Corporate membership for Rotary?

If the pilot programme being carried out in some countries of the Rotary world is a success, Rotary International may soon open its doors to corporate membership, RI Director C Basker revealed at the Disha training event held for the incoming District Governors at Hyderabad in February.

From L: DGEs Praveen Goyal (3080), Nikhilesh M Trivedi (3261), Shashi Sharma (3141), Priyesh Bhandari (3053), C R Chandra Bob (3231), Vishwa Bandhu Dixit (3090), R V N Kannan (3000), Dushan Soza (3220), Neeraj Soghani (3054), DG Maullin Patel (3054), DGEs Ashes Ganguly (3142) and Ramesh Vangala (3150) at the Disha Meet.
From L: DGEs Praveen Goyal (3080), Nikhilesh M Trivedi (3261), Shashi Sharma (3141), Priyesh Bhandari (3053), C R Chandra Bob (3231), Vishwa Bandhu Dixit (3090), R V N Kannan (3000), Dushan Soza (3220), Neeraj Soghani (3054), DG Maullin Patel (3054), DGEs Ashes Ganguly (3142) and Ramesh Vangala (3150) at the Disha Meet.

“The RI board is studying the global membership model, and if all goes well, our membership might be opened for corporates from July 1,” he said.

The impeccably conducted event chaired by PDG Sam Patibandla was attended by nearly 180 delegates. There were some lighter moments but mainly tough talk on maintaining standards in membership and the district leadership helping the clubs become stronger and more vibrant. Apart from the DGEs, Rotary Coordinators, Regional Rotary Foundation Chairs, Rotary Public Image Coordinators and Endowment Major Gift Advisor, as well as the District chairs of all these verticals from all the 39 districts, including Nepal and Sri Lanka, participated. While RISAO Head Rajeev Ranjan, Sanjay Parmar and Jatinder Singh, represented the RI South Asia office, Nayish Shah was there from Evanston to explain details of the Rotary Global Rewards.

Addressing the meet, Director Basker said, “Rotary in India has grown considerably and we have stunned the world with the growth we have shown in the last 10 years. The entire Rotary world looks at us with respect now because we have become No 2 in TRF giving and also because we do wonderful projects across our zones.” And yet, whatever was done was not sufficient as our country had so many challenges and problems and there was so much more work to be done. “So there are huge expectations from this batch. We need to set new trends, but I urge you that while setting goals, either on membership or Foundation giving, do set realistic goals which can be achieved.”

We have grown considerably in India in the last 10 years and stunned the world with our growth. The Rotary world looks at us with respect now because we do wonderful projects and are now No 2 in TRF giving.
– RI Director C Basker

He said that in the earlier years “we have been saying big things and based on all those promises I had assured the RI Board we will achieve such and such goals but then barely 60 per cent was achieved. So be cautious and without lagging behind, set realistic goals.”


Serve your clubs

In what was a highly interactive training event with many breakaway group discussions, Basker said the DGEs should always bear in mind that the district “exists solely to help clubs; the entire activities of the district should focus on how to support and strengthen clubs. Remember that the district is not an independent entity. But unfortunately, the opposite is now happening in our zones as the governors and districts organise parallel or competitive programmes with the clubs rather than support them in their activities.”

The DG has to form a team to help the clubs to get members, funds for TRF, etc, but “touch your hearts and tell me if this is really happening,” he asked.

Basker admitted that he was not really aware of the extent of this malaise last year, but “I started realising this only a few months ago. We learn all the time; so I want the DGEs to understand that your job is to train your presidents and secretariats at your district assemblies and other training events.” He urged the DGEs to ensure that the district training events were restricted to the club officers and not all and sundry.


Clubs are independent

The Director said all DGEs have to understand the basic credo that each Rotary club is an independent entity, and if certain Rotarians are not up to the mark or indulging in dubious activities, only the club president, and not the DG, has the power to remove those Rotarians from the clubs. “This is because every club is autonomous and is supposed to have its own constitution and bylaws. As incoming DGs you have to create this awareness at your PETs and SETS, and tell them how they can amend their bylaws.”

On the size of clubs, he said that the district membership chairs would have to ensure that clubs have a minimum of 20 members, and sought an assurance from them that by Jan 1, 2019 there weren’t any clubs in our zones with less than 20 members. Those with less than 20 members could be merged.

