By Michael Bucca, a member of the Rotary Club of Central Ocean Toms River, New Jersey, USA
You might think that I, a 32-year-old member of a 110-year-old organization, would be preoccupied with trying to modernize my club’s way of doing things. But remarkably, my experience in Rotary is teaching me to spend more energy convincing my generation – which keeps trying to reinvent everything – that there is much to be gained in the lost art of personal connection.
We all use social media in our daily lives. Without a doubt, Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, etc. has great value in our social and professional circles. But long before there were Wi-Fi connections, laptops, or smartphones, a man named Paul Harris came up with the idea of professional leaders getting together face to face to make a difference in their community. The organization that arose from this modest idea took its name from the early practice members had of rotating meeting locations between their offices.
In an era of instant communication defined by not-so-blind carbon copies, accidental “reply-alls,” and desperate attempts to “recall” an email, many people seem to have lost the ability of competent verbal and non-verbal face-to-face communication with other human beings. Making good eye contact and managing a well-timed handshake are becoming endangered skills.
At a Rotary meeting, no one is trying to make a good impression via a text message. We are communicating with fellow members, community leaders, and guest speakers in person. We are networking in the way that was standard long before an Ethernet cable was a household commodity.
Think of this as a real-life Facebook status combined with a weekly GoFundMe campaign
Does my Central Ocean Rotary Club in Toms River, New Jersey, use texts and emails? You bet. We are always using these tools to organize events, set up meetings, and handle various other tasks. When we aren’t all together, we turn to technology to get the job done.
However, for one hour and 15 minutes every Tuesday, we turn our phones off, hold our meeting, and enjoy camaraderie with fun activities such as “Happy Bucks.” One member at a time gives several dollars to the club and speaks about topics they are personally happy about. Think of this as a real-life Facebook status combined with a weekly GoFundMe campaign — except instead of “liking” a post, people listen and sometimes break out in applause.
Joining an organization like Rotary is a smart way to meet business leaders in your community and enjoy the opportunity to help people in need. Becoming a member lets you practice life skills that no social media site will ever provide: interpersonal communication. You might meet someone who will change your life. You may even change theirs. But instead of sending a friend request, you will walk right up to them and say “hello.”
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Sadly, if “happy bucks” is the highlight of fun activities you are heading for decline ….. Also I wonder if the members all sit in in the same place atound the table every week, stay in cliques? How often do thry meet outside the weekly meeting? What activities are doe outsite in the community and how many members participate … These are the interesting stuff that makes Rotary what it is … Thanks for the insight though. Appreciated.
Great points. I’m taking on chair of Rotaract of my district so looking for reasons to attract younger members.
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hi I am Meron am from Ethiopia.now am in rotract but I can’t wait to be a Rotarian.in our country rotary is not well known so there are no that much motivation and practicing leadership as like as developed countries.but thanks for the technology I am learning so many thing from you.and they are so many thing that should be done in Ethiopia like on health problem,sanitation,speaking skill and etc. so if you have time i would appreciate to came to Ethiopia one day to share your incredible experience on being a Rotarian.
thank you …..keep it up…..you are giving us a good motivation.
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Great article and so “right on”! (Good info for “sixty-somethings”, too!). Thank you!
Love Rotary! It’s how I went on foreign exchange and I did learn a lot about speaking up and interacting with others professionally.
Still waiting for your ideas Zac. As the mother of a teenager who has been involved with his local Rotary club through their Youth Programs I can support the comments above. My son has gained so many valuable personal skills simply by attending the meetings, interacting with the “grown ups” and giving updates/presentations on his program involvements. So use y our savvy media skills to help promote Rotary not to pull it down
I think the club will become all but invisible to the point of irrelevance if the RC doesn’t pick it up on the IT front. The only reason I read this article was bc it was made available by a social media source.
Zach, the fact that the article “was made available by a social media source” is an indication of Rotary’s improved focus on utilizing new tchnology and new mediums to reach new generations. Also, Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) is one of Rotary’s biggest supporters. That said, I think you’ve missed the point of the article and its emphasis on personal relationships. No matter how technologically advanced we become, nothing can eclipse the value of human interaction.
– Bryan, a 33 year old Rotarian
For Rotary Clubs everywhere, the time has come to do extensive surveys of the younger generations in their 20’s and 30’s to find out from them more about what they thing the Rotary business model should be. They are not responding very well to the current model. It’s not about their smart phones and all. It’s about a business model that is not appealing to them. “The aging of the Rotary, literally” without reinvention is leading this incredible organization down stream rather than up stream. Me saying. don
Have you overlooked the number of people around the table? Do you really think they would be there if they weren’t enjoying themselves. From what has been said they do embrace current electronic means of communication, they accept the need for it as a fact of life, as it exists at present, so they are”moving with the times. If, as you say they will become irrelevant, what do you suggest they should do to counter your prediction??
I would be interest to hear.
Thanks Graham. I think you have captured Michael’s argument well. We must embrace new technology and use it, but one of the big values of Rotary is building personal connections.
Reblogged this on shanakyar.
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