July 26th 2021
Our speaker today is Gavin Walker, Rotary Club of Bangor, on “Lend with Care, microfinance”
Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Aug 2nd Bank holiday – no meeting.
Aug 9th Eamonn Allen
Aug 16th Heritage Week
Aug 23rd President Alexander Kopf, Rotary Fellowships and Action Groups
Aug 30th Alan Gilmore, Designer Harry Potter Theme Park Orlando
Sep 6th Business Meeting
President Alexander was in the Chair last week.
Visitors and Apologies
Hon Sec. Tony had received apologies from Patrick White, Alan Harrison, Paolo Zanni and PP Paul Martin. We welcomed five guests including Vasily Ogievsky, soon to be inducted as a member, Cormac Trant, Thomas Molloy, Marie Mueller and Ashish Sharma, a member of Rotaract in India now working with Facebook in Dublin. Our guests were introduced by PP Bernadette.
There were 19 Members in attendance.
Rotary Rangers’ Schedule
July 27th Howth Head.
Aug 3rd Sugar Loaf, Kilmacanogue
Aug 10th Deserted Village, above Lough Dan
Aug 17th Greystones To Kilcoole & return
Aug 24th Lough Brays (2), Glencree Valley
Aug 31st Carraig Gollergan, Shankill.
There are two very easy walks on the 10th and 17th that should suit our injured walkers. Please make sure you bring plenty of water on all walks next month, and for the remainder of this month. Also be sure to bring wide brimmed headgear to protect faces and necks from the burning sun.
Thought for the day
PP Ted gave the thought for the day. We must find the right way to help others to help themselves and in a way that they, in turn, can help others to help themselves.
• President Alexander has received an invitation for our members to join the London club as they celebrate the 110th anniversary of their foundation on August 3rd. As it happens, he cannot attend. In any event, he would have some concerns about going to England at the moment. However, any members who will be in London on that date and are interested in attending should contact him for details.
• The annual duck race this year will be on September 12th. Please put this in your diaries.
• There will be a joint on-line meeting with the Tours and Bonn clubs on the 13th of September. The Tours club have suggested the word “trielle” to describe the three-way link between the clubs. President Alexander had send a message (in German) to the Bonn club following the recent calamitous floods in their region. He has not had a reply yet, but they probably have other things on their mind at the moment.
• Last week, Council approved three new members. He hoped that we would be able to induct all of them in the near future.
• We have sent our club goals for the year to District.
• Most members have paid their annual subscriptions, but some people have not yet done so. He asked that those who have still to pay do so soon as we have already had to send money to District for each member.
• Still on finance, he wanted to thank Roger Owens who has succeeded in obtaining a tax refund on a recent donation. Roger said that he was just the person in the hot seat when this happened. The spade work had been done by Randal and others over a period of time.
• Alexander noted that Willie Widmer had joined the club 50 years ago this week. We have not seen Willie since we went on-line, but we hope to see him as soon as we meet for lunch again.
• Jono Pim pointed out that the Rotary Club of Bochum, where the Euromeeting was hosted in 2018, is also in the area affected by flooding in Europe. Perhaps we should send them a message as well, though it need not be in German as they all speak perfect English. Alexander said that he would do this.
Members wishing to speak
• PE David Booth noted for our incoming members that our club was the oldest outside of North America, but that this claim had, for a long time, been disputed by the London club. Some years ago, the London club had graciously acknowledged that we sat down to dine first.
• PP Brian George asked if it would be possible to get a full list of members. Hon Sec. Tony said that he was waiting until all subscriptions had been paid and that he would then circulate the list to all members.
Last Week’s Meeting
Our guest speaker last week was David Ellis of the Salford club. David is Chair of the RIBI Executive for 2021-2022 and is a former Chair of Marketing and Communications for RIBI. He was on the convention promotion committee for the Sydney RI Convention in 2014. He is a former DG of District 1280.
David said that he wanted to talk about how people perceive Rotary. Like many organisations, Rotary is having to cope with change, but change was always accompanied by opportunity - a chance to do things in a different way. He often says to clubs that if they are not attracting new members, then they need to change what they are doing. If they are attracting new members then they probably do not need to do so.
