Gary C.K. Huang never imagined he would become Rotary International's president when he joined in 1976, but now that he is in office, he hopes to increase membership to 1.3 million by the end of his term.
"It's simple. The more members we have, the more people we can help. A stronger membership base will result in stronger communities," says Huang, who on 1 July became Rotary's first Chinese president.
Huang also hopes his presidential theme, Light Up Rotary, will encourage members to brighten Rotary's image to the public, which he believes in return will improve member recruitment and retention.
Huang has a track record of improving membership development in Asia, adding 19 clubs when he was district governor for Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. One of the cornerstones of his presidency is encouraging clubs and districts to conduct a Rotary Day. These one-day events, he says, can spotlight a particular cause, and solidify Rotary's image as one of the world's leading service organizations.
"We need to showcase our good work to everyone in the community. Rotary Days need to be fun and all inclusive. Invite your family, friends, and neighbors to participate. My hope is at the end of the day a few non-members will want to join Rotary," he says. "Let's give people the opportunity to experience what it's like to make a difference. Rotary Days can achieve that."
Huang designed a travel schedule that will allow him to visit more than 30 Rotary Day events across the globe, including Argentina, Chile, France, India, Italy, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, and the U.S., as well as his home city of Taipei.
Huang says he's honored and humbled to be Rotary's president. He knows he's part of an exclusive club.
"We [past Rotary presidents] have achieved great success in our businesses and in our communities," says Huang. "But success isn't about power or money. It's about giving back. Being a Rotarian has given me the opportunity to help those in need. As president, I can inspire our members to take advantage of the same opportunity and bring happiness in people's lives."
Huang says Rotary members are never short on ideas and innovative ways to solve problems, but funding gaps prevent many of these projects from taking off.
For instance, Rotary members in Korea, Japan, and China are strong fundraisers, but struggle to help each other use the funds because of distance and language barriers, Huang says.
"I want to show Rotarians why I am their president," he adds. "The best way to do that is to see and inspire their work, participate in their projects, and help them raise funds."
"I want to, along with my district governors, reach out and try to link different clubs from different countries together so we can find the right communities in need," he adds. "That's one of the great things about being an international organization: the ability to bring different cultures and backgrounds together to find a common cause."