From L: RID C Basker, Disha Chair Sam Patibandla and RPIC Raja Michael.
From L: RID C Basker, Disha Chair Sam Patibandla and RPIC Raja Michael.

When he got a loud assurance from the assembled Rotary leaders, Basker said: “I am a very effective fellow, I don’t forget things that easily, and I follow up! If you don’t succeed, for every member less than 20 in a club, I have assured Trustee Elect Gulam (Vahanvaty) that the DMC will have to pay $100 to TRF! Gulam had originally said $1,000 but I made it 100! I am not the only Hitler here!”

He asked the DGEs to delegate responsibility to their district leadership teams and said a five-year analysis had been done on why people leave Rotary which will be shared with them and which should be followed up by the district membership chairs.

Participating in My Rotary was a must; he was sorry to say that only 30 per cent of clubs had put down their goals in Rotary Club Central. “Ensure every single club registers there before July 2018.”

Also, he added, the purpose of Rotary was to serve the needy, “so please do projects that are needed by the community. TRF has $52 million available in DDFs which will be carried over, so use it effectively through your DRFC.”

Basker added that many clubs were not giving anything to TRF and this was unacceptable; “ask each member in your district to give at least $100 and they might end up giving $26.5, which should be the bare minimum.”


TRF priorities

Addressing the conference, Trustee Elect Vahanvaty urged the DGEs to keep their focus on getting the world rid of polio and inculcate the habit of giving among the Rotarians however small the sum. “Last year was an absolutely record breaking year for TRF both internationally and in South Asia/India, and it was a matter of great pride for us in India as the man at the helm of affairs was PRIP Kalyan Banerjeee as the Trustee Chair.”

Why do we allow a minuscule number of Rotarians to bring us disrepute. You are tomorrow’s leadership and you must show zero tolerance for corrupt practices.
– Trustee-elect Gulam Vahanvaty

Based on last year’s performance Trustee Chair Elect Ron Burton has set an ambitious goal of $380 million for the coming year.

Vahanvaty said that apart from ending polio “in accordance with the commitment we’ve made to the children of the world”, increase in membership is RI’s highest internal priority. The other one is “to increase the scalability of our service projects in all our focus areas and ensure their sustainability. The third priority is what Director Basker has already touched upon; using the DDF that is available to us. Please encourage your district to use every bit of the DDF available to us to do good in the world.”

He said that while in some districts the amount was very large, in other districts in our zones which can’t raise too much money, funds were needed to do projects. “So those districts blessed with large DDFs please take care of districts in need. Remember that Rotarians have given funds to TRF so that you use it and not to make it into a savings account.” The fourth priority is to build the permanent fund and encourage endowments. “The permanent fund is Rotary’s fund for the future. Our goal is that by 2025 we will build this fund to $2 billion and 25 million. Just imagine what can we can do with over $2 billion in our kitty generating interest every year.”

The DGEs try their hand at karaoke.
The DGEs try their hand at karaoke.

Vahanvaty said the other need was to “keep in touch with our alumni and at the right time invite them to join Rotary. Just like me. I was a GSE team member in 1978 and I was invited to join Rotary in 1979. And one who has been on a journey from a GSE team member to a Rotary member to RRFC and now a TRF Trustee Elect, let me tell you that each of us is given an extraordinary opportunity to serve our community.”

The other pressing need was to expand the donor base and make Rotary a charity of choice, as it had been given a four-star rating on the two parameters, financial health and transparency, by Charity Navigator which rates over 9,000 charities in the US. “In 2017, for the 10th year in a row, TRF received a 4-star rating, the highest rating they give, and was on top of the chart with two other NGOs.”

Your challenge is to pass on the knowledge and energy to your district teams all the way down
to the clubs. Disha is conceived with that major goal in mind.
– DISHA Chair PDG Sam Patibandla

Jatinder Singh made a comprehensive presentation on using online tools and explained the process through which club invoices were generated and how if the presidents did not act in time in deleting names, the invoice generated including the dues for members who had left, could not be altered.

Rotary leaders such as RCs Ashok Gupta and Rajendra Rai; RRFCs Vijay Jalan and Avinash Potdar; RPICs Ashish Desai and Raja Michael and EMGA Ashok Panjwani briefed the DGs on the current state of affairs in each of these verticals and interacted with them in goal setting.

