Will the last one to leave…

It’s been a while…

But I’ve been prompted to get back to the RotaryBlogger keyboard on the basis of the increasing numbers of conversations I am having with fellow Regular Rots that are giving serious consideration to making a quiet backdoor exit from what they once believed was a wonderful organisation.

Now, to put this in perspective, I’m not speaking to hundreds of Rotarians around the world who are thinking of leaving – but I am in direct or indirect contact with quite a few who are giving some serious consideration as to whether Rotary International is giving them any of the satisfaction or fulfilment it once did.

Despite the best efforts of many initiatives and the way in which the figures are presented, it seems from those in the know that net membership figures across the organisation are effectively dropping year on year.


Is it really moving towards a position of “Could the last one to leave please turn off the lights” for Rotary International?

Are we now getting to a position where the age profile of the organisation has reached the ‘tipping point‘ many people spoke of a few years ago? This tipping point being the position whereby the demographic direction of the organisation gets to a position whereby it is non-recoverable, i.e. destined to continue on the same trajectory on which it has travelled for the last number of years and nothing is going to stop it.

Take the issue of age; I happened to stumble across a photograph posted on Facebook by a Rotarian currently attending Governor Elect Training this weekend in Madrid. In a line up of eleven posers in the photo – I would have put the average of those in the gallery in their mid-sixties – and even then, admittedly I may have been a little kind in reaching my conclusions. But without equivocation there is no doubt their age profile lay within the 65-75 year old age bracket.

On a personal basis, I have slowly come to the conclusion, perhaps even realisation that Rotary is not modern enough for today’s society. And despite all efforts previously been made, only a matter of weeks ago a work colleague confirmed she still had the perception that Rotary was a retired, male-only organisation affiliate to the Freemasons!

After all this time – why haven’t we got it right?

In terms of the other equalities issues we are still way off the mark as well and it would seem that Rotary is nowhere near as diverse at it would paint itself to be or it would have the outside world believe.

Based on the UK Census Data of 2011 – 51% of the population was female (yes, you read that right – females actually held the balance in the most recent census), 87% of the UK was white and 18% deemed themselves to a long-term health problem or disability. In addition, an Office for National Statistics survey in 2013 assessed that 93.5% of the population classed themselves as ‘heterosexual’ or ‘straight’ with 1.5% being Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB) and the remaining 5% preferring not to say.

Therefore if we are talking about RotaryGBI and reflecting the 2011 census – then based on a membership of 50,000 Regular Rots we should therefore have:

  • 6,500 non-white Rotarians;
  • 9,000 with a long-term health issue or disability;
  • 750 Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual Rotarian (with the potential to be 3,250)
  • 25,500 female Rotarians

I am sure these figures would be reflective in many of the countries where Rotary is prevalent.

So as we look at the demographics of age, gender, sexuality, disability and race – it seems that Rotary International (certainly in UK and Ireland) doesn’t seem to be reflective of the changing face of the society to which it claims to be very much a part.

However, during my travels around Rotary Clubs, I have heard of potentially racist jokes being printed in Club and even District magazines; I have heard of homophobic behaviour and what I believe has recently been referred to as ‘locker-room’ chat taking place at meetings, I have even printed blog posts regarding female members being ‘encouraged’ to join other Clubs and yet little – if anything is ever done about these things [“Rotary’s Ticking Time Bomb” – May 2015].

So is it any wonder that modern, equality-savvy, feminists like myself are becoming increasingly disillusioned with what is clearly developing into a more and more out of date organisation – and therefore taking a personal decision to disengage as a member?

Only this week I read on social media a post from a positive, forward thinking and young Rotarian from Down Under who is probably one of the most enthusiastic Rotarians I have had the pleasure to come across over recent years – that they had been given a hard time by another Rotarian for apparently using Rotary for ‘self-promotion’. Reading ‘enthusiastic’s’ response you could hear that he was royally p*ssed off – but still offered a far-more, sensible and balanced comeback that the prompting comment.

But why would anyone do this? Jealousy? Envy? Keeping the youngsters down? Stop the rising stars? To be honest, I don’t know – I have no idea. But what I do know is that – such an example of this is yet another ‘tipping point‘ moment – one of those fragments in time where thoughts like ‘why do I do this?’ comes into your mind and having the potential to make an undecided Rotarian press the big red button and slip out the backdoor.

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it – in 2016 there are so many ways to do ‘Rotary’ and many of those in posts and positions delegated to be making and taking decision on behalf of the Regular Rots would be well placed to remember:

  • I don’t need to endure weekly ‘corporate chicken’ to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need to pay a subscription to an organisation to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need to attend regional or national meetings to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need to be bound by outdated rules and regulations to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need a top-heavy hierarchical structure to govern me to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need to be connected to an old-fashioned and out of date organisation to do good in my local community;
  • I don’t need a Rotary Club to connect with similar minds to do good in my local community.

This list could go on and on and I am sure you the reader could add your own “I don’t need to’s….” to the list as well.

So, as RotaryBlogger returns for one of the now infrequent posts – please do what this blog was created to do – and think!

Think about this decline in membership we are witnessing and perhaps at the same time as trying to attract new members – maybe think about why new members are not looking to join our organisation? And always remember it’s easier to retain a member than recruit a member – trust me, this is a very well documented fact in business.

Remember when Coca-cola unilaterally changed the formula of their soft drink. They could have done all the promotion and advertising they wanted to get their customers back – but the consumer no longer liked the product and therefore stopped buying it. It wasn’t until they undertook a bit of soul-searching and effectively admitted they didn’t know best and hadn’t necessarily got it right that things started changing for the better.

Maybe…just maybe there’s a lesson for our Rotary King and [infrequently] Queen-makers in there somewhere…

Images in order of appearance by Alexander Synaptic by CC

82 thoughts on “Will the last one to leave…

  1. Kristoff Alexander says:

    Hi James,

    I really really hope you don’t push the big red button and slip out the back door. It’s people like you that keep people like me going. I have many a time thought why the hell did i join up? I have, in my short time with the organisation, witnessed at first hand, bullying, animosity towards myself and others, racist jokes and others being hugely jealous of others efforts – as I pointed out too from our highly enthusiastic “young” Australian friend.

    Being part of a forward thinking club, I have no doubt that I enjoy helping others and giving something back to the local community. There are no meals, old traditions of sergeant at arms etc. Our group is highly diverse in gender, ethnicity and sexuality.

    I think the huge issue Rotary has is that there are so many “varieties” of Rotary all over the world that is why it is difficult for people to pinpoint what Rotary actually is. The picture painted of the men-only retiree group is far far from what I have experienced as a 30 something. But then, you can go up the road a few miles and there is such a group.

    It has become clear that Rotarians need to remember to apply the 4-way test when sending emails and operating on social media platforms. This moral code, for some reason, gets forgotten and causes all sorts of issues with people and personalities.

    PS If you were to hop off.. you’re blog name “Blogger” wouldn’t sound as good as “RotaryBlogger”.
    PPS Big fan as always. Are you any relation to the TV Chef? 🙂

    1. Thanks for your kind words as ever Kristoff. You raise a number of really good points – in particular the one about how Rotary looks around the world, or even around your region. Yes, there are a number of growing Clubs – for example I know of an excellent example of a working Club that started out (no meals, graces, bells, bling etc.) in ASDA community room. However, only a few miles along the road you will find a room full of men lunching in grey suits with grey hair and with plenty of time on their hands because they are all pretty much retired.

      The big question we have – are we now beyond the ‘tipping point’? Can new Rotarians like you tip things back in the direction of survival. My response to that is that I really, really don’t know?!?!

  2. Mary says:

    This makes very very interesting reading and is correct in so many ways. Whilst agreeing that the demographics of many clubs, mine included, do not tally with the proportions expressed.
    There is one other group of people out there who have a lot of tenacity, have a lot of common sense, are good with logistics and organising things etc etc. These people are ‘disabled people’.
    Most clubs have able-bodied members who become disabled but how many Clubs ignore the potential for membership of the disabled. Would a person with slight or severe mobility problems be able to get into your venue? Is there level access from the car park. Are there accessible toilet facilities.
    Disabled people have a lot to give to society as they have a great understanding of what a fairer society needs.
    I am disabled by cerebral palsy from birth. I am President. Our Secretary is confined to a wheelchair, he is the mainstay of our Club.

    1. Thanks for commenting Mary – and you make a really good point. I have actually updated the Blog to reflect those in the 2011 Census that were determined to have a long-term health problem or disability. Ironically, due to the age profile this could be the Rotary category that actually comes closest to reflecting the national position.

      I agree, individuals with disabilities have a great deal to offer the community – and I know of a couple of situation whereby the location wasn’t access friendly – but nothing was done about it.

