Sometimes when we use the word ‘district’ we are referring to the 69 clubs that make up District 6900. At other times we use ‘district’ to mean the District management organization, including the District Governor and his team and associated committees. Throughout this article, when I refer to the district, I’m referring to the district organization and not the 69 clubs that make up District 6900.
Past RI Director Robert Hall preaches the three ingredients of a successful district: Leadership, Flexibility and Continuity. We surely have been blessed with strong leadership. We have had uniformly hard-working governors who care intensely about Rotary. And our organization has plenty of flexibility to adapt, as evidenced just in the past year by our investing in public relations, taking our district conference to Nassau, adding Rotary Youth Exchange and launching eClubs.
Continuity is our biggest challenge. The district team comes from 69 different clubs spread over a large geographic area. We rarely have the opportunity to interact in person and we don't have the shared experience of having been in the same club for many years. There are few mechanisms for multi-year planning or multi-year implementation. As a result one of the more frequent complaints I hear from the clubs is the lack of consistency from year to year.
So how can we foster continuity and strengthen district support of the clubs?
- Improve our technology platform. This is an area where I can personally make a direct contribution. I have already put a lot of time into improving and helping clubs take advantage of our technology platform. We have made a lot of progress and there are many improvements we still want to make. Next year, we will make the platform open-source, so that other districts can use what we have built and other developers in the Rotary world can contribute improvements.
- More focus on customer service. We have significantly reduced the amount of reporting required of the clubs, and the technology platform has streamlined the process. Tthe club presidents now receive only one email per week from the District covering everything they need to know. At every club visit, I’ve asked each club’s board the essential question: How can I help you and your club be more successful?
- Multi-year planning process. Our district now has a Strategic Planning committee and a more formal process for planning longer term. Jim Squire, in his role as District Governor Nominee, is the chair of our Strategic Planning committee and has kicked off the process of updating the plan we originally developed in 2014/2015.
- Governance & Incorporation. The district’s attorney, Lynn Clarke, has repeatedly advised us to incorporate as a best practice, as are most nonprofits of any size. (By the way, District incorporation has no impact on the clubs individually.) I refer you to https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-an-unincorporated-nonprofit-association.html, which explains the advantages of incorporation. To me the most important are:
- Corporations have boards and boards provide continuity.
- Corporations have bylaws, policies and procedures, which provide continuity.
- Everyone knows what a corporation is. It's legal rights and responsibilities are well-understood.
- By incorporating we reduce the exposure of our volunteers to liability (in addition to our insurance coverage from Rotary International).
Incorporation requires a 2/3rds majority vote of the clubs in the district. During January we are planning a series of regional ‘half time’ meetings with the club presidents. The agenda will include hearing from the presidents on this topic. If there is sufficient support in the clubs, we will finalize the proposal for a formal vote of the clubs in February or March, in advance of the District Conference.