In this the first of a series of blogs we ask the questions that every member of the organisation will ask in their journey through one of the most prestigious organisations in the world.
The other week I met with a good friend for lunch. One of the first announcements he made was that he had left Rotary and he said it was like a weight being lifted from his shoulders. Now this was a person who had helped start a new club and over the years had been involved in taking part in reviews for RIBI so he had a good idea of the organisation and the system. We did not really go into the precise detail for his leaving we had many discussions over the months, and he had spoken with colleagues and I did not want to go over old ground. In our discussions over the months he had left me in no doubt that he had become disillusioned with the organisation and it’s ability to adapt to the changing world. I came to the conclusion right or wrong that he reckoned he had done his bit to try to bring about change had got his ideas knocked back so many times that he felt the battle was not worth it. He had found lots of other things to do using his extensive experience in business starting companies and using his marketing and sales skills and I knew he did not give in lightly.
I came away from our lunch somewhat concerned . Here was a good Rotarian who had a lot to offer, had a lot of respect for the organisation and was still supporting the Rotary Foundation but could see no future requirement for his skills and talents and as we talked even less for the organisation within the UK and Ireland. Was he right I wondered to give up and move on? What was so wrong with the organisation from his point of view to bring him to this decision?
In recent discussions with other Rotarians in a similar position I realised that his and their thinking was along much the same lines and some had not taken high office they were members of clubs who could see their club failing and were disheartened.
He had left Rotary and he said it was like a weight being lifted from his shoulders.”
As you do, if you are concerned about something you think further and speak with a few people to balance your view. Should I be alarmed.
Time and again sadly I came up against the same opinions, some members were taking over being President of their club for a second or even a third time but had no club members to take other posts. Others turned up at meetings now when there was a good speaker, some turned up each week because they had friends at the club and just enjoyed a chat and a meal once a week. There were others who would turn out to shake a bucket or help with a charity event but that was as far as their involvement went. All of them realised they needed new members to freshen the club and all of them like myself think it’s a great organisation that needs to modernise fast to make it relevant to modern day living.
So on their behalf I did some more thinking and came up with a few thoughts and of course questions.
Is the organisation changing, is it adapting to a changing world, do the people leading the organisation see the need for change and understand what needs to be done? Indeed do they have the vision, courage, leadership skills, enthusiastic devotion and organisational ability to bring much needed change about?
Some of us have been asking these questions for years now and the more we ask the more urgent our questions become.
Before suggestions are made it is perhaps worth reflecting on Rotary the organisation in the United Kingdom and Ireland referred to as Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland RIBI. The structure is unique within the Rotary organisation in that there is an association of clubs forming various committees and groups at the top of which is a General Council consisting of the District Governors representing the clubs across RIBI all led by an elected President with a team around them.
This structure is administered by a team based in Alcester known as the Secretariat.
With such a unique organisation and structure come unique opportunities not on offer anywhere else within Rotary. So in many respects members of Rotary within RIBI have two bites of the cherry. They can engage the facilities of Rotary HQ in Evanston Illinois and also what’s on offer at RIBI.
With these unique opportunities comes a responsibility to engage and add value for members within their field of support. RIBI have various committees within their remit to facilitate many aspects of the Rotary Clubs activities within these islands.
“With such a unique organisation and structure come unique opportunities not on offer anywhere else within Rotary.”
Unquestionably the most important of these committees is Membership Development and Retention closely followed by Public Image, then The Rotary Foundation, Community Service, International Service, Vocational Service and Youth Service.
Within all of these committees/groups/teams call them what you will are truly devoted and passionate Rotarians tasked with supporting Districts, Clubs and Members within RIBI. They are or should be tasked with changing mindset and lifting morale, enthusiasm and motivation. I reckon this support is required more now than ever but I’m struggling to find it. The line of communication is from the committee to district then to club and of course the most important person in Rotary the grass roots club member.
I believe if we were to ask many club members, who are the backbone of the organisation but have never been called to high office, what value RIBI adds to their experience as a member and if as a result they would be more engaged in the organisation the answer would almost always be a negative.
So lets face it, the stark truth, something somewhere is wrong and not working, something is fundamentally wrong. Is it in the execution of the plans of these committees, is it the communication from RIBI to the members after all the chain is long and a link could easily break, result: information and engagement lost. Does RIBI have a pragmatic communication plan, is it planning new and innovative ways to alter mindset to open minds of present members to accept new ideas in the second decade of this century?
Something somewhere is wrong and not working, something is fundamentally wrong.”
So I return to my friend who I had met for lunch and of course discussed Rotary. He is no longer part of the team but he so wanted to be to play his part to help Rotary grow. He was never in a competition for recognition for himself or his club he just wanted to get on and do a good job for Rotary but let’s face it he was rejected and dejected and if you are reading this I am sure you will be concerned as there are so many like him in the organisation. He was a talent we could ill afford to lose, there are a lot more like him so it is beholden on us to try and keep such members, to engage and motivate them to spread the Rotary message of doing good in the world. We say we are people of action but that begins at home so let’s see if the people of action can take the right actions to keep good members, enage the present ones and be attractive enough to encourage people to join us.
This blogpost was written by Allan Berry, a Rotarian from District 1080 and former Editor of RIBI’s National Magazine. In a future blog Allan will take a look at ways and ideas of engaging members present and prospective.
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