      I guess that there are a number of ‘ticking time bombs’ in terms of Rotary Clubs not complying with Equality Act 2010 – somebody, somewhere along the line is surely going to challenge this in the courts of the land; whether that be gender, sexuality, disability, race or any of the other protected categories – only time will tell.

  3. David S. says:

    This highlights the position that has been identified for a number of years without real commitment to addressing the issue. The recent changes resulting fro COL now give us a real chance to grab the issue and start on the path towards resolution.
    We will not succeed if those wishing to embrace change leave us. We need to understand the desires of those in their 30’s,40’s and even 50’s in modern society. (The corporate Family)
    We all have the responsibility to develop diversity in our Clubs and then make our local community aware of it by serving its needs. If we are seen serving our community needs other in the community may well wish to help us and then join us. However when they look in on us they must see something that is relevant to their availability. More fellowship can be forthcoming from working together in your community, than eating poor quality, poor value meals weekly.
    I have visited Clubs in parts of GB&I that are moving this way even with av ages of mid 60’s. They may have a hill to climb in reaching out to recruits below 50 but they are on the path.
    As a current DGN I hope to see developments along these lines by my DG year of 2018/19.
    Don’t switch the lights out just re-focus the beam.

    1. I think you have hit the nail on the head David. Listening to those in the 30s, 40s and 50s is the way ahead – but really listening to them. The world has changed exponentially in the last 10 years – and unfortunately some of the Rotary Leadership has (for various reasons) struggled to keep up far less embrace those changes.

      We now live in a very public world (this blog is an example of that) and I believe there are some who are very uncomfortable with being able to be questioned in such a manner that wouldn’t even have been possible 10 years ago. My slightly pessimistic fear is that as they ascend that hill – they are faced with another that they couldn’t see from the bottom!

      Thanks for commenting.

  4. Paul Hickson says:

    Cannot disagree with the majority of what you say and recognise the ‘less than service above self’attitude you refer to.

    The only point I would disagree on is that it is how our Governor Elects think that should determine their profile not necessarily just their age.

    I am currently in Madrid at the Rotary Institute that follows Governor Elect training and have been heartened by presentions from Rotary International directors essentially saying the same thing as in your article ‘The tide is going out and Rotarians have to decide whether their feet stay stuck in the sand etc but then going onto provide some good ideas from examples provided by Clubs across the States and Europe that provides some optimism.

    Without doubt there are clubs out there who have reached that tipping point, are not going to change and will die slowly. One way forward in those communities is to form new clubs that do represent the demographics and will provide an alternative for those members frustrated by the feet stuck in the sand approach of their fellow members.

    Given that we have nearly eradicated only the second disease ever surely we should be able to ensure the future of this wonderful organisation by adopting the forward thinking opportunities provided by the Council of Legislation.

    If Rotary International is prepared to make changes after 111 years it’s up to regular rots to make it happen and not put up with the selfish ‘This is my Rotary’ approach of some Rotarians who are not prepared to change.

    Ask them what happens to their Communities when the Club can no longer provide it’s service and see what answer if any tha you get ?

    1. Hmmmm….where to start Paul.

      Well a good place would be – thanks for reading and commenting.

      However, in my years in Rotary I have heard the “let the non-performing and non-conforming Club wither and die on the vine – all we have to do is start new Clubs.” I totally get that argument. But – and it’s a big but – where are the new Clubs? If communities have Rotary Clubs that have that dead-in-the-water reputation in their locality – a new Club is not going to attract new members based on reputation if nothing else. (Remember the comment in the blog from a colleague who still though Rotary was male-only and masonic – even with the best level of sales and convincing – she is not going to want to join the organisation.)

      Being slightly controversial – I’m not sure that Rotary are ever going to get the credit for polio eradication. And even if they did, will this encourage members to join. I actually don’t think so. Question: Who eradicated small pox? I’m guessing your average potential Rotary member won’t know – or will hazard a guess at the World Health Organisation.

      And that takes me back to my point about ‘many other ways to do Rotary in the community now’ and unfortunately it doesn’t actually have to be called Rotary!

      Finally, your last question – in times of austerity – it is the third sector that is stepping up to the plate to undertake many community roles. Some organisations will be able to continue doing so, some won’t. I think Rotary falls into one of these categories. I’m not sure we’d be pleased with the answers we got it we asked our local communities (people not connected with Rotary) what would happen if Rotary wasn’t in their town or village! No more people stewarding local events in fluorescent tabards; no more fireworks displays; no more collections outside the local supermarket for a foundation we (as the community) aren’t actually sure what it does; no more mock-interviews etc. I’m being slightly flippant – but you get the drift.

      Anyway, hope the inspiration keeps things going in Madrid – I love the analogy about being stuck in the sand. We wait with baited breath to hear what these new and innovative ideas are going to be that will ‘Save our Rotary’!

    2. The indoctrination begins …. The diifculty with many DG candidates [and it is not aimed at any in particular] is that there are not that many cominig forward for the role … in the past three years we have had only one candidate and therefore they get the role by default possibly knowing little about what is to come!

      I certainly would not want the role because I need to be convinvced that trolling around all the district clubs in the year is a good use of that resource .. DG should know the clubs by the time they get into office and should hit the ground running with an outward facing viewpoint .. in my experience often lacking.

      The Gen Council is a farce as there is no real continuity, as by the time you get your feet under the table your term is over which leaves a void for those in power to fill with their own agendas. The DG is powerless to do anything about it unless they climb the greasy pole and then they get sucked into the system .. wallah – No change!

      I am just going out to find where the light switch is … 😉

  5. Alistair Mackintosh DYEO 1020 says:

    Dear rotary blogger
    Nothing you have said in this post is wrong, you are quite right to point out deficiencies in average clubs that belong in the past, I am lucky that I am leaving after 25. Years of service in Rotary because of demands on my time have changed ( first time grandparent ) During my time I have seen seismic changes that in general have all been positive, from women members to Rotakids. I leave with a happy feeling knowing that our club is in good heart and hands. Maybe we are just lucky but the more we act as a team, the new members start the projects and the oldies follow up in being present when you need bodies such as being at a meeting of the Rotakids whilst the younger members are at work. Rotary has given me the opportunity to tour Canada twice for golf and curling and at district level a chance to run 2 camps involving 5 clubs and 22 European students, I consider that a privilege as I want these kids treated as I would my own. Rotary is what we make it , stay and make it better if you consider it worth saving, put your energies to good use in and out of your club, community,District or country. Get the membership on your side with forward vision and nothing will be impossible, show other clubs in your district the way forward,go get them Tiger.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Alistair – and first of all congratulations on your first grandchild.

      You make a lot of good point and it sounds like you have both put a lot in and got a lot out of the organisation – I am sure you will miss Rotary and it will miss you.

      You will have seen some seismic changes over the years, but if we can’t keep relying on the fact we ‘were forced’ to allow females to join the organisation over 30 years ago as progress today (and unfortunately for some that seems to be the case). We still have Clubs press releasing that they have their ‘first LADY member’ as being newsworthy in 2016! While this view exists we are not moving forward.

      The fact remains Rotary is increasingly becoming less representative of the society and more importantly the communities it is meant to support and represent. Fingers cross the membership changes people are talking about can help bring the tipping balance back.

  6. David Easton says:

    While I agree with many of your thoughts about the make up of Rotary and the way it is run, I feel that sometimes it is easier to complain than it is to attempt to move an organisation forward. Maybe you do not need to do some of the things you list in order to do good in your community, however on most if not all occasions it requires someone to come forward and organise volunteers. Rotary has succeeded in doing a great deal of things to the benefit of and improved the lives of many people in the past, present and hopefully the future. I believe that to lose Rotary would not make the world a better place. Yes, there are outdated ideas, attitudes and behaviours from some Rotarians ( even within my own club and District) we must work to change these. I believe that Rotary can evolve into an organisation fit for the 21st century but it will take effort and time. So I would say please stick with Rotary but step up to the plate and help to change it not just complain.There are a growing number of clubs within my district that are moving forward in the way they operate and this number will grow in the future It will not be easy but it can be done. By the way I am between the age demographic that you decried above but do not consider myself old by attitude, behaviour or progressive thinking. I will be DG in 2018 but I put my name forward in order to invoke change, progression as I can see that this is necessary for the organisation to survive and go on to prosper.

    1. David – I take your point about the local community – the point I am making in the blog is that ‘Rotary’ per se does not need to be involved in order for individuals or local communities to ‘do good’ – so Rotary shouldn’t (as they do in some cases) pin their hopes on being the great saviour of ‘community service’.

      I’m glad you believe that Rotary can evolve into the 21st Century – I sure hope it will too.

      There is no question that it is definitely easier to complain than move the organisation forward. But this blog is not a complaint – it is merely some of my own musings that will hopefully get other Regular Rots thinking. Trust me, if I wanted to complain – I could. Also in terms of stepping up to the plate – how do you know that I haven’t already done so and tried to influence the changes you speak of?

