Every Rotary Club has its rich traditions, including how the weekly meeting works, favorite club socials and many projects. Many of our members, especially those with long tenure, are strongly allied with these traditions and they often provide the ballast that keeps a club on a steady course over the years. Clubs are wise to honor and build on their traditions or risk losing who they are.
Sometimes our traditions can become stale. Every year, or every couple of years, each club should take a hard look at every project (and activity) and ask themselves one simple question:
If we had never done this project before, would we be doing it this year?
New members are the lifeblood of Rotary. They bring new enthusiasm and energy, new ideas and are our only source of new leadership. Each club needs to be attuned to the passions of their new members. Identifying new projects your new members care about is a great way to cement their bond with Rotary. By getting your club involved with new projects and new activities, you give everyone a sense of a dynamic organization, on the move, changing with the times. You give everyone a sense that your club consists of people of action.
As I travel around our district I’m struck by the diverse approaches clubs are taking to serving their community. Some of their ideas are unique to their community, but a lot of them would work anywhere. If your club is looking for ideas, never hesitate to borrow from other clubs in our district or from across the Rotary world.
Rotary blue, that is. You can multiply the impact of your club through the power of Rotary, whether it be through a district grant or global grant, or through Rotary Youth Exchange or the Georgia Rotary Student Program or working together with another nearby club to have a bigger impact. Each club’s service director should make it their business to learn about the programs of nearby clubs and investigate Rotary Programs, Rotary Action Groups (RAGs) and even Rotary Fellowships to look for ways to leverage all the blue resources that are available to us.
Something New: One Club’s Approach To Projects
A mentor of mine once told me “Alec, the essence of strategy is denial.” By that he meant it is usually not hard for organizations to figure out what they should be doing. What is hard is to have the discipline to stop doing something, because the only way to find resources to do something new is to stop doing something old. (See Apple for the classic example of a company that has built its success on abandoning incredibly successful, popular products so they can focus on newer, bigger opportunities.)
Stopping something is hard because everything the organization does has some constituency for whom it is important. It is particularly difficult when the constituency is small but passionate.
When I became president of my club we were proud to say we had more than 60 service projects. However there were two problems. First, a great many of these were small projects that only involved a couple of members. Second it was very difficult to explain what we did, beyond saying “we do a lot of projects.” And we had not tackled a significant new project in years. We were stale.
So as part of our strategic plan we developed a three-pronged approach to projects. We grouped all those small, one or two member projects into something we called Buckhead Matching Grants. We set aside a decent pot of money and told our members we would match them one for one on their contributions to qualified organizations until the money ran out. We instantly got more skin in the game from our members and doubled the amount of money we were providing to those causes.
Second, we created a designation called legacy projects. These were medium-sized projects with a long history and much loved by a lot of members in our club. Examples include our Boy Scouts Eagle Badge program, our high school tennis tournament and our middle-school basketball league.
Third we created what we call Signature projects. We put most of our money into our three Signature projects, each of which lasts three years. We picked three years because that was enough time to get the project rolling and have an impact, but not enough time for it to become stale. The three Signature projects are staggered, so each year we complete one signature project and the incoming president starts up a new one. As a result our club has the opportunity each year to tackle something new, something big and something the president cares deeply about. At the same time we stay with each project long enough to have a real impact.
Our community service message for candidates and new members is pretty simple. You can participate in Buckhead Matching Grants, in which case your own charitable dollar gets doubled. You can participate in one of our legacy projects, like Boy Scout Eagle badges, the high school tennis tournament and the middle school basketball league. Or you can get behind one of our Signature projects. Being involved in Buckhead Rotary gives you the opportunity to have a significant impact on your community in a way that works for you.
As you think about your club, consider that old advice to brides: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. By keeping these in balance you will strengthen your club and magnify your own impact on our world.
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