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5 questions about

Meeting online




George Robertson-Burnett

Rotary coordinator and member of the Rotary Club of Bartow, Florida

1. What made you decide to help clubs adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic?

A large club in my district announced that it would not be meeting anymore: “No Rotary until further notice.” Those five words kept running through my mind. I had to do something.

So I wrote a guide to help clubs navigate online platforms like Zoom so they can meet virtually.

As Rotary coordinator for Zone 34, which includes Georgia, Florida, and parts of the Caribbean region, I’m very membership oriented. My initial thought was that clubs should keep meeting online to retain members, but now I’ve realized there’s also a possibility for growth there. So many people are stuck at home right now, and there are no sports for them to watch. Virtual meetings offer an opportunity to get some new people into Rotary. It’s also a good time to increase a club’s exposure on social media, because people have more time to look. That may turn into new interest in your club, in addition to being a way of connecting with members.

2. What is the most common question clubs ask?

Many people want ideas for projects. I suggest reaching out to local organizations that are heavily affected, like food banks or homes that care for the elderly. Tell them that Rotary still cares about those in need and ask how you can help.

Sometimes the assistance that we give has to be to our own members who are in the at-risk group. Reach out to older club members and reinforce our fellowship. I also suggest a social evening, a glass of wine and video chat, over Zoom. My club tried this out very successfully.

3. What successes have you seen?

Since the guide came out, I’ve been videoconferencing with clubs around the world that have never been online before. Now everyone is laughing and sharing. At a traditional meeting, you often only talk to the people at your own table. On video, everyone can talk to each other. I also got a piece of really good news this morning. That club that said “No Rotary until further notice” got in touch and asked for assistance to get online meetings started. Many districts have a communications officer or public image committee who can be great resources. Also, let’s motivate those who are tech-savvy to assist their fellow Rotarians. It’s a victory for Rotary in so many ways if we convince people to meet online.

4. What if meeting online is not an option?

In Florida, we have many communities made up of older people. One of the clubs here said, “There is absolutely no way we can go online. It’s just not a possibility. No one in the club is tech-savvy.” The fail-safe is to maintain a written newsletter and send personal cards and letters to members. It’s important to show that Rotary continues in its mission even in adversity.

5. How do you think Rotary will be different after this?

Rotary is an organization of professional people. There is a grave concern with regard to small businesses. It’s going to heavily affect employment. We need to be mindful and do anything we can to help each other.

I came to the United States from the UK in 2004. I knew no one here, and within two weeks of arrival, I had 72 friends because I joined a Rotary club. That fellowship is our fundamental strength. Of course, it’s being challenged for safety’s sake, but we must respond in a positive manner and get through this, hopefully with stronger bonds of fellowship.


• Learn more about meeting online at

• Illustration by Viktor Miller Gausa

• This story originally appeared in the June 2020 issue of The Rotarian magazine.