      On another note, just to be clear I didn’t ‘decry’ any age demographic in the blog – I was simply trying to point out that even on social media our ‘outward facing’ profile shows an ageing organisation that I’m not sure I could get some of my work to join as a result.

      Over the life of RotaryBlogger.co.uk I have had a number of similar comments as your own from future DGs all with the same message as your own; “stepping up to the plate to change, made a difference, take the organisation forward….etc. etc. etc.” The only ones who truly tried to make a change and buck the norm was the ‘Corkeson’ Presidential Campaign – and what happened to them???

      So I’ll say the same to you as I’ve said to all the other before you – good luck in 2018. Please come back at the end of your 12 months in office and let us know how you get on…thanks for reading and commenting on the blog!

    2. I have to say David admirable as your sentiments are, RB and several of us have “stepped up to the plate” on many occasions at all levels within Rotary and due to the nature of a one year tenure we get an idealist rhetoric from incoming officers I am afraid who maybe do not know better. I really do hope you will be able to achieve your desire.

      We have allowed the centre to become a controlling influence through a small number of individuals who have their own agenda and use their sphere of influence to hijack the organisation by pressurising the DG of the day into taking suppressive action against those who speak out for the good of the whole. We have had a couple of recent glaring examples of this!

      You say be patient and change will take time … Time has passed by and nothign changes for the better – RIBI spend [and lose money] money and get chastised for questioning it, RIBI spend an inordinate sum on PI and membership to no avail and the structure simply does not change to no avail. How long do we wait when things do not move forward and the centre becomes in disarray. There are far too many teams, committees and people influencing things for one year leaving a void for those who wish on the greasy pole to have psuedo power to fill it.

      I have seen first hand, as I am sure RB has too, the manouverings of leaders to meet their agenda – and it is with our money too!! I could cite many examples but would prefer to do that more privately, unless pushed.

      As a membership Chairman I have seen the erosion of our membership through disillusionment and disagreement at all levels. RB is correct in his concern … It is time that the grass root Rotarian took back control of their organisation and stop the rise in centralist movement in an “Association of Clubs”. It should be remembered that RIBI is an administrative arm of RI [although with devoled responsibility] not an “authority” who can bully and sanction those who wish to speak out for change.

      Stepping up to the plate does not mean that you have to become a DG .. it means that you work WITH other Rotarians around the world to benefit Rotary and not have to continually have to question the funding, the actions, the bullying, the secrecy and the maniputaltion of the organisation in these isles.

      There is a growing band of Rotarians want change but are getting frustrated with the way the organisation is going.

      1. Thanks for your comments Martin – and to be honest there isn’t really anything I can add to what you have said.

        I have had many conversations with very Senior Rotarians who (for whatever reason) do not want to go on the record – but there definitely seems to be a small nucleus of power in the organisation in these isles.

        One only has to look back to #Hodgegate to see how the guidance set by ‘the membership’ was viewed during that particular Presidential campaign year. The way in which the ‘test case’ of Corkeson was handled…I’m not even sure that has been sorted out now?!?

        I think your last sentence sums up the feelings that I am picking up from conversations I am having – particularly across these isles.

    3. Hi again David Easton .. If you see David Ellis’s post it will confirm that people who have been stepping up to the plate are now just as fed up with the orgaisation as others … so I repeat as admirable your intentions are it has been with us for many years and getting worse.

      Now, you could say it is all sour grapes from people who have tried and not got anywhere but believe me all of us “mavericks” have rotary at heart and have put our money where our mouth is on several occasions

      Think how you will change things with this history in mind DE and you might be lucky if you have the stamina 🙂 Here’s raising a glass to your ambition to change things.

  7. David Ellis says:

    RB, where have you been, we’ve missed you!
    I note with interest that the individuals that have responded to your blog that have a more optimistic view are in the main future DG’s. The reality is that the current system within Rotary GBI is flawed, all the plans and hopes the incoming DG’s have are quickly thearted by the system. The General Council agenda is probably larger than an annual meeting of a major corporation and many items on the agenda do not directly impact on the clubs. As many of the contributors to this blog are aware I have stood for the Rotary GBI President on the last four occasions, why? I hear you ask. It was to instigate the very changes that are obvious to the grass roots membership, however, the presidency is so irrelevant to the normal club member that only 50% of the clubs bothered to vote. The system did not allow me, or anyone on my behalf, to tell the clubs in my own district to vote, at our recent District Conference there were many who didn’t even know the vote had taken place.
    We need strong leadership from the top down, I was MPRC chairman 2012-15 and I am appalled at the total lack of guidance from our newly named Public Image team, who are they? Where are they? What are they doing? In the last 18 months we in Zone 17 have not had one communication from our PI Coordinator or their assistants. They have a budget that we pay for via our subs, where is it being spent.
    I could go on but these are just some of the issues that need addressing and we should start putting people with the correct credentials into the various positions. I was the very first Marketing Chairman who actually had a marketing background, that’s how switched on your leaders are!!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting David.

      Again, there is not much I can add to your comments and would fully concur with your views.

      This blog clearly documents my support for RotaryGBI – but I now think the clock is genuinely ticking on the organisation as it stands. Again, from conversations I am pretty sure there are Rotarians across the world (and particularly in Evanston) who would like to see the organisation go.

      With regard to the President – this is a really good point. Why do we have our own President? Is the world-wide President not good enough for the GB and Ireland? I think it was you that pointed out in a previous blog post that the Worldwide President doesn’t have the bling that the RIBI President has?!? Why is that???

      DO NOT get me started on the Presidential canvassing issue. I think in a previous blog one of those opposed to the idea thought it would be ‘crass’ to turn the presidency into a popularity contest. Really? Does this not show how out of touch they are from the way the modern world is working. One only needs to look at what’s happened to the Labour Party or for that matter the US Presidential campaign. The ‘people’ are tired of getting told what they should think – I’m absolutely positive that Rotary is still living in a that old world where if the people don’t care enough to take an interest – then we’ll push ahead and do what we want…

      Thanks for your comments David – as ever always insightful on the basis that you have been ‘on the inside’ – albeit on the outside now. Maybe you can truly say what you’ve always wanted now!

  8. Anonymous Rotarian says:

    There’s still no plan, that’s what frustrates me. Incremental change is okay, if there is a clear plan and it adds up to something – but the whole thing is too unstructured and based on luck. Nobody should be surprised at our retention rates – sort that out and you might resolve a lot that is wrong within clubs. I see a Rotarian above is leaving after over 20 years because of a grandchild (to state probably only one reason)…seriously, why can’t we offer members like that a way to stay within the organisation?! The answer is we can but they don’t often want to stay. In conclusion, expect things to get a lot worse before they can get better. Sad really. DGs are still referring to this as “my year” (see above) – I don’t even need to say how this approach is unsustainable. Homophobic, racist, gender, disability, etc, based abuse needs tackling head on. If it causes negative media, so be it – it might actually be the thing that drives membership growth with the right re-action from HQ.

    1. “Expect things to get a lot worse before the can get better” – I couldn’t have put it better myself Anon Rot. It’s interesting you picked up on the DG language which still prevails in terms of the ‘my year’ scenario. I’m sure they don’t mean it the way it sounds – but (again as I’ve said in this blog before) they need to start seeing it as the year in which they hold office.

      The point you make about homophobic, racist, gender-biased, disability ABUSE is very valid – and I think you could be right – taking action could actually give Rotary the attention it needs. If the PR is negative then it is both directly and indirectly good for the organisation – presenting us as an organisation that is willing to do something about Equality and Diversity and not just sustain the public perception of a middle-class, white, protestant, retired-gentleman’s Club.

      I seem to remember a survey being done by RotaryGBI a number of years ago where a Rotarian was described as, “my less fun grand-dad” – I’m not sure much has changed since then.

  9. Gary Dancer says:

    Extremely well written piece,I feel that we may well have reached the tipping point. In my view the problem is that Rotary failed to grasp the fact that the world around it was changing rapidly. We are at least 10 years behind the times and face an existential crisis because of this. I am a Rotarian to my core and hate to see this situation evolve,but I fear the reactionary forces within the organisation will continue living in the past and thus perpetuate the problems

    1. Thanks Gary – appreciate your kind words. Like you I am a Rotarian to the heart and love everything that the organisation stands for in terms of what it achieves in communities around the world. However, I am more and more with you in terms of whether we actually have the time to catch up on our decade of snoozing while the rest of the world physically and virtually has been rapidly changing around us.

      As an example, I know of a past RIBI President who wanted to change the title to RIBI Chairman – but was prevented. Not by the membership but by those around (most likely the ones looking towards an erosion of the title they aspired to have one day)…this would have been minor progress – but was stopped. Thus living in the past and not looking to the future.

