I am fortunate that 35 years ago someone gave me the gift of a Rotary membership and I was happy to have extended the same gift to many,” said RI President Shekhar Mehta in an online membership chat attended by Rotarians and non-Rotarians world over. Many non-Rotarians even expressed interest in becoming Rotary members. RI Director Vicki Puliz, Membership Committee chair Kamal Sanghvi and vice chair Jeris Gaston also participated in the event.
The pandemic has increased community needs and so this is the right time to grow Rotary and do more. This year Rotary is placing special emphasis and taking aggressive steps to bring in more members by asking each Rotarian to introduce at least one member to Rotary through the Each One Bring One (EOBO) scheme, said Mehta. “Let’s share our stories by organising ‘Rotary Days of Service’ to showcase the great work that we do in various fields and inspire more members to join in the good work we do. Even as we include new members, diversity, equity and inclusion is going to be the mainstay,” he added.
The RI President anchored a Q&A session with the three participants to provide more clarity to EOBO’s goals.
Mehta: What does the ‘Grow Rotary’ initiative mean to you and why do you feel it is vital to the growth of our organisation?
Vicki: The initiative is exciting because all of us will be reaching out to people we know and respect, and who share our core values of friendship, integrity, diversity, service and leadership. We will invite them to be part of Rotary, so that they can be part of something greater than themselves, and create lasting change.
Another important aspect of this initiative is the chartering of new and innovative clubs that offer more flexibility for their members. We have international e-clubs that are formed with groups of people who enjoy the same activity and are passionate about a particular cause. Fully engaging the members and giving them value of their Rotary experience, directly involving each member to bring one new member to Rotary and starting new innovative Rotary/Rotaract clubs to meet changing needs are the ways to grow Rotary and increase our impact.
Sanghvi: If we want to expand our reach or impact, we must have more members. Our clubs will become more vibrant and we will have more resources to help the communities to flourish. Membership is Rotary’s internal organisational priority. Somebody touched us and brought us into this fantastic world of Rotary. We enjoy the joy of giving and the blessings of millions of people. Now it is our time to go out there and touch somebody else and bring him/her into Rotary.
Mehta: What has this gift meant to you? Can you share a personal story of how you extended this gift to someone else?
Jeris: I am thankful for this gift given to me many years ago through an Ambassadorial scholarship. It helped me expand my world view and see Rotary on an international scale.
Vicki: I joined Rotary for business connections. When I got involved, I learnt that there is so much more. First of all, it is the friendship with people whom I would have not known otherwise. I also gained skills by working with people. And then, there is the incredible gift of doing service. What is unique about Rotary is that our members make the decision as to what is most relevant and important in a community and work with other members to exchange ideas and take action.
My husband Tim initially had access to Rotary through me to many of its benefits such as fellowship and service. But now, he is a member of the Rotary e-Club of Aviation which brings individuals who have a passion for flying together from around the world. Use of technology and Rotary’s flexibility allows this club to connect different people from different countries and backgrounds to develop relationships and friendships to share a common interest and to do good in the world through the Foundation and their club.
One more story involves a young man who had a transformational leadership experience in a RYLA when he was in high school. And now, he is exploring options to join a Rotary club. This is a reminder of the beneficiaries and alumni of our Rotary programmes.
Mehta: Can you give some examples of programmes that Rotary can hold to bring in members?
Sanghvi: While Covid hit a small town, Erode, in RI District 3203, its members got together to build a 400-bed hospital worth $2.75 million in 45 days. The project attracted many local people to join Rotary. And on the World Yoga Day, Rotary partnered with the Art of Living. Both the organisations, with their huge membership base, performed yogasanas online for seven days and 10,000 people participated in the yoga celebrations through various social media channels. This brought in new members to Rotary from across the country. Another idea is to organise youth festivals such as marathons, walkathons, sports competitions to excite youngsters to join Rotary.
Jeris: As a former Rotaractor, I suggest a joint event with Rotaractors to make an impact in communities. Rotaractors want leadership and mentorship and look forward to working with Rotarians. This will also help Rotarians to make a connection with the younger generation and bring in new members (dual members) to their club.
Mehta: Why is equity and inclusion vital for Rotary to attract members?
Vicki: Diversity has a stronger meaning in this age. Bringing together individuals from different professions and places, gender, ethnicity and age can bring together diverse perspectives for clubs. Each club has the opportunity to assess if their members are reflective of their communities and determine what actions they can take which can be welcoming and inclusive to all. EOBO is a perfect way for our members to reach out to people who may not have even considered or even been aware of Rotary in the past.
Jeris: We must bring in the next generation of Rotarians to continue service. When we have clubs that are diverse and inclusive, we will have a stronger Rotary and can do more together.
Sanghvi: The fact that we are in 200 countries across the world shows the relevance of diversity and equity in our organisation. We also understand in Rotary that cultivating a diverse inclusive culture is essential to realising Rotary’s vision of a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change. We value the contribution of people across all ages, ethnicity and caste, religion, culture, languages, sexual orientation and gender identity and also, differences in ideas and thoughts. An organisation is only good as long as its members are united. We do not want barriers and each and every club hears the needs of a community irrespective of any differences. We need to encourage women to join Rotary as 48 per cent of the world’s population is women. They are the leaders of the world. Every person in the world holds a visible and invisible quality which can make an organisation unique.