Tips for starting an e-club
Top: Rick Barrett of the Rotary E-Club of the Southwest, USA (District 5510), attends his club meeting at a neighborhood cafe. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee
Bottom: The charter celebration for the Rotary E-Club of District 3170. Photo courtesy Lizette Ödfalk
As the mother of two small children, Simone Carot Collins found it increasingly difficult to attend meetings of her Rotary club after starting her own business.
Carot Collins, 2010-11 president of the Rotary Club of Freshwater Bay, Western Australia, Australia, talked to two other Rotarians in a similar situation, and approached her district governor-elect about exploring the possibility of an e-club. Carot Collins is now president-elect of the provisional Rotary E-Club of Sunset Coast, in District 9455.
"E-clubs are an invaluable way to enable committed Rotarians to remain engaged with Rotary work rather than losing them from the organization entirely," says Carot Collins, who is also past chair of the Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship. "A change in life circumstances can make it very difficult to participate in a regular Rotary club, be it having young children, starting up a new business, or taking a job that involves regular traveling."
E-clubs have been around since 2004, when a pilot project allowed about a dozen clubs to experiment with the format.
The 2010 Council on Legislation decided to make e-clubs a permanent part of Rotary International, approving a limit of two per district. There are now more than 30 e-clubs, whose members meet weekly, plan service projects, and build friendships online.
Starting an e-club involves essentially the same process as starting any Rotary club. The responsibility of approving the new club rests with the district governor, who appoints a special representative to gauge interest and find potential members.
Selecting the special representative is crucial, says Philip Schunk, 2010-11 governor of District 7210 (New York, USA).
"The special representative must have -- or have access to someone with -- superior technical skills, and be able to communicate well to charter members," says Schunk, who helped organize an e-club in his district.
He says the representative should work with potential e-club members to ensure that they find a qualified vendor to help set up a website, if necessary, and identify members who can be trained to handle day-to-day operations. The website will need to safeguard personal data and accommodate secure financial transactions.
"Rotary needs to adapt and keep up with technology," says Schunk. "With e-clubs, we can build membership and extend our reach of fellowship."
The Rotary E-Club of District 3170 became one of the newest additions to the fold, celebrating its charter 2 July during a special dinner with members of its sponsor club, the Rotary Club of Vasco da Gama, Goa, India. Members who could not attend celebrated via the club's website.
Like Carot Collins's club, the District 3170 e-club meets both in person and online. Lizette Ödfalk, the club's public relations chair, says it has 25 charter members. Some are former Rotaractors who wanted to become Rotarians but needed flexible meeting arrangements; others are former Rotarians who had moved to places where it was difficult to maintain club membership. The club also looked to contacts on social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Club members are from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, India, Malaysia, Norway, South Africa, and the United States.
Before starting an e-club, ask these questions:
- Why create an e-club? What need does it meet?
- How will it conduct service projects and activities?
- How will it create and strengthen friendships?
- What support will it need from your district?
- If you’ve found prospective members, do they have the necessary technical skills?
- What platform will you use?
- Will members meet in person as well as online?
Find out more in Organizing New Clubs: A Guide for District Governors and Special Representatives, which includes a new appendix on setting up e-clubs, and What You Need to Know about Rotary E-Clubs.