Rotary Youth Exchange alumni form new club

Fernando Nercelles films a program for District 4340's virtual conference.
Fernando Nercelles films a program for District 4340’s virtual conference.

By Fernando Pinto Nercelles, member of the Rotary Club of Pehuén de Las Condes, Chile; District Alumni Committee Chair; and District Peace Fellowships Subcommittee Chair.

The last couple of years have been especially challenging for Rotary members, particularly for those of us in leadership positions in our clubs or districts.

My district’s Alumni Committee that I have led for some years has approached involving our alumni from a traditional perspective: through one-on-one and case-by-case contact. Interesting but insufficient.

This past Rotary year, after several meetings with our district team, we concluded that this approach was not enough. It was time to innovate and try something different. But before doing anything, we had to identify target audiences and act according to each of them. Our district had never targeted former Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) students.

Working as one big team

Therefore, to broaden our horizons, we started working with the district Rotary Youth Exchange committee. Now, the committee, as one big team, is working toward the same goal of reconnecting with alumni.

Our work focused on forming a new Rotary club made up exclusively of RYE alumni, so we had a database of 150 people who fit our defined age criteria. To that end, we decided to schedule a reunion meeting to allow these former exchange students to reconnect and relive their best experiences. We sent a massive but personalized invitation through Survey Monkey, a platform that allowed us to track open and read rates.

Despite our efforts, only four people participated the Zoom. It was certainly not what we expected, but three of these four alumni were so motivated by the idea that they happily accepted the challenge of forming a new Rotary club. We had a starting point to work with.

The day after, we had an evaluation meeting and concluded that we had to do something different. The district RYE committee has networks and good relationships with former RYE students and their families. We had to take advantage of this and let the RYE committee take the lead in calling all those who might be interested.

Each member of the committee was asked to contact at least three former exchange members that they knew. In turn, these contacts were asked to invite other friends and peers to a new reunion meeting.

Creating a value proposition

The whole team worked together: We sent out the invitations, followed up on the list of confirmed attendees, and looked forward to the big day. But we also prepared and fine-tuned the new presentation and value proposition: A new Rotary club composed of young people, all with RYE experience, willing to work together and positively use their international networks in community service, becoming a new key component in the work of the district RYE committee, serving as mentors and references for new young people preparing to start their exchange experiences each year.

A hundred  alumni joined the event. We had achieved the first major goal of the project: To convene the target audience to present our value proposition. All the alumni appreciated the opportunity to reconnect with Rotary, to relive the beautiful experience of their exchange abroad, and to know that there is a way to give back to Rotary for all the difference it made in their lives. This was their most frequent testimony: Rotary changed their lives.

And after meeting all the requirements and formalities, we can happily announce that we have a new Rotary club in District 4340, Rotary Club Sin Fronteras, formed by 26 former RYE students.

In just a few months we accomplished by working together what seemed impossible before. We reconsidered and reassessed everything from the ground up and came up with something completely new.

We reconnected with Rotary, opened opportunities, and changed lives.

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