3 lessons I learned as a Rotary club president

By Quentin Wodon, past president of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., USA 

Every year, 35,000 new presidents pick up the reins to guide their Rotary clubs. Having recently completed a year as president myself, I thought it would be beneficial to share three lessons I learned from the experience.

1. Prioritize

Unless you are a member of a large club, it is probably best to focus your club’s energy on only one main goal each year, as opposed to pursuing many different goals. A year goes by quickly. Trying to achieve too many goals may mean not achieving any of them very well.

Our top priority was to rebuild our membership. After many years of decline, we started the year officially with 18 members. Practically, we had at best 15, because two told us they were relocating over the summer and another had to be terminated. Of those 15, only about half were fully engaged. Thanks to a few initiatives I’ve spelled out in a free e-book, and a bit of luck, we ended up with 40 members. In some areas, we did well with our objective. In others, we still have a long way to go. But what helped is we had one main strategic objective.

2. Invest in your local community

Many clubs are involved in both local and international service projects. I work in international development, so it is important to me that Rotary implements projects in developing countries. However, it is also clear to me that what sustains most clubs is local service, not international projects. International projects often involve only a few dedicated members, while local projects are likely to involve many members and attract people who are more likely to be member prospects.

3. Serve your members

Sometimes, there is a bit of a debate among Rotary as to whether we are a membership organization or a service organization. It seems to me Rotary is by nature a membership organization first. Without a strong membership, Rotarians can’t achieve as much in their service work.

Clubs needs to respond to the needs and preferences of their members. This may mean a stronger focus on service in some clubs. But it may mean in other clubs something else, like attracting great speakers. Clubs do need to engage in service work. This is an imperative, and I would not remain a Rotarian if this were not the case. My own priority in Rotary is to engage in service work.

But not all Rotarians have the same priorities, and priorities can change depending on the stage of one’s own life. There are multiple ways to contribute, and all should be celebrated. Diversity is a strength Rotary clubs can embrace.

Read more by Quentin Wodon on his blog, Rotarian Economist. Find more resources for club presidents.

11 thoughts on “3 lessons I learned as a Rotary club president

  1. You’re so right..Members need to be motivated to get involved in service projects.

    Sati Khanna
    President 1990-91
    RC Nagpur
    India

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  2. A part of the members in a club are involved in service work. Others assist them in different way. In my club, our young president prepare a community service project and we all assist him in different way. Last year I visited the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., USA: Sk Abdul Hadi, RC Khulna North, RID-3281, Bangladesh

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  3. Thanks for sharing and very appropriate. Remember charity begins at home, hence, you are correct to say we should look inward and focus on the little things that make profound effects. Yes, Rotary is International, hence, a balance is always essential. I am a big believer in rotary information during club meetings. Loving and comprehending Rotary is a journey, and Rotray Information is the glue to ensure we stick together. Let’s continue make a difference serving humanity. Thanks for your love and passion for Rotary…. Jitendra Prasad DGE

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  4. Impressive … So many e-books …. You are so correct when you say:
    However, it is also clear to me that what sustains most clubs is local service, not international projects. International projects often involve only a few dedicated members, while local projects are likely to involve many members and attract people who are more likely to be member prospects.
    I wish Foundation would realize this fact.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your experience and ideas with us. The point 3 is fundamental to building a strong service organization. Members must feel needed before they can commit to service.

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  6. Well said President Quentin.
    Your club achievements are a testament to your passion
    for making a difference in your club and community.
    Keep it up!
    –PDG Bill Ferreira,
    Dist 6440. Chicago, IL

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  7. Your point #3 is very important and most Rotary Leaders do not get this. I have been spreading this word for a long time. Good to hear it coming from someone else too.

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  8. Pingback: 3 lessons I learned as a Rotary club president | The Rotary Club of Carteret

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