and once again remains to be seen. You can see from the comments in this and previous blogs that people are getting bored and frankly frustrated waiting on seeing change.

      The irony is that those making comments on this blog, contrary to being a ‘thorn in the foot’ of that elephant that is RotaryGBI, actually care passionately about the organisation and want to see it survive.

      If only there was a way of having those voices hears….oh, wait a minute….

  14. David Ellis says:

    Rotary Down Under us a good model to follow, it is basically based around the RDU magazine and it funds an office in Parramatta, near Sydney, staffed by paid personnel some of whom are Rotarians. It seems to work, I had the opportunity to visit their offices and see it at work. The General Council is too cumbersome a vehicle to drive change, obstacles are there at every turn. The main problem is talking about change but “not on my watch”, also the problem is that any GC only has 1 or maybe 2 meetings to affect any change.
    We have a conference that is failing and needs changing now but we are faced with the next two Presidents already planning “their” conference, it is an RIBI conference. i hear that in two years time we are to have a one day conference, really??? Why bother.
    The whole organisation needs radical change and strong leadership, I just worry where it is going to come from.
    When people are appointed as chairmen when specifically told of their inability to carry out the duties it is hardly surprising that the Districts are having to fend for themselves. What major membership or marketing initiative has come from the committees this year? I will probably be castigated for being negative but I predicted this and it gives me no pleasure in being proved correct.

    1. The conference issue is a major one David Ellis.

      As I said in the Blog, I am pretty sure that the vast majority of Regular Rots are not aware that the Conference runs at a loss – and in some cases (apparently this year) a substantial loss. If the conference is to continue – it urgently needs to be looked at with a business view.

      It is essential that the Conference moves away from apparently ‘belonging’ to the President. Those days are well gone now. It is a Rotary Conference and needs to be pitched as such…that said, I can feel a whole new blog coming based purely on the Conference at some point in the future.

  15. Paul Hickson says:

    Great blog as always

    It never ceases to amaze me that an organisation that has been instrumental in almost eradicating only the second disease ever cannot safeguard it’s own future, at least as far as Rotary in GB and I is concerned..

    Addressing the first point made by Rotary Blogger I hope that President Eve provides a reference to this meeting in her Facebook live event next week. That will ensure that all Rotarians are potentially aware that the meeting has taken place and not just those who read this blog.

    More importantly though does it address the ‘Ego issue’ Rotary Blogger refers to by sending a message that RIBI accepts it doesn’t have all the answers and like clubs it can and will tap into vocational skills outside it’s( General) Council. Visioning is a great example of how clubs are doing this.

    If RIBI has started to address this elephant in the room it has a much better chance of increasing engagement with Clubs and improving the voting percentages because without those it has lost/will lose relevance.

    I do however have a concern that the exercise could backfire unless the ideas expressed by ‘The Ten’ are implemented in some shape or form( or very good reasons are provided to them as to why not).. If they are not could we start to see even more vociferous comments in this blog and on the Membership and Development facebook site.

    Is the genie out of the bottle ?

    1. Paul, great comments well made.

      Amazing question, is the genie out the bottle?

      You make a great point in that if the information shared in under four hours in [now] seven minute soundbites by ‘The Ten’ aren’t acted upon then, I think the tide of mood against RotaryGBI both at home and abroad may actually start to get stronger with an increasing number of people joining forces with those who are already asking challenging questions.

      If not, those in Office Bearer positions at RotaryGBI may find out the hard way just how difficult it is to put a Genie back in the bottle…

  16. Mac Purcell says:

    As usual James, a thought provoking blog. It seems like a re-visit of the same issues, this maybe the reason for the lack of response from the usual social media crowd, they are standing on the platform waiting for a train, or they have left the organisation earlier. I am not the only one looking to leave, judging by the size of the crowd.

    My District put out a paper at the last District Council, entitled ‘Looking towards out future’ followed by a line ‘As time goes by, we all expect there will be change’

    The last paragraph has a line ‘The Leadership of District …. has an oracle that it can consult – the Rotarians in the Clubs of District ….

    Not a single question mark, or a suggestion about how the consultation would work, but a ‘Freudian slip’ in the paper’s title tells it all, maybe!

    Some suggestions, treat Rotaract as an innovative and flexible Rotary Club, give them a seat on the District Executive, restrict the number of PDG’s on District Executive and their tenure, change the post of DG to District Chair person, extend tenure to three years, with agreed programme of representing Rotary to the ‘outside world’, strip back and reduce the over bearing bureaucracy, appoint a competent manager to run the District assisted by a board of skilled Rotarians.

    Adopt an emergency 5 year strategy for growth, with three goals, increase membership, support our Rotary Foundation, raise Rotary awareness in our local communities.

    Must go now, my train is approaching…….

    1. Great points Mac.

      Yes, that train soon to pull into the station may need to clip on some extra carriages the way things are going. It is interesting as you say that we are effectively revisiting a number of the old chestnuts we have been roasting for a number of years.

      I know that I have heard of ‘change in Rotary’ for practically the whole time I have been a member – but I struggle to think of any fundamental changes that would be seen as radical in terms of developing the organisation in these islands.