  10. I can see the the frustrations but also see Rotary at an exciting crossroads where the product needs some modernization but also has some traditions that make it the first rate organization that has survived for over 100 years. The demographics are certainly changing and although I’m sure Rotary hasn’t reflected them, the times are changing. As people become able to join, from a financial and time commitment level, they are hopefully welcomed with open arms.
    Our club’s goal is to increase all groups but emphasizing young women which, from a family and career standpoint, may be like a finding a needle in a haystack. Our members in that demo are tremendous time managers!
    The old white men perception is our own fault because it’s my experience that Rotarians are a humble lot and don’t tell many about who and what they are and do. That does need to change if we hope to prosper.
    Bottom line, I believe Rotary is searching for answers and there has never been a better time to make it your own and perhaps with those new ideas lead us into a glorious second century!

    1. Good point about the ‘old, white man’ being our own fault. Although I’m not sure I agree with you about the humble and quiet point of view. Surely the predominantly white situation is nothing to do with whether we promote ourselves or not? However, if we are to tell people about who we are – then we need to reflect the society in which we are located.

      Today I have heard of a club that is actively engaging with another organisation that doesn’t encourage female or African American members – but despite protestations from members, the President is going ahead with this frankly ‘inappropriate partnership’. What does that partnership say about Rotary to that demographic in that community. And just to confirm, you read that right – that is happening today!

      Like you say, let’s hope society recognises Rotary as a worthwhile organisation and allows it to progress in to the second century to which you refer.

  11. Great Blog !!!

    I remember that about a month ago for so, I was suggesting a “Drains Up review” within RIBI…. this was in a closed group and was using it as a sounding board to see how fellow Rotarians felt.
    – I understand that it was copied & then put into the public domain !!!
    Soon afterwards, the Rotary hierarchy have taken the individual to task!!!

    This doesn’t help “Freedom of Speech ” and “discussion”…. was the topic matter to sensitive to senior citizens ???

    Perhaps I’m to young to be considered for certain roles ?
    – perhaps a pre requisite is that you have to be 60/65+ for a senior role in Rotary ???

    However, even with this in mind…. I’ve started making contact with large corporates in my area of West London to be a speaker onpre-retirement sessions.
    – this is a great way to get new individuals in the 50+ age group to share my experiences of Rotary & attract them to @Rotary & how their skills could still be used& make individuals proud of them

    So for leaving – I still have a valuable role
    – however remain concerned that Rotary in these isles remains very “WASP’ie”
    – we need to attract the BAME / LGBT ️‍ Groups along with those who are being let go of by corporates

    These groups bring diversity & freak skill sets to Rotary
    – thereby allowing us to reinvent ourselves & reinvigorate our organisation.

    1. Great comments Mukesh – I don’t think there will be many people who wont actually know how much you do for Rotary thanks to you being an early adopter of social media. Also the fact you were one of the co-founders of Worlds Greatest Meal.

      You make some valid points too – and I am sure that there will be many Rotarians who didn’t really even know what LBGT was until reading this blog nor will they know what BAME means (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnics) in terms of referring to non-white communities.

      Rotary simply has to become more representative of it’s communities…only time will tell. But in all honesty can you see some of your younger BAME community members from your area of London being engaged with Rotary in its current format…somehow I think that might be a struggle.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting.

    2. I feel I need to clarify and correct something you said Mukesh … The copy you refer to was NOT put into the public domain by the editor who reproduced it. As you know, it was used in part as an article filler of interest on page 19 of an award winning District magazine which goes only to Rotarians.

      You are however absolutely correct that the editor came under fire from senior leaders (if that is the correct term in the circumstances) putting pressure on our DG to “sort him out, censure and reprimand” … The district executive voted to leave things alone and let the editor do his job.

      It was also decided that it was not acceptable that the Gen Council and those particular officers should mind their own business and leave the award winning district magazine alone!

      The main complaint, apart from suggesting your reproduced article was inappropriate, was the the front page was used to comment on RIBI controversies. In fact there were only around 8 “controversial” articles published on the front page since 2011 (67 magazines)

      The editor was accused, quite brutally, that he was “bringing Rotary into disrepute” which was dismissed as ridiculous by the district executive and your reproduced article was considered by the D Exec to be constructive and informatiove and that national comments were unfounded and disgraceful. (even our DG after reading it agreed) … it is really disconcerting that our DG was highjacked at the Gen Council by people who probably had not even read it!

      The Magazine in question was added to the Gen Council agenda without prior consultation with our DG as to what it was all about!

      This incident epitomises the incidious use of power emerging within our organisation disrupting the equilibrium and adding to the fristration of some Rotarians.

  12. Paul Hickson says:

    Jennifer Jones, a RI Director, spoke at this weekend’s Institute about how the RI Board had focused a disproportionate amount of time at previous Board meetings on operational and governance issues without considering the transformational and strategic planning roles they should be fulfilling. They had spent time on those issues but not enough and they accepted that. It was refreshing to hear that level of humility and how they were going to exercise change to address that matter.

    I suspect given the comments made above with regards to General Council that someone may tell me that ‘transformational’ and ‘strategic planning’ may not even be on a typical GC agenda let alone anytime spent on them.

    It would however be good to hear from someone on this years General Council and who will have heard those same comments at the Institute that I am either wrong or that like the RI Board there is going to be a refocus to redress the tipping point arguments put forward and supported by other contributors and that they are indeed engaged in searching for the answers Scott mentions above.

    There is an expression in football I believe of a manager ‘losing the dressing room’. Is that what we are experiencing here with RIBI and if it is how can that be avoided to ensure it remains wholly relevant to fulfill our needs.

    1. Paul – the words from Jennifer Jones are absolutely welcomed, as is she in terms of taking the organisation forward. (Even if she did ignore numerous contacts from RotaryBlogger.co.uk to speak about Rotary – I promise I’m not bitter.)

      I think that part of the ongoing issues with the General Council in RIBI is that it is so short-term. It is for all intents and purposes what would be referred to as a short-life committee in the business world. So in reality the General Secretary and the team at the Secretariat have to contend with a string of short-term committees year after year after year.

      I absolutely love your football reference about ‘losing the dressing room’ – and I think that is a spot-on observation. I think there are those who care about RiBI and there are those who don’t. Unfortunately, those who don’t are in the increasing majority. However, this means that an increasingly smaller nucleus of individual are therefore at the core of the organisation in these islands.

      One interesting little experiment would be to see who’s name regularly appears on the sign-in register at Alcester and who’s phone number appears most regularly on the General Secretary’s call log. Now that would be an interesting report to see. From conversations I’ve had I am sure there would be a regular handful of people on that list…I think those are called the ‘movers and shakers’ of RIBI…

  13. Peter Davey says:

    As I have limited time today and a lot to do I will confine myself to responding to Paul’s challenge to “someone on this year’s General Council……” . I am quite happy to volunteer although I don’t meet the second half of his criteria – I was not in Madrid. The General Council Newsletter sent to all Rotarians in RIBI for whom an e-mail address is held did indeed make it clear on page one that strategic planning and change were discussed and that work is going on. Ideas inluding feedback from District teams will be discussed again when we meet again very soon. All of this is quite rightly at the forefront of the GC’s agenda.

    1. Peter – thanks for taking time to read and comment on the blog (again) – seems you are the ‘brave’ on in the team in the ivory tower that is Alcester – and for that you should be applauded. Thanks for picking up on the point about the General Council – it will be interesting to see what comes from the feedback from District teams points to and more importantly how it will be actioned (obviously if necessary).

  14. Caroline says:

    But I do need Rotary to be in contact with many people internationally who do good in many communities. If all you want is local good , join a Lion’s Club or the WRVS. I have a hunch that the more closely associated people are with District and RIBI the more fed up they get. Personally I find my Rotary experience more fulfilling than ever Using social media. As for the elderly male munching bunch just remind yourself that loneliness is a major psychological and social problem for their demographic and think of it being a new branch of Rotary service . Chewing your chicken will be much easier!

    1. Good point about the connection with people around the world – and you are right that thanks to the world of social media Rotarians from around the world are definitely virtually ‘hooking up’. In terms of ‘doing good in the local community’ the point being made in the blog is that being involved in serving the community in which you reside no longer has to be done through Rotary. In fact, there is an increasing number of other charities where people can ‘get their hands dirty’ and see very tangible results, very quickly.

      Great point you make about the social isolation and loneliness – and you are right this is a growing area of concern within our society. I was reading the other day that loneliness can have the same impact on health as smoking 10 cigarettes a day. However, if that is seriously what Rotary is becoming, then we have to accept that is not going to attract new business members to the organisation – they will find their ways of supporting the community in other ways – and not a piece of chicken in sight!

