Posted by David Button on Mar 03, 2021

I have had an outstanding Rotary experience over the last 16 years that I have been with the Rotary Club of Berwick. That comes with joining an active, vibrant and fun club, full of characters, ambitious ideas, and the energy to take on the workload to make it all happen. As we age, the edge comes off, we do less, and we go from setting the world on fire to just getting by. Some of our active members turn from doers to passengers. I have seen this scenario play out in many service, volunteer, hobby groups, and clubs. Let's face it; volunteering takes commitment because all you get are feel good credits. Paid employment could quickly go the same way, except money puts food on your table.

Cool story. 

In my business life, there is no room for passengers. If something isn't working, looking for a life vest isn't an option when your ship is about to sink. Fix the leak, change direction and re-invent. Stay ahead of the game. Pull the plug and start again, if that's what it takes. Money puts food on the table and increases the level of motivation. How can you transfer that motivation to a volunteer organisation?

In my younger days, I used to be a rock climber. You know, climbing cliffs for fun. At the bottom, you would plan your path to the top. About half way up, you might see a better way to go (funny how getting close to what you are doing creates more opportunities), but when you are close there is a possibility you might be wrong and some paths lead to a dead end (yes DEAD END). Try stepping off a cliff for a better look!! The climb is thrilling. If you make all the right choices and make it to the peak, you are a winner. If you get it wrong and come off, it is going to hurt and you might come home in a body bag. Making the right choices in the face of unknown outcomes is what I do (if Judy says it is OK - LOL). Oh, and I can be wrong!

Our Club strengths are:

  1. Our contribution to the people of the City of Casey is increasing. 
  2. Our portfolio and variety of projects are multiplying.
  3. Our relevance in our cluster group is good.
  4. We are building alliances with other groups to help meet our goals.
  5. Our active members are phenomenal, resourceful and adapting.
  6. Experienced active members are voluntarily mentoring less experienced members.
  7. Our active members are creating new projects in areas that are most likely to attract new members.
  8. Our Club is adapting and taking on fresh opportunities.
  9. Our Club is creating positions in the Club that are suitable for new suitably motivated members.
  10. We are supported by two respected sponsors, Beaconsfield District Community Bank and St John of God Hospital.

Our Club weaknesses are:

  1. We have failed to engage 28% of members, even though we have decreased our fees, meal costs and are back to physical meetings. The same people who say Rotary is too expensive and don't like Zoom are still not contributing. 
  2. We are not meeting our attendance obligations for our fantastic venue.
  3. We have allowed inactive members to remain inactive.
  4. We have not moved quickly enough with the changing times.
  5. We have not kept our Club vibrant and have not created a hotbed for growth over recent years.
  6. We have not engaged, captured or retained some brilliant members.

If we know where we are weak, there is room to fix it. If we know our strengths, we can capitalise on them. If we plan our future and are prepared to alter our course as needed, there is a good chance of success.

A Satellite Club is in the wind.

Please consider the idea of a proposed satellite Club of the Rotary Club of Berwick.

This idea has been floated around for years, but now we have a serious proposal on the table. According to the proposal, no Rotary Club of Berwick members are directly involved, or proposed members. There are eight people, mostly current Rotarians, that want to create a new club. Eight is too low to get going in their own right, but enough to make a Satellite of another Club. I would think that 72% of our Club members who are active. will remain with the Rotary Club of Berwick. Some inactive members may skip over to the satellite club, which is OK, as our Club doesn't seem to be ringing their bells and they are not contributing to the Club's prosperity. 

I have canvased the Board and four main concerns have emerged. 

  1. Workload for the existing Board to maintain/involve and mentor the new Club.
  2. Leakage of active members to a more flexible format.
  3. Eroding our ability to keep our venue by undermining attendance.
  4. Our Club is making good progress in becoming active in the community again. A satellite Club may take that focus away.

I have no argument with any of these concerns.

Then there are the positives:

  • We are helping Rotary by adding to its membership (and indirectly ours).
  • It’s a project of the RC of Berwick, not a competitor
  • It is great publicity for RCB as our name will be in correspondence and public image.
  • We can work with them in our projects as we age
  • It will boost our membership in the meanwhile while we continue rebuilding our Club
  • It will provide a sound home for some disenchanted members while they rebuild their interest in Rotary
  • New members will be attracted to Rotary that wouldn’t normally
  • Most of the mentorship is already within the proposed membership 

Like anything our club tackles, we look at as many angles as possible to make sound decisions. Remembering that I have 135 projects and functions of the Rotary Club of Berwick on my radar at the moment, I am not looking at adding a distraction, UNLESS it provides a bonus to our Club.

I want to make my view clear. 

  1. A Satellite is not robbing our Club of members. 
  2. Our current members need to know everything about Rotary; we need to be the winning team and set the example.
  3. Competition motivates us all to do better.
  4. Mutual respect can bind us and extend our reach if we are willing to work together.
  5. We are all part of a bigger picture. It is not a turf war.
  6. Rotary is a respected organisation and is prepared to move with the times. We must accept that our current Club model is not in keeping with some potential Rotarian's lifestyles.
  7. Our Club is better to embrace and learn, than to be scared of the unknown.

We have accepted the challenge of many opportunities this year. We have forged new possibilities in areas previously unchartered. We are looking to find strength and purpose in everything we do. We want to be satisfied that we have been the best we can be. 

I want the following for my club: 

  1. To be seen as a leader in our Rotary District, 
  2. 100% member engagement, especially in the running and management of the club.
  3. Recognised in our community as a respected organisation, 
  4. The Board is creative, balanced and proactive
  5. The Treasurer is always happy
  6. The annual report is long and interesting, with stories of challenge and success across all Rotary areas of focus.
  7. We have several good Public Image activists, who promote our causes.
  8. We are inviting the right people into our club, who share our vision and are willing to work towards our goals.
  9. Our club is prepared to evolve as society changes to meet the needs of future Rotarians.

There are many paths we can choose, and none of them might be the right one. Who knows until you have a go! I apologise for so many dot points in this article. I would love to discuss your opinion on the Satellite proposal at the next available opportunity. You may contact any current Board member listed on this bulletin to discuss further, if you wish.