Monday, 3 August 2015

How representative is Rotary of your community?

Words: Colin Robinson, Rotary Assistant Public Image Coordinator Zone 7B, of the Rotary Club of St Johns, NZ

At the 2014 Rotary International Convention in Sydney, Australia then Rotary International President Elect Ravi Ravindran said, “in the eyes of Rotary, every member stands equal, irrespective of ethnicity, gender, creed, community, or country, and that by itself is an ineffably beautiful tribute to the magnificence of our great organization.” 

This got me thinking about just how many people of various ethnic groups I know in Rotary.   Rotary is increasingly representative of many cultures across Auckland and the Pacific Islands, so we do know quite a few people in Rotary from various ethnic groupsFor example, the vibrant Rotary Club of Auckland Harbourside, NZ was formed as a multi-cultural club and it has one third Chinese members, another third are Indians and the remaining third are Kiwis/Europeans.   

But it seems as if diverse ethnic groups are not yet proportionately well represented throughout Rotary elsewhere. There may well be reasons for this, as they may have other ways of being a part of their community more relevant to their cultural background, and Rotary is not for everyone anyway, but can Rotary do better in attracting them? Absolutely! Certainly Rotary would welcome them, but are we of interest and attractive enough for them to join?

The new Rotary Club of Auckland South, NZ chartered in May 2014 has a majority Taiwanese membership and they are a very successful club with great members who are enthusiastically a part of District 9920 (the largest maritime Rotary district in the world that includes half of Auckland and seven Pacific Island nations). There is also the Rotary Club of Auckland Korean, NZ in neighbouring District 9910 (which includes the other half of Auckland and Northland plus three Pacific Island nations).  Are these two clubs illustrations that people of similar backgrounds may wish to join Rotary as a group? If so, maybe more clubs could explore the concept of a Satellite club for these groups if they’re not yet ready to form a new Rotary club?

There is plenty of material about Satellite clubs, including Satellite clubs – a new way forward in Rotary Down Under July issue on page 19. A good example of a new Satellite club is Rotalite organised by the Rotary Club of Henderson, NZ that is working well.

Of course there are other segments of our community. Younger people are one, and the Rotary Club of Franklin, NZ is another example of a new club set up to attract younger members that is also doing extremely well.  District 9920 is also planning to start another younger Rotary club following on from the 2014 and 2015 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards comprised of inspired RYLArians. 

Of course there is zero reason that existing clubs cannot attract increasing numbers of the various ethnic groups, women, younger men and women to their own ranks, and you do not need a new club to do this. For some clubs, what might be needed is an examination of what they are doing to be sure that prospective members are not turned away by odd, outdated practices, or a lack of vibrancy, and there are plenty of clubs who have made the changes necessary to be welcoming to people of all backgrounds who would make good Rotarians, so they are starting to benefit through increased membership. Is your club one of these? Will you be? If not … back to a look at the Satellite club option. At very least give this some serious thought for your club, or maybe your club and the surrounding clubs can band together to support such an initiative?

Remember that your District Membership (Club Development) Committee has one purpose, and that is to help you grow your numbers by firstly retaining existing members and secondly attracting new members.  

How will Rotary in your part of the world reach out to your community and embrace diversity?