His own background is in sales and marketing. He was the sales director for a carpet manufacturer and later on the chief executive of a services company. As such, he is very much aware that you have to sell a product that people not only want to buy, but that they can buy. Translated into Rotary terms, this means that if you are a luncheon club, but many people cannot make 12:45 for lunch nowadays, then you have to alter the way you do business. In the greater Manchester area, there are five clubs each with a different meeting time and day. This gives anybody who wants to join Rotary, as well as existing members, multiple opportunities for being involved. To build membership and sustain a vibrant organisation, continuing change is usually necessary. As Einstein once said, insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.
David believes that what matters is the sizzle and not the sausage. He showed us a number of slides contrasting two visions of Rotary. On one side there were Rotary activities, Rotarians dressed up as Santa for kids, Rotarians helping kids in Africa and supervising children climbing an artificial mountain wall. On the other side there were pictures of groups of Rotarians looking solemnly at the camera and holding large cheques. The latter are hardly likely to inspire people to want to join a club; the former is.
Here is a sample:
He finds that when he asks clubs if people want change members are almost always unanimous in saying yes, but when he asks how many people are willing to change, the numbers are usually lower. In his view change must start at the top. This is true of RIBI as it is at individual club level. RIBI is a large organization which manages substantial amounts of money and many activities. He asked whether anybody would run an organization of this scale with a board of 34 people, 31 of whom changed every year? One of his objectives is to modernize RIBI’s governance structures. They had tried this about 10 years ago, but it had been blocked by Rotary International at the time. The need has not gone away in the interim. We need change in the way that we are governed because we need fast decisions and longer-term thinking. We need to get away from the idea that, because leaders change every year, everything has to be thought of in one-year terms. We are making one-year decisions when we need to be making three-to-five-year decisions. We need to change our perspective.
He gave an illustration, showing us a slide of a back lane in Salford. This, he said, was the picture of Salford that most people have, gained through many years of seeing it on Coronation Street. He then showed us pictures of Salford as it really is – city that is quite different. He said he was sick of seeing pictures of Rotary which showed an old version of Rotary, pictures of groups of people holding cheques (see above!) or standing there in their dinner jackets with their chains around their necks. Such photographs are good for the archives, but not something that is going to create a lively and enticing public image. He showed us a photograph and pointed out that the message it conveyed was that Rotarians are male, white and old. He contrasted this with the picture of children on the climbing wall and the completely different image that this portrays. He then showed us a video of how the money collected by a blind person begging on a street increased enormously when a helpful passerby changed the message on his piece of cardboard from “I'm blind please help” to “It's a beautiful day and I can't see it”. Communication is key. With that, he invited questions.
President Alexander opened the batting and asked whether Facebook was the medium we should now be using, rather than a traditional website. David said that social media is where the action is today particularly on Facebook and Twitter, but that even now it is moving to newer media. Facebook is becoming a bit passée. Used skillfully, social media is a powerful tool. Web pages tend, by their nature, to be a bit static. This prompted Alexander to ask some of our younger participants for their views. Thomas said that he had given up Facebook and that maybe Instagram was a better tool in this day and age.
Delma asked about e-clubs and whether these were working well. David said that as a matter of necessity we had had 16 months of e-clubs globally and that most of these have worked well. He was optimistic about them for certain groups. One question is how do people dispersed across a wide geographic area get together to do a project? One might think this is a problem, but the evidence suggests that it isn't. There is a new business club in London that has people with 26 different nationalities and they are currently involved in five projects. There are other questions. For example, with an e-club, members need not be resident or working within a Rotary district. A club might have members in different countries on the other side of the globe. Sometimes Rotarians have asked him whether, after COVID, we will be going back to normal. His reply is that he hopes not! He talked about subscriptions versus the cost of eating. He spends £60 a month on meals for Rotary and about £10 a month on his subscription. Yet people get exercised about a small increase in the subscription whilst being perfectly willing to accept a more material increase in the cost of their meal. We don't always think about these things clearly.
Brian George asked about the need to move quickly. Facebook and Twitter are currently the main platforms, but other new ones are constantly appearing. David said that indeed we might all soon be on Tik Tok.
