When you are not so successful in pushing the community into Rotary, you can still pull people into Rotary by making it irresistible,” said RI director A S Venkatesh, moderating a panel discussion at the GETS/GNTS in Abu Dhabi. RI vice-president Nicki Scott, and directors Drew Kessler and Vicki Puliz participated in the brainstorming session which explored ways to attract members and youth. Director Venkatesh cited a club in Lisbon that has been started on metaverse. “One of the recent innovations in Great Britain is the ‘global hub’ which tries to engage people without formally being part of a Rotary club,” he added.
The Rotary Global Hub complements and works alongside traditional clubs, but operates in a virtual space, explained Scott. “Like-minded members of other clubs also join the hub to implement cause-based projects with district and global grants. We did not foresee the side benefits that it opened up — a platform for international members and the model has an enthusiastic member-engagement. It is a new way of doing Rotary.”
Venkatesh highlighted RI’s new Youth Advisory Committee constituted by RI President Jennifer Jones this year. It has a representation of the alumni and Rotary and Rotaract members. “This is the first time ever we have invited young voices to the table for suggestions and to work out strategies to enthuse and encourage them to actively get involved in our programmes and events,” said Puliz, urging the incoming leaders to consider having such a committee at the club and district levels.
“Make Rotary inclusive for families,” suggested Director Kessler from the US. He was accompanied by his wife Vicki, and sons Jackson and Brandon. “I made my Rotary life interesting by bringing my family into Rotary. I have five children, and I didn’t want to choose between my family and Rotary life. If you are to choose between the two, I am sure Rotary will lose every single time.” At 41, he is the youngest director on the RI board.
We must talk about growing our leadership skills while working on a project, learning management skills, managing teams and public speaking.
– Nicki Scott, RI Vice President
As a proponent of Rotary attracting young members, and having joined Rotary at 20, Kessler spoke about how his son Jackson, aged 9, introduced EarlyAct in his school. “When his teacher asked him what it was, he spoke to her for ten minutes about Rotary and how it helps people. Last year he started an EarlyAct club in his school for children between 9–12, and helped start an Interact club for students from 13–18. When the teachers and other children and their parents got involved, it created a huge public image for Rotary,” he said.
Scott, giving insight into how to attract younger members, shared how in Great Britain “we are actually planting new clubs among traditional clubs. It is like how in a forest the tall trees that have been there for a long time know to clear up light for the saplings to grow.”
To keep younger members engaged in Rotary she suggested that “we sell the benefits that we get personally from being in Rotary. We must talk about growing our leadership skills while working on a project, learning management skills, managing teams and public speaking. Younger people today typically stay in a job for less than two years, and it is difficult for corporates to invest in their training and development. Rotary can be the answer.” The RI vice-president called for integrating women and Rotaractors into Rotary. “Their voices must be heard and every member must feel a sense of belonging.”
TRF — Rotary’s heartbeat
“The image of TRF has undergone a huge change after the war in Ukraine. It is more responsive to meeting the immediate needs of communities,” said TRF trustee Bharat Pandya in a chat show about how the Foundation has evolved to meet challenges of the changing times. “Whenever a disaster strikes, TRF has shone through with its timely grants for relief, rebuilding and rehabilitation,” he said. A couple of weeks after the war broke out in Ukraine the trustees set up the Disaster Response Grant (DRG) Fund. “Within three months Rotarians world over helped raise $3.3 million which was disbursed in the last four months through 440 grants in 29 countries for ambulances, medical equipment and other urgent needs,” he added.
The DRG for Ukraine and the recent floods in Pakistan have taught the trustees that “beyond just responding when disaster strikes, we need a special task force to keep us prepared at all times.”
Answering a question from the session moderator RIDE T N Subramanian about making the Foundation stronger, Pandya replied, “We need to build our resources with non-Rotarian contributors. The CSR India model is successful and countries like Australia are replicating it. However, at all times we cannot compromise on fiscal prudence, discipline and transparency which are our priorities and strengths.”
Pandya explained about TRF’s recent endeavour — Programs of Scale — to the incoming district leaders. Referring to the first grant under this programme for Malaria-free Zambia, he said that in 16 months of its launch, the mortality rate in the country has gone down by 40 per cent. “TRF will fund this kind of mammoth project only if its impact is largely significant and it should attract huge partnerships,” he said. The Zambia project worth $6 million is partnered by TRF, Gates Foundation and World Vision with $2 million each.
As of June 2022, the Foundation has collected $1.55 billion in contribution and commitments. “We have reached almost 80 per cent of our goal of $2.025 billion in 2025 for our Endowment Funds,” he said.
GETS/GNTS co-convenor RI director Faiz Kidwai and trustee Frederick Lin also participated in the session.
Pictures by Jaishree