Rotary – First visit to another club


Being new to Rotary, I’m learning as I go along. I decided that one way I can learn quickly the best way to carry out my role within the club (Chair of Service Projects Committee) is to visit other clubs and find out how they do things.

When a club is formed there is a sponsoring club, and our sponsor club is the Rotary Club of Canterbury. They were formed way back in 1922 and meet on a Tuesday Lunch time. For me, I could never regularly attend a lunch time meeting as I couldn’t take that much time away from work. However, being self employed does have some advantages so occasionally I can be out of the office for a long lunch, so Tuesday 15th July I made my first visit to another club.

I learnt a lot about Rotary in that meeting. I’ll try and collect all those observations and condense them;

  • Firstly the welcome. Everyone was easy to talk to, keen to hear how the new baby club was coming along (they’d met a few of the members at previous meetings and some of them regularly attend our meetings).
  • Secondly, age brings with it the trappings of establishment. That’s not a bad thing, just an observation. At our Charter night (more on that later) we were given things useful to new rotary clubs by many other rotary clubs. The gong – to bring the meeting to order, a lecturn for meetings, chains of office for the president and so on. Canterbury has some very ornate member name badges stored in a sizable wooden box to keep them safe. Our club badges are on order but won’t be quite so ornate. They gave me a printed booklet with all their members contact details – it’s already been useful as I met someone that couldn’t make morning meetings but was interested in joining a lunch time Rotary club. As our club develops we are getting more and more of these trappings which should help us to work more effectively.
  • Thirdly, they are all a lot older than our club. I get the impression that people rarely leave Rotary so the club’s average age gets older and older. That can start to cause trouble recruiting as there starts to be a generation gap.
  • Fourthly, I spoke with a Rotarian who was very candid with his opinion of the club. In essence, he said that he found the club ‘stuffy’ and not like the first rotary club he joined in a different area. However, when he moved he wanted to continue within Rotary, at lunch times, and this was the only club that met his availability. The working style of the club was far less important than the activity of Rotary within the community. This I found most impressive, the attitude I’m finding as I meet more and more Rotarians is they are not their for personal gain, they really are there for the benefit of others, fostering the ideal of service as per the object of Rotary
  • Finally, the meeting was longer and more formal than our club meetings. Lunch (lamb and vegetables if I remember correctly) was served whereas we have a buffet and get our own breakfast when we arrive. On the plus side it gave me more time to talk to people around the table.

I’m planning to visit more clubs as time allows, which brings me onto my next club visit…

Rotary – Club Assembly


So, all of a sudden it seemed Club Assembly day was upon us.

Lucy spent an evening with me planning what we would say and preparing a flip chart pad as our presentation tool. Now, you’re probably aware that I’m not afraid of doing a presentation but I generally hate every second of it. I fret all the way through, I miss bits I wanted to say, I speak far to fast and at the end of it I go over in my mind all the things that I should have done better. I can’t remember ever doing so complex a presentation as this one. Complex in that I wanted a lot of things to happen in the right way and it wasn’t just me speaking, there were parts for 4 other members.

I was taught that when presenting it is perfectly acceptable to control the room and event in order to get your message across. I sort of decided that this would apply not just to my allotted presentation time but to control of the whole assembly meeting. The week before Lucy had read the “Object of Rotary” at the start of the breakfast meeting. She stumbled upon a word or two at the end at which point John made light of it. Ours is a happy and light hearted club, so all was taken in good humour. At the beginning of our Club Assembly meeting we gave John the Object of Rotary to read…. in French. Well, seeing as Lucy is French and stumbled over the English version we thought it would be fun to get John to read the object in something other than his first language. This wasn’t done purely for fun though, I wanted everyone to remember the “Object of Rotary”. Having it read in a different language was more effective than my original plan – to get someone to give the object of rotary from memory. As I said earlier, the object is a tough set of words and no one in our club has memorised them. Much merriment later, the Assembly meeting continued in what I assume is the normal way, with each committee reporting their progress to everyone in the club – finishing with a short speech from Martin who was visiting to represent District. Poor chap, It was his first visit to us and I don’t think he quite understood our approach to Rotary.

