Let us not build barriers to Rotary
An important message that RI President Elect Mark Maloney left behind for the Presidents and Secretaries- elect of Districts 3250, 3232 and 3030 was not to build “barriers” that stopped people from joining Rotary.
Addressing the PETS ad SETS sessions in these three districts, he reiterated the importance of family connections and said, “We should never expect our members to make a choice between their families and Rotary. Let’s take some practical steps to change the existing culture, be realistic in our expectations and welcome children at all Rotary events.”
Another important point he made pertained to Rotary clubs being “welcoming of community-minded younger professionals, and connecting with them to build a new generation of leaders. The job of a club president should never be seen as a time commitment too great for a busy professional to consider. By making volunteer positions into full time responsibilities, we are closing the doors to the people we need the most in Rotary. The ones with the potential for decades of service and leadership. Let us not build barriers to Rotary and open doors to them.”
Touching on his theme for 2019–20 ‘Rotary connects the world’, Maloney said Rotarians also needed to open new paths to members, and “build more and newer connections. We need to embrace our Rotaractors as the fantastic partners that they are. With their skills our impact can be transformed.” They already had a good grasp on Rotary issues and “you only need to navigate them.” They had enthusiasm for social causes and were good at discovering the community’s needs, were flexible, well-connected to the social media and knew how to innovate.
By making volunteer positions into full time responsibilities, we are closing the doors to the people we need the most in Rotary — people with potential for decades of service and leadership.
– RIPE Mark Maloney
The incoming President said that when he was ready to serve as President of RC Decatur, Alabama, PETS existed only in a few parts of the US, but not his district. “That was in 1985; but that doesn’t mean I’m too old. It’s only that I started early in Rotary and became club president at 30.” He has applied what he learnt as president to his subsequent positions of DG, RI Director and Trustee. “And I am still learning about the positive connections of Rotary every day; it’s a lifelong learning.”
The essence of Rotary was connections; the club connected Rotarians to a global community, but it is the club president who set the tone. “If the president is not motivated the club will not do well. I have seen clubs where a succession of presidents were not focused, engaged and paying attention to what was happening. At first the results are not obvious; the club loses a member here and there, but all of a sudden the membership declines dramatically. I have also seen clubs that are doing very well, are engaged with their members who are doing great projects and they have a lot of fun too. As presidents you have a big role to play and we should all try to leave Rotary a little better on June 30 than it was when we took office on July 1.”
But “making an impact and doing it all ourselves is not the same thing”. To truly lead, a leader should inspire those around her to achieve the most possible. “You don’t have to do it alone. We Rotarians are good at working together and problem-solving. As presidents, your greatest asset is your members, their skills, interests, passions. You should become experts at knowing what motivates your members so that you can better inspire them to achieve their best.”
Each person was motivated by something different and brought different skills to the table. “In my case, I may not be the world’s greatest humanitarian but that’s fine because I consider myself a darned good administrator. By applying my administrative and organisational skills to Rotary activities I have facilitated tremendous amount of humanitarian service,” he said.
Urging the assembled presidents and secretaries to make organisation and prioritisation their buzzwords, Maloney told the club leaders to examine their approach to Rotary for the year ahead, and learn from their fellow presidents-elect. The diversity of skills, experience and viewpoints was something that made Rotary great. “But I believe we can always make Rotary better.”
Already working well in Rotary were the community service projects. “We are great at that; but when it comes to taking care of internal matters in the club itself, such as membership retention and growth, I feel the clubs are not applying those same organisational skills. I want to see Rotary clubs exercising the same degree of innovation, enthusiasm and organisational skills they have in external service to their internal service in their own clubs.”
Maloney added, “All of you know what we need to work on. We need to grow Rotary; we talk so much about membership, but last year, we set a Rotary record nobody wanted to set… in the number of people who left our organisation. Some left because Rotary was not the experience they had hoped it would be. They left, taking with them their ability, experience and leadership. But I know we can face this challenge in an organised, strategic way.”
Rotarians only needed to look at “what we can achieve when we set our minds to it. Like bringing polio to the brink of eradication. This is only the second time in history that a human disease will be eradicated and we will end polio very soon. When we focus our attention on a strategic goal, we become a powerhouse for good.”
But to continue to be that force, “we must grow Rotary, and increase our membership so that we can achieve more. We need more hands doing the work and more brains solving the problems. Maybe your club members are comfortable with the current size of the club and concerned about changing the dynamics if the club grows.” A president might say membership was only one of his many responsibilities. “But without members there is no Rotary. To achieve more and do more, we should draw on what we already do, which is connecting with people, which is our strength, essence and our greatest gift.”
The incoming RI President told the club leaders to form an active membership committee in their clubs that comprised people from different backgrounds, to apply Rotary’s classification system to bring in a wide range of professionals and leaders to strengthen their clubs. “Look for the checklist for such committees on rotary.org,” he added.
