Strengthening Rotary Clubs through Stronger Partnerships with Local Nonprofits

As readers of this blog may be aware, my Rotary club launched last month a number of partnerships with key nonprofits in our community as part of a “pro bono initiative”. These partnerships bring several benefits: 1) better service opportunities for our members and larger impact in the community; 2) more visibility for  our partners and our club; and 3) new members. Let me briefly explain these three benefits in case they may inspire other clubs to adopt a similar model.

Better service opportunities and larger impact: Most Rotarians are professionals and/or business leaders. We are building on these skills in our club by providing pro bono strategic advise with small teams of 4-5 individuals (both Rotarians and non-Rotarians) that support local nonprofits. This makes our club more interesting for our members in terms of the service opportunities we provide, and it also increases the impact that we have on the community through local nonprofits. I mentioned this pro bono initiative in previous blog posts, so let me focus here on the other two benefits.

More visibility for our partners and our club: This higher visibility is achieved is several ways. First, we are sharing our work on social media using some of the better known blogs in our community. The main blog for our community is “The Hill Is Home”. So we started writing posts for that blog, not directly about our club, but about the great work of our nonprofit partners … and the fact that we are working with them. We also started writing short articles about our partner nonprofits in the main monthly magazine for the community. Again, the stories are about our partner nonprofits but they mention in passing that our club works with them. These efforts should give us more visibility, and they also help our nonprofit partners who truly appreciate the visibility they get with this initiative. Finally, we have started placing small posters in local cafes, libraries, and other locations to advertise the fact that our nonprofit partners are invited as speakers to our club meetings. We indicate when they are speaking, which can bring us more visitors.

More members: Our club has been losing members for quite a few years. As mentioned in a separate post on this blog in which I shared our club’s strategic plan, our top priority this year is to attract new members and revitalize the club. It is too early to assess whether we will be successful, but the last few weeks have been promising. On July 1, we had 18 members, down from 31 a few years ago. Right now, we are back to 26 members thanks to 8 new members who joined in the last three weeks. Our pro bono initiative and our partnerships with local nonprofits have helped us in recruiting some of these new members and we have a number of other potential members we are in contact with thanks to the initiative. We will loose a few members in coming weeks/months due to relocations (Washington DC is for some a temporary location), but we are hopeful that we will achieve a substantial net gain in membership this year thanks in large part to the pro bono initiative and the benefits it brings not only to the club, but more importantly to local nonprofits and the community.

There are multiple ways for Rotary clubs to partner with local nonprofits in a strategic way, and some clubs have a long history in doing so. Our new model emphasizing pro bono consulting teams working closely with local nonprofits may not be the right model for all clubs, but it appears to be working for us, and it ties in nicely with our efforts at improving our public image and recruiting new members. If you would like to know more about our new model, please do not hesitate to post a comment on this post, or to email me through the Contact Me page of the blog.




2 thoughts on “Strengthening Rotary Clubs through Stronger Partnerships with Local Nonprofits

  1. Would you please describe in detail one of your successful partnerships with a non profit. I am interested in how a partner is selected and more detail about the working relationship i.e. What do you consider to be pro bono relationships. Most non profits have a Board for that purpose, so why do they need or accept ” free advise”.are there financial ties also ???

    • Larry, quick answers below.

      1. Our pro bono model: teams of 4-5 individuals (typically half from the club, half external) providing sustained volunteer support for a period of 2-3 months to local nonprofits to help them address a specific strategic challenge in an area commonly agreed upon.

      2. Selection of nonprofit partners based on 1) clear demand from the nonprofit; 2) capacity in our club to provide support (time, expertise, etc.); 3) quality of the program of the nonprofit, including additional points for innovative programs that have potential for scale-up.

      3. Why different from role of nonprofit board: the board has overall responsibility for guiding nonprofit staff but may not have expertise/time for sustained engagement on a specific challenge – we provide that capacity, and complement the work of the board with our pro bono teams. Also, our engagements are often limited to 2-3 months.

      4. Potential funding: Not related to our pro bono engagement. We may provide funding to some nonprofits, but in most cases we don’t. We are focusing in this initiative on providing expertise.

      Hope this helps.


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