  15. says:

    Action not Words

    I’ve been reading the Rotary Blogger and there is a lot there for thought but even more so, action. I really wonder what real actions are being taken to address his concerns and that of quite a few Rotarians who he speaks for.

    Many of us know that the organisation within Great Britain and Ireland is on a downward trajectory in terms of membership. Whilst many other parts of the organisation in the world continue to grow for many reasons here in these islands that is not the case.

    Well intentioned members have come up with all sorts of ideas and suggestions on how this exponential regression can be reversed but are we at a point where it will be too little too late?

    Almost every month, perhaps every week we hear of this initiative or that initiative to help reverse the trend but either they fall on deaf ears or even worse action is taken and then dropped as the take up is too poor or to some it’s NIH (Not Invented Here). We do have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot at times.

    Rotary within these islands should be prospering with the kind of organisation we have and it is the envy of many of our colleagues across the world. They have not got RIBI but many prosper and we tend to lag behind in so many ways. Rotary Blogger has raised many of the issues that he sees and experiences as he visits clubs and attends meetings and I must say they are very much like my own. We can all relate our experiences but that does not really help us, all it does is identify a challenge which we should and must address as a matter of urgency.

    I will not venture into the Equality and Diversity, LGBT and BAME debate but I know that all of us if we put our hand on our heart would acknowledge that these issues should and must be addressed and yes dare I say it once again as a matter of urgency. Rotary across the world should be inclusive.

    Over the past weekend we have seen and heard from the great and good about their wonderful time at the Rotary Institute in Madrid over the Thanksgiving weekend. However, with all the posts and the selfies and the wonderful time they are purported to have had not one mention has been made of anyone coming away enthused and motivated to address the very issues raised by the Rotary Blogger. Now that is disappointing to say the least.

    We have had Rotarians reply talking about ‘product’ and selling but I wonder would anyone like to define what the product is. We can take a good stab at who we should be selling ‘The Product” to since it is outlined by the Rotary Blogger but what is it I ask?

    We also hear about General Council and strategies but where are the strategies, what are they addressing and can the recommendations be implemented? We are told of a task force here and a project committee there and people writing a business plan but almost anyone of reasonable intelligence can write a business plan, strategic plan, marketing plan, communication plan or indeed any sort of plan but the work comes in the implementation of any plan. If they are all there in the filing cabinet or a hard drive then please get them out dust them off and get an enthused team to actually do something about them.

    We now need something actually done by the ‘doers’ to engage the grass roots members such that their club is seen and is at the centre of their community engaging ALL members of the community. This could be done by demonstrating the “Rotary Effect” and the change for the better within the community.

    All of this is not such a big task if projected and handled in an enthusiastic and motivating way.

    It must be done as, like the Rotary Blogger I and, many Rotarians will be exiting the organisation we enjoy, love working with and for, bot don’t be alarmed as we are but two and those that could follow will be turning out the lights.

    1. There quite literally is nothing to add to those comments Allan – wouldn’t it be great to get a response to some of the point raised in the blog and now in your comments from someone who was at Madrid this weekend?

      Oh, one final thing…guest blog perhaps?

  16. Peter Leyland says:

    Always potentially dangerous to put one’s head above the parapet, especially at my age and yet I feel honour bound to take you to task, at least on the general thrust of your, and indeed many others, arguments surrounding membership and the need for change. To be fair I do agree with much of what you write and applaud the openness of debate that your blog provides. Equally I can’t argue the facts of declining membership, but I have reservations regarding the way ahead and remain to be convinced that an ever-increasing move to relax the ‘rules’ is the answer.

    In all of this there never seems to be any recognition of just what Rotary actually is or perhaps I should say was, in most cases. I’m sure that we can agree that it is the Rotary Club that holds the whole together? Two words there: Rotary and Club. In my mind it is the Club part that is the important piece and that is all about ‘Fellowship’ friendship if you prefer and out of this comes a desire to help others less fortunate in the community. The Rotary part on the other hand would now seem to be all about fund-raising and as the numbers increase (Dollars and Sterling) so does the drive to be little more than a fundraising Club increase.

    Is Rotary to become a membership organisation – is that what we really want? If so then I may as well join the National Trust or the Chamber of Commerce! As far as I am aware the USP of Rotary is the Club, and its members? A place where we can meet with like minded people, enjoy their company and occasionally do some good, in our community? Whilst it is absolutely fair to lay much of the blame for where we find ourselves on the old(er) clubs and their members for failing to manage themselves properly, plan for the future and continually address the need to replace themselves. I feel it wrong to suggest that failure was one of the organisation that we know as Rotary. The problem is surely that simple? Do you really want to alienate those old(er) clubs that have embraced the need to reinvigorate themselves – we don’t need to change. We understand that it is all about friendship, not fundraising – doing good, being charitable, that comes later. It’s important, but not THAT important?

    The solution a little more difficult but to dismantle everything that was good over the past 100 years or so seems madness and smacks of change for change’s sake.

    I suspect every District understands the problem and know exactly who the failing clubs, the ones that should have been encouraged 10 or 20years ago. They have probably witnessed the train-crash and done precious little about it. I think to change is all about the easy option and failing to manage the problem.

    1. Peter – never apologise for sticking your head above the parapet on RotaryBlogger.co.uk – the whole purpose of the blog when it was set up over two years ago was to encourage thought, discussion and perhaps even respectful disagreement. And if you have found yourself in any or all of these categories – we are in a good place.

      Throughout this whole blog [site] there is a continual reference to the organisation that I and many other respect, love and and understand in terms of what it achieves around this globe – however that doesn’t mean we have to respect, love and understand how it is moving forward – if it is moving at all.

      I know you have ‘taken me to task’ (and other) but I’m not sure you need to, I think we are effectively on the same page and pretty much saying the same thing.

      Clubs that are reinvigorating themselves should be rewarded and encouraged – those who aren’t and are unwilling to replicate their colleagues should be allowed, nay encouraged, to wither and die – as it is those clubs who are reputation ally damaging the wider organisation. Perhaps these invigorated Clubs could help inform some of the ‘short-term working groups in Alcester’ how they are achieving their successes (providing they are meeting some of the Equality and Diversity issues previously mentioned).

      That said, I’m not sure what you mean in terms of ‘relaxing the rules’ – does this mean being a slightly less stuffy, more flexible and informal organisation (no ties or bling for example)? Or do you mean something else?

      Thanks for taking time to read and comment on the blog Peter.

  17. Herbert Chatters says:

    Can someone explain to me what is the main fly in the ointment, is it that global Rotary is out of step with today’s approach to help causes or is the problem routed in these islands in the way in which the administration of it is structured?

    1. Peter Leyland says:


      “Can someone explain to me what is the main fly in the ointment, is it that global Rotary is out of step with today’s approach to help causes or is the problem routed in these islands in the way in which the administration of it is structured?”

      We have a problem, no one really understands it so ‘management’ can only tinker at the edges and generally run around in circles. And, nobody (average Rotarian) takes any interest and even that assumes that they are aware that ‘we’ have a problem. Truth be told the average club Rotarian is totally, unaware of Rotary outside his or her club and they want it to stay that way. In fact, Rotary was ‘designed’ that way and dare I say, that is why it has worked for so long? Top down management or worse still micro-management has no place in a Rotary Club. I really do not think that anyone outside my club should be telling me that we should relax our dress code, not have a meal, recruit from a minority group, not say grace, toast the Queen – the list seems endless, as it is pointless.

      In my mind, I’m not so sure that ‘helping causes’ is the driver for being a member of Rotary, certainly not initially. It comes to some of course with others more than content to support those that do.

      If this were a business, then surely management would concentrate on the weak links? Those weak links are at club level, nowhere else. Not District, not RIBI and not RI other than for me to say that they should manage and take the time to measure their clubs. I see the contradiction there but cover myself with the earlier separation I used with ‘Rotary’ and ‘Club’ whereby I see the Club managing itself and doing as they choose with Rotary confining itself to matters Rotary. A good job for the District here – they should use their Assistant Governors much more:

      • How many Rotary Clubs could there be in a town
      • How many are there
      • How many members
      • What projects
      • Contribute to Foundation
      • Fund raising

      Do we do that, measure our individual clubs? I appreciate that ‘My Rotary’ is perhaps the start of such a journey but there’s a way to go and I doubt we have the time to wait? If I use the term ‘Failing Rotary Club’ then it should be easy to see the way this is going. Having been measured and found to be wanting a plan is put in place for it. If it doesn’t improve it closes and loses its Rotary title. This might well mean we merge a few clubs, start new ones.

      Someone, somewhere needs to define what a ‘Good’ Rotary Club is…

      Won’t be easy but no one is better placed that an AG. We have small clubs, large clubs, old clubs, clubs in cities others in small villages. Some good some bad and others no doubt just needing a bit of guidance. Big club helping small club and yet sometimes the small club may well have the skillset needed for the big club to succeed in a project. There are times when it seems we have a better relationship with a club in another country than we do next door.

