4 questions about
Starting a fellowship
with Felix Heintz
Rotary E-Club of Bavaria International, Germany
Chair and founder, Rotarian Metalhead Fellowship
1. How did you decide to start a fellowship?
Rotary has really shaped me. I was a Rotary Youth Exchange student, and I was a Rotaractor for 13 years. And I’ve been listening to metal music since I was 10. I love it — it’s my passion, it’s my personality. But I didn’t see any connection between Rotary and metal music.
When I was in Rotaract, I realized that other Rotaractors liked the same type of music, but I never talked about it. I didn’t want to get into a discussion with people about why I like this music. Then in 2013, I read an article in the German-language Rotary Magazin about five Rotarians who attended Wacken Open Air, which is one of the largest metal festivals in the world. So I started a closed Facebook group for Rotarians and Rotaractors to exchange our love of metal music. Then last year I organized a family of Rotary meetup at Wacken Open Air. I was surprised that 23 people showed up. I never thought that this passion of mine could connect with what Rotary does.
2. What do you need to get a fellowship approved?
You need to have 25 interested members from at least five countries. They don’t need to be Rotarians; they just need to be part of the Rotary family. So we have Rotarians, Rotaractors, Rotary Youth Exchange students, and alumni. At the moment, we have 164 members from 23 countries.
Then you need to write bylaws and come up with the purpose of the fellowship. We wanted to do something good, and we wanted to connect the Rotary world and the metal world somehow. So we decided to support The Rotary Foundation and the Wacken Foundation, which helps young people who want to develop their musical skills in a rock and metal environment. Finally, you need to apply to Rotary International for official recognition.
3. How did you spread the word?
Social media — I have a huge network of people through being involved in Rotary. I sent messages through Facebook to the regional magazines. And we got our own booth at the Rotary International Convention in Hamburg. The reactions there were overwhelming. We got something like 60 or 70 new members in that week. A Youth Exchange student in an AC/DC T-shirt came up and said, “That’s so cool. I would never have thought within Rotary I would find this music that I love.”
Then we organized a booth at this year’s Wacken Open Air, where we raised funds for End Polio Now. We talked to people whose image of Rotary was not totally accurate. Now we have metalheads who have never been involved in Rotary but think that what our fellowship is doing is great. They said, “Can we become a member?” So we are changing our bylaws to allow them to join as “friends” of the fellowship. We can start to connect to them so they can get more of an idea of what Rotary is doing around the world.
4. Why should people think about joining a fellowship?
If you know that someone is involved in the family of Rotary, you already have a common interest. But everyone also has different interests and passions — things that you enjoy doing in your free time. Fellowships are a wonderful way to find people who share those other interests with you. If you have not just one common interest but two or three, it’s very easy to talk to people all around the world. You can exchange ideas and come up with new ones, and that’s what I think is great.
— JOHN CUNNINGHAM
• Learn more about Rotary Fellowships and see a list of current fellowships at rotary.org/fellowships.
• Illustration by Viktor Miller Gausa
• This story originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of The Rotarian magazine.