PP Tony Keegan asked for clarification on the name change that David had talked about earlier. David said that this was a proposal in the year 2011/12 to change the name of the governing body of RIBI from the RIBI council to the RIBI governing board. This had been rejected at the time, but they are now trying again and this time they believe they have support for it. David pointed out that RIBI is unique within Rotary in that there are 25 district governors who try to work together. In the rest of the world, district governors may never meet or even speak to one another if they are in adjoining districts. We are ahead of the game and the proposed changes going on in RIBI at the moment are being watched carefully elsewhere. There are similar experiments being carried out in Australia and being talked about in Canada.
David Booth asked what our approach should be to renegotiation with the hotel especially if we don't want to have a meal every week. The hotel might not be too keen on more flexible arrangements. David replied that it depends on what we are planning to do as we emerge from Covid. If weekly luncheon meetings work for us, we should continue to have them. However, in his entire Rotary life while he was working, he had never gone to a lunch. He couldn't because of where he worked; he was lucky if he got to eat a sandwich without leaving his desk. We need to do things differently and if not meeting for lunch is a better strategy and if there are alternatives, we should pursue them. He was recently talking to a club where a lot of the members were of long standing. The club had shrunk from some 60 members to just 15. David had asked them if they did not do something, did they think that they would have a club in ten years’ time? The Salford club had been like that, but it had changed and now has a multiple meeting format which enables older members who want to meet for coffee once a week to do so; meanwhile, other members can avail of other options. He gave an example of a 40-year-old female member of the Salford club who had two children and who said that she just could not make it to a meal at 6:00 or 6:30. So it was suggested that she come later and join for coffee which she now does and it works out very well.
PP Tom said that the Dun Laoghaire Rotary Club had a member who has a slot on a local radio station. He was wondering whether Rotary should consider doing something on some radio outlet of this type. David said (to the surprise of most of us) that there already is a Rotary radio in the UK! He himself had been interviewed once on Warrington radio. There were probably about 40 people listening including himself. If he had been interviewed on radio Manchester, he would have reached 40,000 or more people. You have to think these things through. There's a lot of work involved in doing this and the questions are, is it worth it and what kind of message do you want to get out there? We need to be talking to others and not to ourselves. We also need to be thinking about new types of meetings and new ways of doing things. He said he preferred a Rotarian that turned up at a meeting every two months, but was active in the club's other activities to one that turned up every week, but never did anything other than eat. Coming back to radio, you need good salespeople. He sometimes jokes that the important thing is to keep their sales prevention officer away from the public.
Alexander then asked two people present Thomas and Cormac, who are much younger, for their view. Thomas said that he used social networks and he was a workaholic who was trying to wind down and was now looking for more social activities. He was looking for an easygoing social club that did some good in the world and Rotary seemed to meet that bill, but he did feel that social media was a space in which Rotary needed to reach out. Cormac also said that he had just given up Facebook, but people did go there and it was one way to attract new members. David said that when he had joined Rotary, he had asked the person who invited him why he hadn't invited him ten years earlier. As somebody said to him you can go a long way in Rotary if you're not careful. He was talking to a new member recently who, when asked for his opinion on some matter, replied that he did not have much sway in the club. Dave told him that, on the contrary, as a new member he had far more sway than most members.
Mary O said that she had joined because of the polio plus campaign and the idea that an organization the size and scale of Rotary was working together to eliminate the disease. She agreed we ought to get the balance of right, too often we talk about the advantages of being in Rotary rather than what you can do by being a Rotarian. We need to sell the sizzle. David mentioned that putting back something in was important. His own club had contributed about $8500, to Polio Plus this year, one fifth of their district’s total contribution.
Giving the vote of thanks, PP Ted said that what Rotary needed was fresh thinking and Dave had supplied a hefty dollop of it this afternoon. One should never waste a crisis. Rotary is in a sort of a crisis with falling membership. We need to think about the future and the direction in which we are going to go. Thanking our speaker president Alexander said that he hoped to see him in Malahide in the not-too-distant future.
As most members will probably have heard by now, Eamonn Allen’s father Billy passed away last week, peacefully after a short illness. Billy had a remarkably long life and was a font of knowledge about the old days. A citizen of the new state, born in 1922, he had memories of old Dublin with horse drawn cabs in everyday use and daily purchases for your groceries the order of the day. We extend our condolences to Eamonn, Delma and the extended Allen family. May he rest in peace.