      Not so sure that I have found the ‘fly in the ointment’ perhaps I can claim the ointment?

      1. Thanks for re-commenting Peter and again you make some good points. I think your ‘Club Up’ approach is how it should be – and I don’t think anyone is advocating guidance from ‘on high’. In fact, again we agree that many of the issues are coming from a top-down approach at trying to make Clubs into something they do not want to be.

        The one area I will come back on however is your comment,

        “I really do not think that anyone outside my club should be telling me that we should relax our dress code, not have a meal, recruit from a minority group, not say grace, toast the Queen – the list seems endless, as it is pointless.”

        I actually don’t think it is pointless if your Club is coming across as a racist, homophobic, sexist, religious (generally Christian) organisation to the outside world. Hypothetically if your Club was made up of 100 members – apply the percentages highlighted in the blog and see if your Club reflects the society in which it sits?

        I recently read in another blog by a former female Rotarian that the male members in her Club would rather open their wallets to help a female in Africa than give the ‘lady’ sitting opposite the respect she deserved. Your comment about knowing Clubs in another country better than neighbouring towns is a similar slant on the previous comment. Surely we need to do something about that I think is what you are saying – if so, I agree!

        Thanks again for engaging Peter.

        1. Peter says:

          Thanks for your comments: I wonder where the idea comes from that a Rotary club should more accurately represent the mix of the people in its community? Sounds good, but it’s far from practical, albeit to use your hypothetical 100 membership we can get closer I suppose. But, why would we want or feel that we have to? Surely, we join a Rotary club because we think that we will enjoy the work we do and the company we keep.

          Generally, it is by invitation, which by its very nature is selective. They tell us that each Rotary club is different and from what I have seen they certainly are. In the main full of grey haired men, you might call them old but in some cases still very active, both in word and deed. Quite what the future holds for them is bleak in some cases, certainly is if they don’t get some younger members in place. Another club is full of youngsters from the local University and they really are a diverse group but they don’t do a lot. Perhaps that is a better model – Rotary, as a whole should represent its community not each club? The reality here is that it cannot be prescriptive. For a Rotary club to ‘work’ the members generally need to be like-minded. Mix that up to much and it too will fail. Round pegs in square holes, which is perhaps why we insist that any prospective member sample the club for at least three meetings before making a commitment. Try another club that meets on a different day at a different time, doesn’t insist on you being ‘properly’ dressed – whatever it is that bugs you go somewhere else, where the grass is greener.

          If, on the other hand you want to join a great organisation and make a difference then come along to our club and see what we do and how we do it. You may need to adjust a little and perhaps accept our ways. Do that and you will enjoy yourself, make new friends and yes, make a difference to your community. Service before Self.

    2. I think it depends on where one sits in the debate before this question can truly be answered Herbert. However, as outlined above, there is clearly issues with what I would class as the ‘short-term working group’ that is the General Council. The annualisation of the ‘Corporate Governance’ is clearly not working.

  18. MrsRFW says:

    I understand the bullet points, we don’t need to be in an organisation to do good in the community and beyond buuuuuut…….isn’t it nice to do things with a group? Isn’t the power of one magnified by the strength of a group? Isn’t it great to learn from others, people you are not likely to have met otherwise?

    1. Peter says:

      Totally agree with you, it is the club and the friendships generated that gives rise to the rest. Strong club – good Rotary. And, only the club membership can deliver that, perhaps with help and guidance from those on high…

    2. Thanks for keeping the page ‘cheery’ Mrs RFW.

      In response, yes…it is positive to do things in a group and with a feeling of ‘togetherness’. The power of one is definitely magnified by a group when they are all pulling in the one direction and that nobody in the group is working on their own direction of travel or has a plan that they’ve not told the rest of the group.

      It is definitely great to learn from other – and yes, I know many people who have met people and friends they wouldn’t otherwise have had it not been for Rotary. No one is inferring Rotary as a movement is not good – and there is not good comes of out of Rotary. What is being presented is the issue of whether the organisation (particularly in these islands) is representative of society. I would argue that based on photos I see, of meetings I have attended that we are grossly under-representative of the society we (often patronisingly) look to serve.

      Stay cheery!

  19. Liz Yardley says:

    Some suggestions for ‘Flies in the Ointment’:
    1. When Self comes before Service. Any more selfies from ‘posh dos’ and I’m out with a final loud scream! What’s wrong with a few well chosen motivational words from these hugely expensive jamborees, with an action pic symbolising ‘the good’ that has been, or is possible to be, done? (Quite often by small clubs or even individuals, sticking to basic principles and having the courage of their convictions to wade through the treacle.)
    2. Stop the ageism! Nothing to do with ‘years old’. Its an attitude of mind.
    3. Same goes for gender, ethnicity et al
    4. Accentuate the positive to eliminate the negative. Train the AGs to go beyond noting ‘the website is out of date’, delivering the latest buzz project from on high. Enable them to discover what makes Rotary an enjoyable place to be. Some simply have not a clue….. and that’s not exclusive to AGs……
    5. Too much angst and criticism negates ‘Peace and Understanding’.

    1. As ever, well put Liz! Thanks for commenting.

      Just for the record, there is no intent at ageism in the post – as a regular reader and contributor to the blog I am sure you will agree that E&D has been a huge part of the thoughts/discussions we have looked to take forward. So any ageism would be the last thing on my mind.

      I have long agreed with you – it is about ‘age of attitude’ not birth-certificate. That said, as many people have said before me – the perception of the outside world based on our outward facing impression is becoming less attractive. So we cannot just ignore the fact that as our country changes around us – we have to make sure the demographic of the organisation is prepared to change too.

      I have lots of reasons as to why we cannot ignore the Equality and Diversity issues in Rotary – but I have managed to keep politics out of this blog up until now and I intend to retain that position. What I will say is that we only have to look around the UK, the world to see that attitudes are changing – whether these changes sit with Rotary remains to be seen.

      Thanks for posting – peace out!

    2. Agree Liz … Especially the selfies at posh do’s … These do not add to the sharing of our great work

      I think that we should stop the “buzz projects from on high” anyway not just in AG training. Most clubs and members do not care about them anyway.

      I would add “stop trying to create a top down organisation and let the bottom up get on with things”

  20. Lindsay Pearson says:

    I’m a newbie AG, dropping into the role due to the departure of the incumbent to another part of the country. As a result, I have yet to be “trained” (indoctrinated?) and have held no District posts before, but have over 20 years in Rotary, including being the founder President of one Club and a founder member of another,

    I strongly believe the AG should be there to help Clubs in whatever way THEY wish, and have introduced myself to “my” Clubs on that basis. I have already encountered a distrust of “District” and a greater distrust and dislike of the RIBI hierarchy – recent events in my own District have really brought this to the fore.

    During the “Corkeson” episode, I had a brush with General Council, having emailed all members of GC with my views on the handling of the proposed joint Presidency of RIBI, as I was President of the Club proposing Nick Corke for that role, along with Mike Jackson. The few replies I received were enlightening. I was informed by one DG that I had no business “interfering” with the workings of GC. But my favourite was the DG who told me I should not contact any member of GC without the permission of my DG. My terse reply was to the effect that I needed nobody’s permission to contact anyone in Rotary, though accepting it was their right to ignore me.

    As has already been mentioned, attempts were made via pressure applied by GC and perhaps others to the District DG, to censor a certain newsletter, the Editor of which was trying to obtain a reply to a series of financial questions related to next year’s Conference.

    Perhaps we will all have to ask for permission from our DG to ask GC any questions about how they are managing RIBI ? our money ?

    Surely not ?


    1. Thanks for commenting Lindsay – and first of all congratulations on your appointment to Assistant Governor. Well done!

      I think you reflect some very good points in your comment, particularly in relation to the distrust issues.

      I recall when I finished in my extra-curricular duties from the Club one of the Past President came up to me and said he was surprised I’d lasted that long – and had no idea why I would even get myself involved with District/RIBI/RI…?!?!

      I have said it before through the Blog that the world we live in is now wide-open. There is an expectation for transparency and openness in all walks of life – and I truly think there are those in Rotary struggling to make those transitional changes to the way modern society works.

      Although said with your tongue planted firmly in your cheek – I truly believe there are some DGs (and actually Regulars) who think there is nothing wrong with speaking to your DG before being able to seek information/answers from General Council.

      I’m sure the readers of the this blog would be interested to know the information on the financial questions asked about Conference 2017….any clues???

      1. Lindsay and RB – the fact is the GC at their last Council meeting [November] voted that ANY financial information requests must be directed throguh the DG … it did not say HOW this was going ot be dealt with if the DG deemed it not appropriate to pass on the request therefore making an extra level of sanction before the question gets to the right place! Will they ever get answered?

