Whither Best Club?

Why there will be no Best Club award in 2017/2018

We have a long tradition in our district of clubs competing for best club in their respective size category. We are competitive by nature and we know that competition often brings out the best we have to give (and sometimes the worst). However, this year, rather than having a best club contest, we will give out silver, gold and platinum awards based on each club's ability to achieve the goals in the official Rotary Citation.

So, if the best club competition has served us so well, why are we switching to achievement-based rewards this year?

Four Winners, BUT Sixty-Five Losers

While our current process creates four winners, it also creates 65 losers. Inevitably people who have worked very hard and made the extra effort go away disappointed. In fact, many clubs are so discouraged they don't even try to compete. Just over half our clubs submitted more than four projects this year and about a quarter didn't submit a Governor’s Citation.

The Big Clubs Have A Big Advantage

Because the clubs are so different in size, it is difficult to find a fair criteria for judging best club. For example imagine two fantastic clubs. One has 120 members and the other has 240. Imagine a prize fight where one of the boxers weighed 120 and the other weighed 240. You aren't guaranteed that the heavier fighter will win, but it is the way to bet. And if you look at the results over the past few years you will see that the winners are among the largest clubs in their respective categories. For example, in Category IV, Roswell has won all four of the past four years. It is the largest club in the category after Atlanta and Columbus, which don't really participate in the awards process. In Category III, for the past four years the winning club has been among the largest four clubs in the category. In Category II, the winner has been in the top half of the clubs in all four years and in the top third in three years. In Category I all the clubs are small, but the winner in the last two years has been in the top 20% in club size.

What about handicapping? We have looked at judging on score per member, not total score. But it turns out this approach tends to strongly favor the smaller clubs in each category. You can add other handicapping adjustments, but pretty soon you have a complex scheme and you aren't sure it is really all that much fairer.

Deciding the Winner Before The Game is Over

In the past we didn't wait until the game was over to decide the winner. Because we announced the winners at the District Conference in April, we have to cut off the submission process in March, which means we are judging the clubs based on nine months of effort. True, the outcome of the game is often pretty clear by the end of the third quarter, but a lot can happen in the fourth quarter. (Ask the Falcons!)

Next Year: Winning is in Your Hands Alone

All these factors drove us to replace competitive awards with achievement awards and move most of the awards to a special year-end celebration at the end of the Rotary year ... after the game is over. By switching to silver/gold/platinum awards we have put achieving the award totally in the control of the club. If a club decides to go for platinum status, they don't have to worry that they will end up losing to another club that eeks out a few more points. If they do the work and put the points on the board, they get the trophy, no matter what any other club did or didn't do.

Also, by having graduated levels we can encourage clubs to reach a little higher. Next year is not winner take all. A less active club with a strong president can shoot for silver status or even gold status, whereas in the past they had no realistic path to best club. An achievable goals is motivating. An unachievable goal is irrelevant.

I encourage each club to take a close look at the 2018 Rotary Citation. Pick all the goals from the list you think you can achieve and add a couple of stretch goals. Focus on achieving those goals next year and you are sure to be a winner.

Posted by Alec Smythe
April 28, 2017


Posted by Jim Coyle
June 13, 2017 12:18pm

I appreciate your thoughtful approach to the mounting problem of pitting clubs against each other. Roswell is my club, and I couldn't be more proud of our long history of excellence. It was my greatest honor to serve as President last year. But Alpharetta is also a terrific club and is on fire with growth and full of passionate Rotarians. Alpharetta is firing on all cylinders. I have many friends up the road.

The energy and cost in human capital required by both clubs, to compete for the felt, could have fueled a handful of additional service projects. How much better it would have been to bring that same effort to a couple of joint projects where we leverage the muscle of the big clubs to help breathe life into smaller and/or struggling clubs in our North Fulton Rotary Council.

Your approach to awards is a welcome breather from the Club-Of-The-Year competition. But I hope it becomes a permanent replacement as the next four Roswell Rotary Presidents have stated that Roswell will not return to the old banner game.

Make no mistake, Roswell will continue to be Roswell and work to amaze the district and the world with the size and scope of our good works. But the reward will come in the doing, and not in the banner chase.

While I can't speak for our club, I'm pretty sure that being recognized as a platinum club will be more than sufficient for Roswell and we will be proud to share the stage with all others that achieve that level of excellence.

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