In conclusion, Maloney said that Rotary also needed to be connected to the world through the United Nations, which was celebrating the 75th year of signing its charter in 2019–20. “Rotary has a historic and endearing relationship with the UN. And through our areas of focus we also share commitment on healthier, more peaceful and more sustainable world.”
Be fierce, fearless
RIDE Kamal Sanghvi told the incoming club presidents and secretaries of D 3250 that he could sense the new “vigour and excitement” in the room. There was always a reason for everyone being where they were; “do you realise that you have the honour and onus of changing the world? There are very few who get such an opportunity to bring smiles and happiness and a sustainable change in other people’s lives.”
He urged the club leaders to make full and proper use of “this opportunity of a lifetime… during these 366 days (2019–20 is a leap year), think big, achieve what you have dreamt about. You are going to be your Governor’s eyes, hands and legs.”
But if the assembled presidents wanted to make this year “the most fantastic for RIPE Mark and your DG Gopal Khemka, you will have to be absolutely fierce; fierce like a lion or a tiger, and also fearless, to get your dreams realised.”
Urging the participants to think big and dream big, Sanghvi said, “Gone are the days when Rotarians gave books and pencils to schools; you have to build those schools. Dreams are meant to be big; each of you should undertake a huge project during your year and a project of a scale which hasn’t been done before. It will give a tremendous boost to our public image… that we care, and are willing to lend a hand.”
In conclusion, the incoming RI Director told the club leaders never to be afraid of failure. “You will fall, but after a fall, if you arise, success will surely follow you.”
DGE Khemka said the district had 100 clubs with 4,000 members and a female membership of 37 per cent. Of its 102 Rotaract clubs, 50 are active. His endeavor during the year will be to focus on retention of members, infuse young blood into Rotary, increase women’s membership and reinvigorate inactive Rotaract clubs.
The trainers at this conference were senior Indian Rotary leaders such as Vijay Jalan, Sam Patibandla, Ravi Vadlamani, Jawahar Vadlamani and Deepak Shikarpur.
3 essential ‘E’s for success
Addressing the PETS-SETS session for D 3030 organised in Amravati, incoming Director Bharat Pandya said he had personally known RIPE Maloney over long years since he had been RIPR at his district conference, and then had served with him on the Sydney Convention Committee. He had not only a friendly approach to everybody, but also the 3 ‘E’s essential for success; “rich experience; he is enthusiastic and ready for everything… you put a feta on him and made him climb into a buggy and he readily did it. Third, he has an ethical approach to Rotary.”
Dreams are meant to be big; each of you should undertake a huge project during your year and a project of a scale which hasn’t been done before. It will give a tremendous boost to our public image.
– RIDE Kamal Sanghvi
Pandya asked the club presidents to be aware of the huge responsibility that rested on their shoulders. “Everything that happens in Rotary happens only at the club level. Our success in 2019–20 will not be determined not by how hard Mark or I work but by what you are going to do in your clubs.”
Giving the example of Chinese bamboo which grows up to 80-ft-tall, taking five years to do so, but showing little progress for the first 57 months and shooting up only after the 57th month, Pandya explained what was happening. For the first 57 months, “the growth was taking place under the surface. The bamboo was absorbing the nutrients, networking with the other branches so that when the time for growth came, it was prepared and in three months shot up to 80 ft.”
Similarly, they were now in that preparatory phase; “if you wait till July 1 it will be too late. The time to plan and prepare is now.” The US Marines followed the ‘6 Ps’ mantra — proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance. “So you should prepare. Our clubs are already doing excellent work. This morning, RIPE Mark and I saw some great projects being done by RC Amravati Midtown.”
Referring to the initiatives planned during the year by their DGE Rajendra Bhamre, Pandya urged the club leaders to “write them all down so you don’t forget… and start working on them from today.”
He also urged them to build a strong team and ensure their clubs held interesting, time-bound and well-executed meetings. “Your meetings are a showcase of Rotary to the community and Rotarians. If I go to a Rotary meeting, am welcomed at the door, escorted to a group of Rotarians, not neglected and left to fend for myself, the meeting starts and ends on time, that’s a good club.”
The Ant philosophy
The incoming Director asked Rotarians to adhere to the ant philosophy; circumventing a barrier in their way by going around, across or over it; looking ahead and preparing for winter by getting food in summer; and staying positive through the chill of winter when they are deep down in their burrows. They would have to learn from ants to be focused, never give up and stay positive and do all they can. “Today you are standing on the edge of a destiny that is limited only by your vision. Think big and dream big,” he concluded.
DG Rajiv Sharma said the District was lucky to get an incoming RI President after 10 years since PRIP Kalyan Banerjee had addressed them as an incoming RI President.
DGE Bhamre said during the year, together they should aim to do sustainable humanitarian projects that changed lives. “My job as DG is to give good governance, promote excellent fellowship and service to community. I want to pursue the highest standard of stewardship leaving behind the dark past and setting an example for the future.”
As theirs was a drought-prone district, watershed projects, village adoption and WASH in schools would be his priority.