        Minute number 9 was accepted at GC as “Requests for financial information to Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland by individual Rotarians will be directed to the District Governor” – I am sure that, as an Association of Clubs and members of Rotary International not RIBI, this will be an interesting development as to how it will be administered if a DG refuses to pass on any legitimate request.

  21. Anonymous Rotarian says:

    I agree with this blog post.

    No matter how much action I have taken to try and change things inside Rotary for the better, I have no control over what other clubs do.

    The independence of clubs is both a blessing and a burden. It allows us to do good within our communities, both locally and internationally, but the bad clubs still represent what Rotary is. Saying that these clubs, or bad Rotarians don’t represent Rotary, and that we should work harder to demonstrate the good that Rotary is, doesn’t work.

    The public takes Rotary at face value, and from it’s interactions with it’s members. If we have racist and sexist members in our clubs, then that is the public image of Rotary, just as supporting Polio eradication is also the public image of Rotary.

    These bad clubs and Rotarians are what get into the news. The fact that we still have clubs that refuse to accept women isn’t just bad, it is a public relations disaster. I am constantly hearing from Rotarian’s about how important it is to protect Rotary’s reputation and image, and how we need to present it in a certain light. Yet surely we should be focused on kicking out the members who are continuously making racist and sexist statements, as Rotary is supposedly a secular organization open to all people regardless of race, color, creed, religion, gender, or political preference.

    The more I speak to new people about Rotary, the more I am discovering that Rotary has a split personality. Either it is this fantastic organization, that has contributed massively to the eradication of Polio and does wonderful work internationally, or it is seen as an old white men’s only retirement club, that has been involved in scandals in their local area.

    1. You only have to look at the comments attached to the blog to see that there remains mixed views in terms of Clubs picking up on Equality and Diversity issues Anon.

      You are also right – working harder to demonstrate the good that we do in order to ‘gloss over’ the not so good is not the way to move the organisation forward.

      I like your ‘split personality’ comment – which I think is absolutely correct and you have summed it up extremely well. Thankfully there are relatively few Rotarians caught up in ‘scandals’ and the organisation still does seem to do substantially more good than on the contrary.

      Thanks for commenting.

  22. Lindsay Pearson says:

    My previous post was to highlight how the higher echelons of Rotary can alienate the “Regular Rots”. As a result, many will ignore anything done by District or RIBI/RI, however positive it may be. This also makes the effectiveness of an AG weaker, as they are seen as an instrument reinforcing the status quo. Some of us have no intention of letting that continue, but it is a two-way street.

    “What makes a good Club” ? – I use the “noise” principle. If during the social part of the meeting you hear laughs, voices, banter, loud enough to make it difficult to hear your neighbour then (a) it’s a good Club or (b) you have a hearing problem!

    Next, during the business section, people volunteer for tasks, offer suggestions, offer support, it’s a good Club. If only the President speaks and everyone looks at the table, it’s not.

    And are there plenty of social interactions and mutual support outside of Rotary? Yes, a good Club, and the converse.

    A good Club is fun, enjoyable to attend. “Rotary tonight” “oh, good 🙂 “, not “Rotary tonight, oh”.

    Only the Members can make the difference. Fortunately, RI is relaxing the rules on a lot of the “mechanism” of Club operation, and whilst your Club may want to retain traditional ways, you no longer have to.

    As to membership, yes, it is important, but a pile of dead wood is still dead wood, whether it is old dead wood or new dead wood! We need to improve our public image, not by a “buzz project” but by making sure our local population know who we are, where we are and what we do for them, and most importantly how we can help them help their community. We should be the guys who make things happen, not twiddling our thumbs on endless committee meetings.

  23. Kristoff Alexander says:

    Is a District Governor blocking a request for information breaching the Freedom of Information Act of 2000? If a member wants to know how much RotaryGBI are spending on the Manchester then information SHOULD be imparted. Is this financial information classified information?

    I would have thought there should be a email setup for such requests to be received by Alcester from members.

    1. While operating the principles of Freedom of Information would now-a-days be classed as ‘best practice’ in any organisation – I think you’ll find that under the Law, Rotary does not fall within the Freedom of Information Act and therefore any disclosures would be entirely voluntary.

      It could of course be insisted upon by the membership – but this would have to be at the Annual Business Meeting or by the calling of a special meeting.

      I think the best thing to do is await the outcome of the General Council – as I would suggest that they will reach the correct decision and release the information relating to the question that has been asked.

      1. Lindsay Pearson says:

        The information requested was indeed supplied. Coincidentally it arrived just before the District meeting called to discuss the matte of censorship, although it is fair to say the appropriate DG had made representations that this should/must occur, and for that we are very grateful.

        The issue, however, remains. ANY request for information regarding RIBI finances must now be made via the relevant DG, according to a GC “decision”.

        What enquiry will next require the DG to approve ?

  24. Eve Conway says:

    Hi RotaryBlogger and Everyone,
    Been reading through your blog and the comments and can see how much we all care about moving Rotary forward and the need for change to make us relevant to the 21st century, with more women and diverse membership, including age and ethnicity.
    I have just returned from the RI Institute in Madrid where I also, like Paul, heard RI Vice-President Jennifer Jones speak about how the RI Board were exercising change to put emphasis on the transformational and strategic planning roles they should be fulfilling. This is absolutely what we should be doing! The General Council Newsletter sent to all Rotarians with an email address in RIBI makes it clear that strategic planning and change is at the forefront of the GC agenda and GC has asked for ideas and feedback from District teams which will be discussed when we meet again.
    Are we at the “tipping point” with membership? We are facing a demographic time bomb if we don’t reverse the trend and this was a point made at the RI Institute in Madrid where other parts of Europe are also asking the question in their own countries. Can we do something about it? Yes, Rotary can. Do we have challenges? Yes we do – but membership is – and has to be – our number one organisational priority! We have inspirational Rotarians of all ages and we need to make sure that our legacy continues!
    When I speak to members of the public I meet and to colleagues and friends about Rotary, they are inspired by what we do and the two Rotary Clubs that I was involved in chartering earlier this year are vibrant and full of working people, men and women, who meet in a pub every fortnight and don’t meet for a meal but focus their efforts on doing hands-on projects in their local community. Not only are these new Clubs gaining members but the established sponsoring Clubs of these new Clubs are also gaining members because Rotary has become more visible in their area. So this shows it can be done!
    My Rotary Club has male and female members from five different religions: Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim reflecting the multicultural local community.
    So my plea is don’t turn out the light but let’s see how we can all make sure that the light continues to burn.
    Happy to do a blog for you or to answer questions!

    1. Kristoff Alexander says:

      Thanks for the positive words Eve. Rotary International President John F Germ and VP Jennifer Jones did a very successful Facebook LIVE Q&A session a few months back. Please could RotaryGBI do the same? Yourself, Eve and Amanda doing a live Q&A on Facebook LIVE I think would be an excellent exercise in showing Rotary in the British Isles is keeping up with 21st century technology and is open for people to ask questions. It would also be a good PR opportunity. There was a great buzz about it and especially when the event page was being shared all over the place. #RotaryIn2016

      1. Eve Conway says:

        Hi Kristoff, Glad that my comment that I posted three days ago on this blog has now seen the light of day!
        Happy to do a live Q&A on Facebook LIVE – open for everyone to ask questions. Recently did a live broadcast on Facebook on World Peace Day. So shall follow this up pronto!

    2. President Conway, I – and I am sure many others – welcome your contribution to the blog. And of course we would welcome a guest blog from you anytime for circulation to the many subscribers to RotaryBlogger.co.uk. Perhaps you might want to write about the positive things the newly chartered Clubs seems to be doing – and why they are so successful and vibrant.

      I am also glad that your own Club seems to be reflective of your local community and if it represents the approximate population demographics referred to in the blog post – then there is no doubt your Club would be bucking the trend.

      Thanks for taking part in the discussion and contributing to what has turned out to be a very healthy level of discussion.

      STOP PRESS: “Glad that my comment that I posted three days ago on this blog has now seen the light of day!”

      I am sure, like me, the readers of the blog will interpret the start of your reply to Kristoff Alexander’s post as they so choose. But to avoid any perceived dubiety – your first ever contribution to RotaryBlogger.co.uk was not deliberately withheld from publication and was released immediately upon notification by telephone call that it was in fact pending.

      [Just for information – all first time posts are retained for verification purposes prior to upload. Once approval is given the contributor can then participate in discussions from thereon. So you’ll be pleased to know you can now take part in RotaryBlogger.co.uk as much as you choose.

      Thanks again for contributing – don’t be a stranger to any future infrequent blogs…remember you’re pre-approved now, so your comments will immediately be in daylight from the moment you hit that “Post Comment” button.

