Home' Rotary Down Under : April 2016 (International) Contents ROTARY INTERNATIONAL
| 18 | ISSUE 582 APRIL 2016
Should employment be a requirement
to join Rotary? Jennifer Jones, the
director from Canada, said her sister-
in-law, a highly educated woman with
a family, active in her community,
could be barred from membership if
employment were required. American
directors Julia Phelps and Karen
Wentz agreed that such a rule might
complicate Rotary’s long-standing
The directors also agreed to allow
non-members to attend conventions
and to consider hosting conventions in
cities that don’t meet the usual criteria.
Robert Hall from Atlanta, who plays
an important role as host committee
co-chair of the 2017 convention,
supported this action.
Then they moved on to other
matters: Member Benefits Program
Manager Naish Shah gave the Board
an upbeat report on the new Rotary
Global Rewards program, which
provides hotel, car rental, and other
discounts to Rotarians. So far, the
program is a success. Ravindran
supports it, though he has heard from
a few constituents who don’t.
“They tell me they didn’t join Rotary
to get something for themselves,”
he said. “I tell them that’s no reason
to discourage others. If they’re
uncomfortable with a discount, they
are free to say, ‘Oh, no, I would prefer
to pay full price’.”
Guiller Tumangan from the
Philippines and Safak Alpay from
Turkey also voiced their support of
the program. The directors called for a
follow-up report on Global Rewards at
another Board meeting.
In the evening, the directors met
more casually in a conference room at
Evanston’s Hilton Garden Inn. President-
elect John Germ of Tennessee, who
will chair next year’s Board meetings,
said he has experienced less culture
shock living in Evanston (as Rotary
presidents and presidents-elect do)
than his predecessor.
It has been strange, Ravindran
said, moving from Sri Lanka’s tea
plantations, sapphire mines and
elephants to American apartment life.
But he relishes the work.
“I promised to drive costs down,
introduce meritocracy in appointments
and add value to members, and
we’re making progress on all fronts.
Fortunately, I’ve got two wonderful
successors far cleverer than me,” he
said of Germ and Australia’s Ian Riseley
(who was invited as an observer).
The camaraderie and friendship
among the three men is clear, one
consulting the other on important
matters and engaging in good-
Jones and Wentz compared notes.
Wentz had been the first female
member of her club, but doesn’t want
to be a one-note gender warrior.
“The last thing I want to be is a
single-issue director,” she said. She
chatted with Howard, whose prime
issue is keeping Rotary relevant to the
“Right now, young people are not
our demographic,” he said. “For
one thing, they look at gatherings
differently. The meal, the singing at
meetings – we have to ask ourselves,
are these traditions central to our
brand? Does fellowship have to be in
a restaurant or a conference room? I
don’t think so. Fellowship can be on
Facebook. We’re starting to realise
that the Kiwanis and Lions are not
our competition. Life is. Work, family,
time. Rotary’s evolving, and I like
being part of that process.”
The next day, the directors worried
aloud about the graying of Rotary in
their zones. England’s Peter Offer told
of attrition in Great Britain due to the
deaths of more than 700 members.
Worldwide, the largest age group
of Rotarians is from 50 to 59; only
10 per cent are younger than 40. A
decade ago the typical club had 42
members; today the figure is down to
34. The most common club size is 20.
Still, there are positive signs. Total
membership is up, and more than
140,000 members joined between
July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015.
Scanning numbers on their monitors,
the directors saw that 20 per cent
of today’s Rotarians are female, a
number that varies geographically.
Women account for about 26 per
cent of US members, 13 per cent
in Western Europe and 5 per cent
By Wednesday, a civilian might
to realise that
the Kiwanis and
Lions are not our
competition. Life is.
Work, family, time.
and I like being part
of that process.”
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