After all the other committees had spoken, we were the last to go. The meeting was slightly overrunning so I made the decision to condense the first part of our presentation. Referring to the object of rotary I challenged anyone to stand up and say it. Obviously no one could. If I had more time I might have managed to get the gist of the object from those around the room. We had the full objects printed and taped into our flip chart so everyone got to remember what the object was, then we gave them our “Object of Rotary in 3 words” version:

Do Good Things

Having set the objective clearly, the next question is ‘What counts as a good thing?’. This is where I got to introduce Craig to talk about what Playing for Success is. Following him was Steve Auty on the Pilgrims Hopice, with Diane following Steve on how we will be helping Pilgrims by organising and running a Summer Ball and how she would eventually be getting more of us to help as things developed with her plans. I think this is the part we lost Martin from District, when Diane said with a straight face she expected us to raise 50,000. I gather that’s a large amount for a club in it’s first year but the amount itself is a side effect of knowing what we can achieve. The week before Assembly the target was 40,000 but a local farmer offered a better venue so Diane expects us to raise more.

Closing the presentation I wanted to get across two messages. Firstly, I wanted everyone to at least remember our short object of rotary (Do Good Things) if they weren’t going to remember the full version. Do Good Things is something everyone is starting to say. Secondly, I wanted them all to realise that as members it’s up to them all to find the Opportunities to Do Good Things. Present the opportunity to the club and maybe someone in the club can help. Maybe we can’t, we’ll certainly not be able to help in every case but the first step is always to identify the opportunity to serve. I’m not sure I got that message across so well.

What next? Well, time start Doing Good Things…

Rotary – Meeting Steve (at Pilgrims Hospice)


You might get the feeling that my involvement in Rotary is a lot of meetings. That might be true, but think only in the good sense of meetings. That is, the good thing of meeting people, talking and learning, rather than boring meetings that drone on forever with no aim.

Meeting Steve Auty, another new Rotarian, at the Pilgrims Hospice was another huge learning experience for me. Firstly, let me tell you what Pilgrims is and what it does. The hospice movement steps in once the NHS step out. When you have a terminal disease and you can no longer be treated, the hospice movement will help you and your family cope with that news and make sure the last stage of your life is the best it can be. As Steve said to me, as a society we rarely speak of what happens when you know you’re going to die and we should probably speak to each other more about it. While some of us will die suddenly, for others there will be a period where a doctor runs some tests and tells us there is little that modern medicine can do for us. If that’s said to you, what will you do?

The hospice movement is entirely funded by charitable donations. They will be there with specialist staff to help not only you come to terms with things, including managing treatment that can ease suffering through to the end of your life, but the hospice movement will be there for your family too. Steve explained to me that many people view the hospice movement as somewhere you go to die, but in reality only 40% of … i don’t think patient is the right word but it will do for now, only 40% of patients die in the hospice. Many make a decision they would prefer to die at home and the hospice will do everything they can to allow people to stay at home instead of in the hospice itself. While the number of volunteers at the hospice outweigh paid staff by a huge amount, some staff need qualifications and resources cost money. The hospice needs around 8 million pounds a year to run. This funding allows them to care for around 4,000 people in the final stages of life, out of around 6,000 people that deserve their care and attention in the area Pilgrims Hospice covers.

Please read this with the notation that I’ve typed these figures from memory, if they’re grossly wrong I’ll correct them but I’m sure they’re near enough. Pilgrims would very much like to expand their service to look after all the 6,000 people in East Kent and they are working hard towards growing their fund raising base to provide this.

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve visited a lot of places through my business. I’ve seen large offices and small offices, offices for designers with no expence spared and offices for workshops with sawdust or machine oil on every surface. Visiting Pilgrims I felt straight away that every penny donated to them goes to the cause and not to the office furnishings! Part of Steve’s office was occupied by a folding bed. When I asked about it he said it had been donated by someone, along with another pile of things in another corner. His office was used for storing lots of donations, if the space was needed it was used. Steve is the Chief Executive of Pilgrims Hospice and his coffee table, chairs, desk and filing cabinets looked like they’d seen service since the 1970’s. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with the furnishings, they were all fully functional. If anything it made me appreciate even more how this charity is focused directly on it’s cause and that niceties like matching furniture really aren’t important. I can say with 100% confidence this is a cause worth supporting and definitely within the ethos of “Do Good Things”.

But what to do? Well, another new Rotarian, Diane, already has that in hand. She’s organising a summer ball to take place next May in order to raise funds for Pilgrims. Pilgrims haven’t had a summer ball before. Diane’s original target was to raise 40,000, although that’s since been changed to 50,000 because in her words “I’ve been offered a better venue than I thought I could get”.

Wow! To me those figures sound huge but the more I get to know Diane the more I just know it’s going to happen.

So, two good causes, presentation day next – how we presented it and how it all went.

Oh, I almost forgot, I spent some time with Steve talking about his past as well. He made the rank of Commodore in the Navy (that’s very, very senior officer!) and told me a couple of great stories of his time in the forces. There’s some amazing experience and knowledge in our Rotary club, the more I meet with people, the more I’m glad I joined.