7 features of a highly effective service project

Rotary members in Virginia, USA, deliver mobility equipment for a local hospital.

Rotary members in Virginia, USA, deliver mobility equipment for a local hospital.

By Richard Cunningham, Rotary Club of James River, Richmond, Virginia, USA

We cannot expect to grow membership without engaging our members in service. RI President John Germ has stated this unequivocally and our club is taking that to heart.

Selecting the right project, therefore, is critical to the health of your club. Here’s a few basic principles we’ve found to be true about service projects:

  • Sweat equity is the single most vital aspect of our mission and one of our greatest strengths.
  • Club leaders are responsible for both success and failure.
  • Engaged Rotarians take responsibility for their own learning.
  • Technology is important.
  • Members should expect to serve.
  • We need to recognize the volunteer resource represented by retirees, the self-employed, and non-working parents with time to spare.
  • One-off walk-away projects do little to cultivate longer term engagement with Rotary.
  • Hands-on projects provide opportunities for members to develop their leadership skills.
  • Fund raisers are an important part of what we do, but there is much more to being engaged in Rotary.
  • Rotary is more than being a member of a single club.
  • Our Rotary Foundation is one of the finest vehicles for giving in the world.
  • Club 501(C)(3)s are important to capture individual tax free donations in the USA. Setting one up is not expensive, and within the ability of club leaders.
  • Rotaract, Interact, RYLA, and Rotary Leadership Institutes are important to our present and future.
  • Most of us learn by doing.
  • We need to watch out for the threat of status quo and board inertia.
  • We need to say “yes” to good projects promoted by one or more of our members.
  • Our ability to serve is proportional to the number of available volunteer hours.

With this in mind, we suggest any great project should have these seven attributes:

  1. Involve several of the six Areas of Focus. Our most recent project dealing with eye care for underprivileged children relates to basic education and literacy; maternal and child health, and disease prevention.
  2. Be interesting to as many professions as possible. For example, our latest project is of particular interest to medical professionals, educators, and community and political leaders
  3. Benefit as many people in the community as possible. The bigger the better, as larger efforts will attract more media interest. By collaborating, you can engage small clubs in bigger issues.
  4. Be affordable and grant eligible and pursue international partners. Collaborating with other clubs on district or global grants opens up opportunities for members to step into leadership roles and experience Rotary on an international scale.
  5. Involve multiple age groups, including Interact, Rotaract, RYLA participants, and all generations from Baby Boomers on.
  6. Address a major community issue and include a public image component that will stimulate local media interest and build relationships with media outlets.
  7. Involve a long range vision for sustainability and focus on long-term relationships. A series of related projects is a great way to develop ongoing relationships and retain membership interest. Small projects grow into larger efforts this way.

We believe doing all these things develops a “Service Centered Leadership” culture which results in a sustained and sustainable membership growth environment.

Give to support the work of our Rotary Foundation, and learn how you can celebrate 100 years of doing good in the world.

9 thoughts on “7 features of a highly effective service project

  1. Pingback: President’s Comment – 9 Oct 16 – Rotary E-Club of D9700 – SERVING HUMANITY

  2. I have heard of this – 7 Habits of Highly Effective Rotarians. In fact, I’ve used it for Member-Orientation.
    Seven Habits of
    Highly Effective Rotarians
    Compiled by: Dr. Jagdish Bhatt,

    D3140 India for the ROTI Institute

    Effective Rotarians always try to attend their club meetings or make up at
    other clubs as much as possible. They are aware that regular attendance is
    an important part of their membership commitment and do not miss a chance to
    attend. They participate on committees which they are members of, plus
    others if invited. They are keen to attend all club events and district
    functions. They participate in the District Assembly and District Conference
    each year, and have attended a recent Rotary International Convention.

    Effective Rotarians enjoy meeting other members and often feel this
    fellowship is as important to Rotary as the actual business part of a
    meeting. They go out of their way to talk to those whom they do not know and
    believe a stranger is a friend whom you have not met yet. Outside of Rotary
    they also enjoy meeting people and getting acquainted with them. At large
    Rotary gatherings they make an effort to meet others, rather than just
    fraternizing with friends from their own club.

    Effective Rotarians respect every vocation and understand how the
    classification system is the basis of Rotary. They firmly believe that each
    vocation provides a cog in the wheel and is important, however insignificant
    it may appear. They firmly believe each member should try to excel in their
    job and they try to support and help others to reach their full potential.

    Effective Rotarians understand the value of self-discipline and know that
    productive accomplishments are hard to achieve without it. They realize that
    both inner and outer discipline must be maintained in a proper balance and
    can enforce both disciplines when and where required.

    Effective Rotarians know they have a purpose in Rotary and fully realize
    they must earmark a certain amount of time, money and energy to maintain
    this commitment. They also realize these three things should be shared in
    proper balance between their family, vocation and community.

    6. EMPATHY
    Effective Rotarians put themselves in the position of the other person,
    especially if that person is in difficulty. They know that mere sympathy may
    not be enough, can be empathetic and feel compassion for the difficulties of
    others. They believe that what they are doing for their community is merely
    returning a small part of what they have already received from it. While
    they may appreciate recognition for their efforts they do not hanker for it.

    Effective Rotarians may sometimes feel that all is not right with Rotary or
    there are too many ‘politics’. They know some elements in Rotary need
    improvement but rather than be negative they use a positive approach to help
    rectify things. They maintain a positive attitude and portray a good image
    of Rotary, both inside and outside the organization


  3. Pingback: 7 features of a highly effective service project | The Rotary Club of Carteret

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