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat
When ‘Lead by example’ got Pandya into trouble
Addressing club presidents and secretaries-elect of D 3030 RIDE Bharat Pandya urged them to lead by example as that captured the essence of leadership. “If you want your members to bring new members and to be present in projects, you have to first do this yourselves. If you want them to contribute to TRF, you and I have to first put our hands in our pockets and give. ‘Lead the way’ was the theme of Bill Boyd when he was RI President and I was his Governor.”
Striking a lighter note, Pandya said that sometimes such a mantra can also land you in trouble. As happened with him during his governorship when he kept advocating this principle. “Our district has a Rotary Service Week … to create impact in the community. On the first day a chess tournament was held and was inaugurated by an international expert, and the club said you have to play the first game with him.” The next day RC Mumbai Midtown was partnering with ISKCON for a midday meals project, “I had to inaugurate it by eating the first few spoons. The third day, PRID Ashok Mahajan’s club, RC Mulund called me to inaugurate a crematorium and the very enthusiastic project secretary said: ‘Sir, we will work very hard and assure you by the time your year ends we’ll complete the project and inaugurate it with you!’”
“Since then I have been a little wary of saying lead by example,” he added.
I can get used to this!” This was the comment of RIPE Mark Maloney as he visited different Rotary events, including PETS and SETS in Kolkata and Amravati, where the organisers vied with one another to greet him with big garlands, a buggy ride, a traditional Maharasthrian feta, etc.
As he was ‘felicitated’ at the mega projects launch organised by Rotary Club of Calcutta Mahanagar, RID 3291, he quipped: “In the US a speaker is merely introduced, in India he is felicitated. I am going to have to teach them how to do it back home. The club president introduced (PRID) Shekar Mehta as the pride of Calcutta Mahanagar. My Rotary club is RC Decatur, Alabama, and there it’s like ‘Hey Mark’; that’s it.”
Maloney said that he was nominated RI President a year before RIPN Sushil Gupta. “A little party was given by the two clubs in Decatur the night after my nomination, and then we had another event in Decatur. And that was all. I have been watching Sushil. He is still going around India being felicitated… I hope he finds time to be president! He has so many shawls and flowers coming up to his nose. You all just do it up a lot more in India than we do in the US. In the US it is like “You know Mark Maloney is going to be president? Ah well, we’ll get over it one of these days”.
Next morning at the RID 3291 PETS and SETS in Kolkata, when he was ‘felicitated’ with a huge garland, the incoming RI President quipped: “I challenge Sushil to receive a garland as grand as this one!”
Maloney connects with Chennai Rotarians
At the RI District 3232 PETS and SETS meet, RI Director C Basker, highlighting the year’s performance, said that of the 16,764 new members added to Rotary world over, Indian clubs have brought 8,659 members. “That is 51 per cent of the world membership.”
He complimented RIPE Mark Maloney for facilitating 50 DRREs from across the world to get trained at the International Assembly this year, along with the governors-elect. “When I took over as director in 2017–18, Rotaract membership reporting was 9 per cent.” While the data is important to understand the strength and health of Rotaract clubs, RI too did not have a specific reporting format nor did it reflect the actual membership data. After the coordination meeting ideated by Basker, with the DGs, DRRs and DRCCs, followed by a training programme, the membership reporting has increased to 78 per cent. “Today our membership reporting stands at 100 per cent and with the thrust being given by RI President Barry Rassin and RIPE Maloney, the world membership reporting improved to 34 per cent from 18 per cent.” In India, 333 Rotaract clubs have been chartered till Jan 31.
Basker called upon the incoming presidents to “double the number of Rotarians by year-end, which is a focus area of Maloney. This is not a difficult task for you. You are the chosen leaders. Put together an effective team to accomplish your goals and you have a definite deadline at the end of 366 days.”
PRID P T Prabhakar said Maloney had an amazing memory. “In the membership committee meet, when I was its director, Mark would quote decisions taken by the committee years ago with accuracy.”
When the floor was opened for a Q&A session with the incoming RI President, a president-elect suggested special subsidised membership fee to attract younger Rotarians. Maloney reiterated Rotary’s stance for flexibility in clubs and said, “Rather than making a world-wide mandate for reducing the fee for a certain age group or a certain demographic, let clubs follow what suits them best.”
To a long-winded question from President-elect Vijaya Bharathi, RC Madras, on a woman getting the topmost position at RI, Maloney responded: “We will have one in the next five years. And that is just Mark Maloney’s opinion. Because I can’t make it happen!”
He explained that Rotary follows a hierarchal approach in leadership. So, to be an RI president, you must have served as an RI director. “We have about 14 living women past directors. Some are not interested, while some of them have completed their tenure very recently and are just gaining experience. Whereas we have roughly about 150 male past directors. And this year’s Board has no women. We did not do that. Each zone nominated their director and they all happened to be men.” There will be two women directors in 2020–21 and five, the following year.
DGE G Chandramohan delivered the welcome address, DGN S Muthu Palaniappan proposed a vote of thanks. DG Babu Peram, along with other PDGs, was present at the event.