Rotary Seeking Your Views
Rotary is a global organisation operating in 168 countries world-wide
Challenging the Myths
Ist July is all change in Rotary as that is the date of the start of the Rotary year. It also made me think about how to change the public’s perception of Rotary when people hold such deeply entrenched views. It’s not just confined to Rotary, of course, it applies in sport, politics, entertainment,everywhere so why should Rotary be any different?
The first misconception is that Rotary is only for men. Wrong! Rotary started in 1905 as an opportunity for business networking for men but now women are equally prominent in the workplace so Rotary opened its doors to women thirty years ago. Interestingly, if you look at recruitment figures in Rotary over the last 5-10 years there would be roughly a 50-50 split between the genders. This does mean that to even out the percentages overall there is still a long way to go since it started with 100% men but as a matter of fact, the last two national Presidents are women.
Secondly, Rotary is just for old people. Whilst it is true that the average age is much higher than we would like, it is also true that there are many Rotarians in their twenties or thirties and these are bringing fresh ideas and energy. Anyone can join over the age of 18 and there is also a separate group called Rotaract open to 18-30 year olds although they can opt to be a Rotarian without being a Rotaractor first.
You have to be a professional person or a business owner to belong. This isn’t true either. In fact, I was a voting delegate in April in Chicago when a motion was passed to add the word “occupation” into the laws so that it accurately reflects the community. Actually, you don’t have to be in employment at all as newly retired people with time on their hands have much to offer in experience. Rotary welcomes anyone who wishes to give something back to the community.
Cost seems to put people off but again this is something that is being addressed. Membership equates to roughly £2.50 per week, the price of a cup of coffee. Many clubs have weekly meals but this isn’t necessary and more and more are moving away from this model to a less formal approach which not only brings the overall cost down but lends itself to a dynamic, project focussed club.
You need to attend every week. As mentioned above, this isn’t necessary and the rule book has been thrown away. What Rotary is more interested in is members doing whatever they can so marshalling at a fun run, organising a youth competition, visiting a school all counts as attendance. Some clubs meet every week and that’s fine as well because apart from anything else, Rotary is a great way to meet people and enjoy yourself. By the way, it isn’t essential to wear a suit and tie to a meeting. Smart casual is fine.
Is Rotary political or religious? Definitely not. It is a diverse organisation and has members in around 200 countries in the world. Nor is it a secret society although you may be excused for thinking it is as people don’t seem to know much about it, hence this article.
Do you need to be invited to join Rotary? Well, I’m asking now. You need to contact your local club and express an interest and go along, meet the people, see if you enjoy it but also remember there are several clubs nearby and another club may suit you better if the first one doesn’t quite meet your requirements.
What are the benefits of being a Rotarian? I could write a whole chapter on this. There are the friendships you make, there is the satisfaction you get from helping a cause locally or further afield, there is the opportunity for self-development by increasing your confidence in public speaking and management which will help in your career, there is the opportunity to lead youth teams abroad. As one Rotarian put it “I joined to make a difference, I stayed because I am.”
Rotary addresses many of the inequalities that exist and is all about providing service, its motto is “Service Above Self.” This can take many forms and is not all about fundraising. Some people think that by giving a donation once in a while that is all they need to do to improve social issues but whilst it is all well and good putting money into the bucket someone has to hold the bucket. That’s an analogy and stretches far beyond the literal meaning. Society needs men and women to make things happen and that’s where Rotary steps in, “People of Action.” Are you someone who is willing to take the extra step?
I hope that I have answered some of your questions. If you aren’t a Rotarian I would like to know what is stopping you so please email me on or give me a call on 01245 260349. More information about Rotary can be found on this website - www.rotary1240.org,Stan Keller
District Public Image Chairman
Rotary District 1240
Reprinted from the 'Chelmsford City Times'