Want to grow your club? Have a clear mission

Club event

The Friends of Scott-Shiloh Rotary Club holds an event on the air force base.

By Steve Bione, Friends of Scott-Shiloh Rotary Club, Illinois, USA 

A little more than a year ago, I was looking to join Rotary. I wanted to be involved in Rotary but also help out Scott Air Force Base in St. Claire County, near St. Louis, Illinois. The base is a big part of our community, and I knew Rotary could help connect men and women in the service with life outside the base.

I spoke with our past district governor, and she felt that it could be easier to get a new club started if we approached the nearby Rotary Club of Mascoutah to form as a satellite club. Satellite clubs provide another option for creating a new club, by functioning as a short-term transitional step on the way to becoming a full, independent Rotary club.

We faced challenges along the way. But what helped us was starting with a clear mission. As a group, we decided to build our niche around the Exceptional Family Member Program, a military program that addresses the needs of families with special needs.

The importance of mission

Rotary members pack food

Members of the club pack food during a recent service activity.

While we also serve the greater community around the base, our specific mission has allowed us to attract active duty and retired military service members, mothers of service members, and civilian business professionals who have an interest in helping families with special needs.

It is also part of our mission to help members of the military connect with the community around them, so that when they leave Scott Air Force Base, they will have an easier time transitioning. Rotary is a great social network. So when members of our club leave the military and go to another community, they will immediately have a way to get connected in their new community. This is a considerable benefit to them.

After a little over a year, we received our charter as a separate, standard Rotary club. Not being a Rotarian before, I had no preconceived ideas of meeting rules. We recognized a need for different meeting times to accommodate varied schedules and interests, so we did that. We have a formal meeting twice a month during lunch and two social meetings in the early evening. The club doesn’t care which one you attend. Whichever works for you, works for us. We just want you to get involved as much as you are able to at this point in your life.

Is it winnable?

We wanted to keep our service focused but also not dampen the enthusiasm of the group to do things. We found that running everything through a filter of two criteria helped. Did the project focus on our mission and/or is it “winnable?” By winnable, we meant it had to be of a scope and size that we could accomplish

  • We are supporting about 30 local “at risk” students at Easter and Christmas by making baskets and stockings. We can assemble those in 30 minutes. Winnable!
  • We helped the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post set up tents for one of their events. Winnable!
  • As a fundraiser, we participate in a chili cook off selling pretzels. Last year, we sold 300 pretzels and sold out by 11 a.m. This year we doubled the number of pretzels and sold out before 1 p.m. Winnable!
  • Another Rotary club asked us to partner with them on a fundraiser that was larger than we could undertake by ourselves. Winnable!

As our club resources expand, we can scale our projects to match our available time and money. But we still keep an eye on balancing our commitments to avoid burning out our members by taking on too much. We continue to grow and learn about Rotary. And sticking to our mission, we are making the Friends of Scott-Shiloh Rotary Club an exciting club for those that seek to practice Service Above Self!

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