Welcoming the delegates to Hyderabad, the “city of pearls, biryani and love, and known for its hospitality right from the time of the Nizam, Disha Chair Sam Patibandla said the idea of this event was to bring together the incoming governors and their core team to discuss and exchange ideas, learn from and motivate each other and interact with the RI Director, Trustee Elect, the RCs, RRFCs, RPICs and EMGA and seniors from the RISAO.

From L: RISAO Head Rajeev Ranjan, RRFC Avinash Potdar,  RC Ashok Gupta, EMGA Ashok Panjwani, RPIC Ashish Desai and  RRFC Vijay Jalan.
From L: RISAO Head Rajeev Ranjan, RRFC Avinash Potdar, RC Ashok Gupta, EMGA Ashok Panjwani, RPIC Ashish Desai and RRFC Vijay Jalan.

“Now the challenge is to pass on this knowledge and energy to your district teams all the way down to the clubs. Disha is conceived with that major goal in mind: to facilitate, discuss and interact and come out with an effective and practical way to conduct your district events such as PETS, and the district assembly,” said Patibandla.

Host DG J Abraham welcomed the delegates and Disha Secretary TVR Murti took care of all the logistics.

Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat

Training programmes outside district discouraged

At the Disha training event for DGEs and district leaders, RI Director C Basker read out the riot rule on the conduct of district training events and laid down some strict guidelines. He said that PETS and SETS were the most important training programmes for the DGEs “because unless the clubs perform, you can’t reach the targets you have set. So please take these training events seriously and don’t allow anything to dilute them. Some of you were planning to take these out of the country, which I stopped. And next year if you want to take your training programme outside the district, you will need permission.”

This was because many complaints had gone to RI from India that training programmes are becoming very expensive. While he understood their desire for foreign travel and the charm it held, the training programmes were sacrosanct and all the district chairs should be invited to them.

Also, he urged the DGEs to print the club president’s manual in regional languages and distribute them so that club meetings were conducted properly. “Last year I did it from my own pocket as it was an introductory offer, but this year I am broke, so you will have to do it!” Soft copies of the handbooks in various regional languages would be shared, and printing copies cost barely Rs 30-40 a copy.

Also, the Director added, the DGEs should avoid too many events as nowhere in the world as many Rotary events are held as in India. This puts pressure on both the members’ time and finances. Also club meetings should be confined to 45 minutes, and started and closed on time. “Also, please start your DG visits as early as possible as only then can you know about the clubs’ problems and give them solutions. Finish your visits within nine months, and do all your communication via email. If the office-bearers don’t have email IDs, don’t keep them as your office-bearers,” he added.

Let’s have zero tolerance for corrupt practices

At the Disha conference, Trustee Elect Gulam Vahanvaty expressed grave concern over a mere handful of Rotarians sullying the image of Rotary in India by indulging in corrupt practices. He said Trustee Chair Elect Ron Burton had set an ambitious goal of $380 million for TRF next year. And in this goal, a lot was expected from India. “TRF has always counted on us and we have responded willingly; last year we were No 2 in giving. With so much to hold our heads high, why should we allow just a handful of Rotarians to give us a bad name?”

TRF Trustee Elect Gulam Vahanvaty, RID C Basker and EMGA Ashok Panjwani.
TRF Trustee Elect Gulam Vahanvaty, RID C Basker and EMGA Ashok Panjwani.

He said that on the last day of the International Assembly held in San Diego, when the DGEs were addressed by senior leaders such as PRIP and TRF Trustee K R Ravindran, Director Basker, Trustee Sushil Gupta and himself, “what was shared was disturbing and I was extremely upset and I know many of you are also upset because you later spoke to me. I asked myself how many Rotarians are there who do such things that causes disrepute to us… 20, 30, 40? Even if it is 40, when you take it against a conservative figure of 1.4 lakh Rotarians in India, the percentage is a mere 0.003 per cent! And we allow this minuscule number to bring us into disrepute. You are tomorrow’s leadership; let us buckle up and not allow anyone to sully the name of Indians in TRF.”

He added: “We must have zero tolerance not because the Trustees demand this of us, but because all of us will not tolerate questionable practices. We owe it to ourselves and our donors.”

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