      I like a number of your suggestions – particularly the one that gives Rotaract the opportunity to sit on the Executive in District as well as working to strip back the bureaucracy – and the implied more ‘business-like’ approach.

      …you may also want to make a dash for that train when it arrives as you may have a battle to get on it – far less get a seat!

  17. Mark Stewart-Clarke says:

    Interesting Blog as usual and you already know my views on the need for change. You asked several questions one concerning Rotaract and them joining Rotary, at the recent Council on Legislation (COL) delegates voted in favor of Rotaractors being members of Rotary at the same time. You also mentioned Zones, currently we are 17 and 18a the latter Districts south of a line from the Wash to the Severn estuary and Belgium. From 2020 we will be Zone 19 and 20 the latter being the 6 most southern Districts in RIBI and Districts in Holland, Spain and Portugal.
    The only way to reverse nearly all our problems is to increase membership. COL also changed many rules on membership, attendance and how Clubs administers themselves. If we use these changes to the full encouraging new young and newly retired members and let them administer their own new club/satellite groups without interference only guidance when asked for we will have a chance to reverse the tide.

    1. Thanks for all the clarity on some of the zone issues Mark.

      There have been some interesting comments from previous contributors to this blog post about interference from existing Clubs to new Clubs trying to make them replicas/clones of the way in which that Club is already operated.

      So how do we stop this and allow new Clubs to…just get on with it and do it their way?

  18. Arthur Jones says:

    Judging by many of the comments above I wonder why any of us is a member!!! This regular navel gazing is detrimental to Rotary and I suspect that many of the ‘knockers’ of the organisational side of Rotary have never taken on a district office ( I am not referring to the contributors of this blog here) and have a jaundiced view of Rotary because they only ever see their own club. I would like to see the word club removed from all paperwork or advertising and then perhaps we will eventually tell our communities that we belong to a world wide organisation but more importantly, we will remind Rotarians that we are greater than ‘The Rotary Club’!

    1. I have to disgaree Arthur as I think that most “mavericks” …( or “knockers” as you call them) have seen life outside their club either at district level or national … I certainly have and as one person who is considering leaving said to me once “I wish I had not seen outside my club and not experienced district and national exposure as I
      would be less inclined to want to leave!” … This resonates with me I have to say!

      Ask yourself .. Would you join as a member today if you had not already joined?

      Even passionate Rotarians get tired.

      1. That’s a very interesting comment Martin….

        Isn’t it interesting that some of those with the most jaundiced views as Arthur has suggested are those who have held District and National (and some of those senior) posts?

        Arthur’s post about belonging to the International Organisation definitely will resonate with many – and I wonder if there could be a potential for Clubs to ‘decline the opportunity’ to remain as member of RotaryGBI but rather opt just to be members of the worldwide organisation….?

        1. Mac Purcell says:

          In these days of social media, you can be a member of any Club anywhere in the world. Such as an online club as one example.
          Anyone interested in joining a ‘passport Rotary club’, where you choose which Club you visit, anywhere in the world? Too radical?

          1. Not too radical at all Mac … that is sort of what we are doing in eClub of East Anglia with worldwide members and collaborations. For example, Just helping set up a “passport online club” (eClub) as you call them in Cape Town and we have helped traditional club Rotarians similar in Harrogate/Ripon/Knaresbourough develop an online hybrid group for young professionals only a couple of weeks ago. Their first hybrid meeting two weeks ago and online meeting last week ..

    1. Thanks Mike – I think we definitely now have a lot to discuss…will give the documentations I have received across the course of yesterday and today some thought.

      And, just for information the blogs will still continue – perhaps just occasionally but perhaps slightly more often than recently.

  19. Well I cannot remember the last time a Blog was so well supported (both sides) and the diversity of opinion. I read the lot, every time comments land in my inbox. I have learned a lot (really) I have been introduced to people I knew were out there but never engaged with. I now have a copy of the 2017 Organisational Development plans and Financial Forecasts. While I am chugging through all this I had a problem that I could not begin to solve without help from others ‘much wiser’ and more experienced. The results were refreshing with a go get it approach rather than stick to the rules agenda. Satellite Clubs are Satellite clubs…..hooray…membership should still be set against the four way test.

    Even while I been working on club stuff and trying to make sense of being a Rotarian I get an email from a school we support in Uganda with menstrual health and education, malaria prevention and water and sanitation. The Department of Education have suspended the primary school use (Not the Upper school) until the toilets are upgraded. Cost of this is $1,000 top end but the school struggles to even pay it’s staff and many of the kids at primary are taught free. However this demonstrates to me that Ugandan government are getting a grip on health and education of the youngest of children

    I will be asking my club to help in the morning and they will tell me to find funding to match elsewhere with another Rotary club. The point I am making is that as Rotarians we carry on despite all the machinations. Those sufficiently determined will turn this tanker around or at least point it in another direction. The world keeps turning and we as a group do amazing things….we need to sort the ‘problems’ somehow so we and Rotary have a future to be proud of.

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