    3. Good to have your response Eve that you are willing to participate in the blog[s] so we can have a balanced discussion – would be good to have other leaders to do this too for continuity and progress … the only observation I would make is that the 21st Century began 16 years ago and therefore it bodes dauntingly that the wheels of Rotary have not moved in these isles. The current model is flawed and needs an overhaul. We need to do it together.

      I am not sure I agree with the “membership, membership, membership” cry as this is the sound of a desperation and panic with no real action being taken embracing those who want to bring about positive change. We need to clearly consider fundamentally all aspects of who we are, what we do and how we do it, which includes the contribution from the centre and our disfunctional clubs alike.

      Embrace those who are “willing and able”.

    4. Aled Owen says:

      Can I respectfully suggest that the next time you use that list of faiths that you can add ‘and those with no faith’ to it. Being inclusive is a great achievement and you are to be congratulated but Rotary is a secular organisation although you wouldn’t think so in most Rotary meetings.

  25. Herbert Chatters says:

    From the volumes of learned prose that has followed my request for clarification it appears that Rotary globally ( RI ) and its perception of engagement/interaction with communities is not the fly in the ointment. The comments made have highlighted many failings by ‘those in authority’ at most levels in this country. That we can address. It will not be a quick fix, but listening is the first process, clarity of purpose is the second and a genuine desire to reflect the fourway test in how we approach this self analysis is a close third. Rotary is not a one size fits all, but if we are to operate as a global/national player with the fund -raising potential and partnerships/sponsorships that accompany that, then there must be common denominators and falling out in public about who does what or who answers what is not two of them.

    1. It’s a good point you make Herbert and I would wholeheartedly agree – albeit that technically I guess I could be blamed for catalysing the public fallouts (perceived or otherwise) that have come through this blog as well as others in the past.

      I think the world of online fora – whether that be Facebook, Twitter, blogs such as RotaryBlogger.co.uk or one of the many other platforms available – has created a chance for many to see the organisation and its governance closer than ever before; communicate and express opinions in ways never possible before and also meet likeminded individuals [mavericks perhaps] in ways never possible before. Perhaps it is a way to get people to listen or perhaps it is just an offloading station – who knows?

      I do like your three ‘change criteria’ – but this will only be possible if your suggestions 1 & 3 are genuine and that remains to be seen.

      1. Kristoff Alexander says:

        Is having such discussion on a private forum rather than a public blog being open and transparent?

        Has Rotary’s moral code – The 4 way test been breached?


  26. Lindsay Pearson says:

    If our Government conducted all its discussions in private, and suppressed any form of public comment, would that not raise some worries about democracy ?

    I don’t see these discussions as “falling out” – we are trying to shift the way Rotary works into the 21st century, but many Clubs and some members of our Rotary “government” appear to still be in the 19th century, not even the 20th. Without a public forum, how can Rotarians even know that there are those of us who want to bring about change ? And if someone has made an awful set of decisions, should they not be challenged, or should everything be swept under the carpet?

    I sincerely want Rotary to continue, but to develop into the world-class modern organisation it deserves to be, will require a serious change of attitude at both Club and national level. Maintaining the status quo, suppressing discussion and stifling change will surely kill Rotary.

    Yes, we can fix this, but it takes a lot of time overcoming the inertia, and the premise that James made when he started this blog is that it may just be too late.

    1. Thanks again Lindsay – I don’t actually see anyone as “falling out” either – unless challenging, seeking answers and trying to encourage alternative thinking is falling out.

      I think most people want Rotary to survive, but as you say there needs to be a “serious change in attitude” and as you say, the status quo is not taking us in to the future.

      Interestingly I read a Facebook post tonight that said the average of a Rotarian in RIBI is actually 73 years old! And that the greatest reason for the drop in membership is due to illness and death of members!

      Despite all of this and the comments on these blog – I still wonder whether the ‘tipping point’ has happened and we are in fact too late…?

  27. It is a real shame we have not heard from any of the current leadership or DG’s to be able to “share an alternative view .. maybe .. balance the debate”( with the exception of one pretty insipid response from our RIBI IPP ). No heads above the parapet … I promise no shooting ‼️

    This is a great forum to express opinion on both sides of the debate. It would add equally constructive discussion rather than a “war cry” to get voices heard.

    Good constuctive discussion of opposing views enable vision and thoughtfullness which creates a possible common ground.

    But as Lindsay et al said … Listening is important. I am willing to listen but deafened by the silence 🙁

  28. Peter Davey says:

    I must respond to Martin. My post was not insipid at but rather just trying to help by pointing out that some information had been published and, based on the comments being posted at the time, apparently missed. I read the blog and comments and am always willing to put in my two pennoth if it will help. I don’t think that I am known for being insipid. I have no wish to jump in when, having spoken to Eve in the last few days, I know that she has tried to post a comment but it seems to have got delayed somehow and hasn’t appeared yet.

    1. Thanks Peter for your response .. It was not a “dig” it was the only word I could think of as you usually much more forthright and exlanatory in your resonses so I thought you had mellowed (joke).

      It is good that ypu do take part and discuss things which, as I said makes for a better debate with contrasting and alternative views. It enables us all to see a wider picture and who knows .. The more onformed and receptive to these debatex the more we can understand each other

  29. Paul Hickson says:

    Peter was responding to my original post for which I was grateful as I am for Eve’s comments and the suggested Q& A on Facebook.

    Lets harness the passion that is expressed in this blog and direct it towards ensuring this amazing,frustrating, effective,challenging but much loved organisation continues to provide the compassion and support our local and international communities need now and in the future.

    1. Eve Conway says:

      I agree Paul. We need to harness the passion that we feel to ensure our much loved organisation has a legacy because our caring, help and support for our local, national and international communities is needed now as much as ever, if not more. We have challenges but like you and others posting here, we do care about ensuring our future.

  30. David Ellis says:

    Like others I welcome Eve Conway’s participation and Peter Davey has regularly contributed. We need to market Rotary in these islands, but I have to ask, where has the MPRC (now the Public Image team) gone, they are totally invisible, we have an assistant RPIC in my district who has not corresponded once with the district. The RPIC for Zone 17 has done one video prior to the regional assemblies for the current year and nothing else. Those that know me will understand my frustration, I warned the RIBI leadership when I finished as MPRC chair that this would happen and it gives me no pleasure in being proved right. The bulk of a recent PR webinar was done by an RPIC who left office in 2015 that tells us something. Rant over.

    1. Understand your frustration David. We should be in a situation where we can all move forwards together rather than having a grumble but I find itt increasing dificult to be positive about the central actions (or inactions).

      The national magazine will mow follow the same way since RIBI removed the editor for no justifiable reason … Will we have a magazine? If so, will it be reduced to a mediocre rag?.

      At the same time the censorship is still receiving a continual attack on our districct newsletter editor despite our District Executive being unanimous in supporting leaving the editorship to the editor .. Well all but the DGE who has indicated he will go against our DE … It is all just sad that those of us who feel passionate about the future of Rotary seem to have a choice between saying nothing or being on the “other” side due to centralist activity (or inactivity).

  31. says:

    The course of this Blog has almost run its effectiveness but is still bringing comments that are now getting near the truth. We can all pat each other on the back massage the actions being taken or more to the point not taken and say what a wonderful organisation we are in warts and all.

    It is now blatantly obvious something is wrong at the centre, whatever that is, from all the remarks made here directly or obliquely.

    The committee structure within RIBI is not working or is even being seen to be working. The one committee that should be at the forefront of all that RIBI does is conspicuous by its absence of action and that is the once called MPRC committee now branded Public Image. The rest of the committees are as just about redundant as the PI Committee. The other essential committee Membership seems to have done little for some time now. We have to be laceratingly honest and say the RIBI model is now not fit for purpose: so change it.

    We hear of a task force to do this, no action and plan to do that, no action and we must ask is this because of the over arching control from the centre as some seem to pinpoint that it is. If someone slips out of line then we make a rule or instruction at General Council to reign them in.

    Many of the people contributing to this Blog want to make a positive point but it is apparent they have great difficulty doing so and that should not be the case, People like David Ellis and Martin Brocklebank care and I mean really care as do others and they don’t want to wait , sit back and see failure. So I would ask those at the centre with the control to think carefully and yes out of the box as to what should be done to man the lifeboats, seek a rescue and actually do something. After all the first action is so obvious it is hitting them in the face: so take it, grasp it, seize it but please for the love of the organisation do something.

    1. Aled Owen says:

      I assume that the point made by Allan, David and Martin et al about committee inactivity or ineffectiveness is the RIBI President’s responsibility and that this will be addressed now. Perhaps a solution to the 12 month tenure of DGs etc is to give the secretariat more teeth. However the grumblings in the posts above suggests that it is the last thing our leaders will accept.

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