Nonprofits and businesses can excel in a crisis when they focus on their strengths
Kim S. Cameron, a University of Michigan business professor, has made a career out of helping organizations seize opportunity in times of adversity. The author of Positive Leadership says nonprofits and businesses can excel in a crisis when they focus on their strengths. “One of Rotary’s techniques is to be best for the world – not just the best in the world – by making a profound difference,” he says. With dour economic news cascading around the globe, staying on mission is no easy task. Here, Rotarians offer tips – a stimulus package, of sorts, with no bailout funds required.
Stress the career benefits of Rotary club membership
In today’s job market, everyone is networking, online and in person. Rotary offers a chance to do both. “Rotary is not a networking group, but a group where networking happens,” says Judi Beard-Strubing, a retired financial adviser with Merrill Lynch in Eugene, Oregon, USA, and a regional Rotary International membership coordinator. Connecting with the community is crucial, she says.
Advertise jobs with Rotarians
Seattle-area clubs are creating a job board for the District 5030 Web site and business networking sites such as LinkedIn. Club officers will ensure that the participants are Rotarians in good standing, says District Governor-elect Nancy Keenholts Dalton. Kenneth A. Masson, president of the Rotary Club of Merrimack Valley Area, Lowell, Massachusetts, has taken the Avenue of Vocational Service a step further. Masson lost his bank marketing job but, undaunted, launched a cable-access television series on how to find work. He’s enlisted other volunteers, including a former TV anchor and two club members, for graphic arts and legal assistance. “This unemployment number is a crisis,” says Masson. “Rotary has always come to the aid in a crisis, whether it’s a flood or polio.”
Help pay the dues of struggling members without drawing attention to the good deed, says Keenholts Dalton. She and other past club presidents have funded the dues of a “wonderful man” they didn’t want to lose as a Rotarian, she says. “He never got another dues bill. Now we have more people in that situation today.” Some clubs are also contemplating reducing club fees for younger Rotarians.
Lower the cost of meals at club meetings
For many clubs, the cost of dinner or lunch far outweighs RI dues. Institute happy hours and potlucks, but don’t sacrifice networking and socializing time. Greg Krauska, a business strategy expert and member of the Rotary Club of Chanhassen, Minnesota, says 15 minutes before a meeting isn’t enough time to make connections.
Find short-term service projects
Serving meals at shelters, collecting food or clothing for the needy, or holding garage sales are quick and easy ideas. Krauska calls these “done-in-a-day” projects. “You get the club together with family members to ring Salvation Army bells or stuff meal packets,” he says. “It’s social, and you say, ‘That wasn’t hard. It was fun, and it made an impact.’”
Forgo or scale back pricey events
Consider putting that big yearly fundraiser on hiatus in favor of smaller ones that more people can attend. When regular sponsors dropped out of an annual golf tournament, the Rotary Club of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, began planning low-cost fundraisers such as raffles and a family fishing tournament, says Lynanne Fowle, the club’s president-elect.
“Rotary has gone through many worldwide upheavals in its history and survived. More significantly, it has been in the darkest times of the 20th century that Rotary has shined the brightest,” observes Paul Kiser, District 5190 (California and Nevada) public relations chair. Kiser points to Rotarians who met clandestinely, risking their lives in Nazi Germany, and to those who created work programs and ran soup kitchens during the Depression. “As we have seen before, now is the time for Rotary to shine,” he says. “While many of us face difficult choices, Rotarians have learned that giving hope and helping others is the best cure for moving beyond our own difficulties.”