Using our Expertise and Networks to Provide Training for Local Nonprofits

A great way for Rotary clubs to serve their community is to rely on their members’ expertise and networks to provide training for local nonprofits in areas where they need support. As part of my club’s pro bono initiative, we organized in February 2017 two half day training events for local nonprofits on (1) monitoring and evaluation and (2) communications. This post explains what we did, and why it worked.

  

In September 2016, we applied to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation for a grant to help us organize training events for local nonprofits. We received the grant in November and organized the training events in February. The events focused on 1) essentials of monitoring, evaluation, and cost-benefit analysis for nonprofits; and 2) essentials of communications, from websites to social media and power point presentations.  The training workshops were held at the main community center for our neighborhood in Washington, DC. The focus on monitoring, evaluation, and cost-benefit analysis as well as on communications stemmed from the fact that when interacting with local nonprofits, there appeared to be great demand for support in those areas.

In order to organize the training events, we relied on the expertise of members of our club as well as friends and colleagues from organizations based in Washington, DC. Instructors for the two training workshops included staff from the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, the Communication Center, Tanzen, the Urban Alliance, and the World Bank.  In addition, between the events (one workshop in the morning and the other the same day during the afternoon), we provided a lunch to participants of both workshops with a keynote address from the CEO of Grameen Foundation, a well-known organization providing micro-credit globally.

In order to promote the training events, we designed posters/fliers and shared them widely to potential participants using a variety of networks. As an example, we contacted local foundations so that they could share the information with their grantees. Registration was brisk, and we had to close registrations when we reached 150 participants. On the day itself, about 90 people attended, which was good for us given that our room had a capacity of 90. Note that when training events are free some people who register may not come – and we had factored this in. We also had competition from a gorgeous and sunny day. Many participants attended for the whole day, but some came for just one of the two training events.

Because we had great speakers who knew their subject matter well and were engaging as well as practical in their presentations, evaluations of the two events by participants were very encouraging. As shown in the table below, on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), participants on average rated all dimensions of the training highly. This initiative overall was a great success for our club in terms of providing a valuable service to the community, and gaining in visibility as well. I encourage you to consider organizing similar events in your community.

Evaluation of the two training events by participants – scale from 1 to 5

M&E Comms
The training was well organized. 4.71 4.79
The topics covered were relevant. 4.65 4.68
Participation/interaction were encouraged. 4.44 4.58
The content was easy to follow. 4.50 4.89
The trainers were knowledgeable about the topics. 4.79 4.89
The trainers were well prepared. 4.74 4.89
The time allotted was sufficient for what was covered. 4.65 4.79
The lunch as well as the facilities were adequate. 4.56 4.68
This training experience will be useful to me. 4.68 4.84
I will come again if another training is organized. 4.62 4.79

I will recommend this type of training to others.

4.68 4.84

 

Free ebooks 4 and 5 – Rotary foundations and grants

Did you know that apart from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, there are close to 4,000 local Rotary foundations in the United States alone? Two new free ebooks on Rotary foundations and grants are now available in the Rotarian Economist Short Books series.  The first book provides an introduction to Rotary foundations and grants for applicants as well as Rotarians. The second book provides a directory of Rotary foundations in the United States by state and by city within each state. To download your free copy, please go here.

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Free ebook 3: What Does Service Mean in Rotary? Simple Stories of Inspiring Rotarians

The third free ebook in the Rotarian Economist Short Books series has been released. Rotary’s motto is “Service above Self.” What does this mean in practice? The book answers this question by providing examples of the work that Rotarians do. The book also explains Rotary’s “avenues of service.” The hope is that through simple stories of Rotarians at work, readers – including new Rotarians – will better understand what service in Rotary is about, and be inspired for their own volunteer work. To download your free copy, please go here.

Technical note: due to the Smashwords website features, I am listed as first author, but the correct order of the authors is the order provided in the downloadable files.

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Free ebook 2 – Partner, Innovate, Evaluate: Increasing Rotary’s Impact

The second ebook in the Rotarian Economist Short Books Series has been published. Partnerships, innovation, and evaluation can increase the quality, scope, and reach of Rotary’s service work in communities. The book suggests with case studies how this can be done. All books in the series are free and available here in multiple formats.  Please share this link widely with others for them to be able to benefit from this resource. And if you like the books in the series, please consider writing a quick review at Smashwords!

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Free Half-Day Training in DC on Monitoring, Evaluation, and Cost-Benefit Analysis on February 24

Vocational training has long been a core activity of Rotary. On February 24, 2017, I am organizing in Washington, DC, with my Rotary club a half day training on monitoring, evaluation, and cost-benefit analysis for nonprofit staff/volunteers and others interested in these topics. We will have leading experts in the field as instructors. The emphasis will be on case studies. Previous background on monitoring, evaluation, and cost-benefit analysis is not required. Students (preferably at the graduate level) are welcome.

The CEO of Grameen Foundation will be our keynote speaker for lunch. The event will take place from 9 AM to 2 PM (lunch from 12:30 PM to 2 PM). This is a free event thanks to support from the Capitol Hill Community Foundation. I will announce soon a separate training on communications for nonprofits and others interested (this will also be on February 24, but in the afternoon). Please don’t hesitate to share this announcement with others.

If you live in the Greater DC area and would like to participate in these events, please register at the following link (space is limited):

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/F9D6KK5

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Free ebook series: Let me know your ideas!

Next week, as I take time off from work, I will start working on a series of free ebooks for Rotarians and others interested in service work. The ebooks will be released in coming months. If you have ideas or know of projects that I should cover in this new series, please let me know by commenting on this post or sending me an email.

Strengthening Rotary

A first set of ebooks will be about Rotary and ways to strengthen the organization. Let me give three examples.

First, I will provide estimates of the footprint of Rotary, starting with data from the United States. For example, Rotarians know about the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. But they often do not know about the richness of the activities implemented by club foundations and how much Rotary as a whole contributes to “serving humanity”, the theme for this Rotary year. I will provide estimates of our total contribution – which is large. My hope is that these estimates can then be used to better tell our story.

Second, I will advocate for the need to invest more in partnerships, innovation, and evaluation in Rotary. I will argue for such investments, and share examples of great projects that have achieved impact in each of the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation as well as polio through partnerships, innovation, and evaluation.

Third, I will share experiences of successful Rotary clubs, starting with my own and how we succeeded in doubling our membership in six months since July thanks in part to changes adopted at the beginning of the Rotary year. I will share lessons learned that I hope will be useful to other clubs.

Project Design in Areas of Focus

In addition, ahead of the Atlanta Rotary International convention, I will prepare a series of short ebooks providing basic facts as well as good practice advise and great project stories about our areas of focus for service work (fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and promoting peace).

The hope is that these ebooks will help Rotary clubs and districts as well as other organizations choose and prepare great projects by building on the experience accumulated not only by Rotary (including Rotarian Action Groups) but also by other organizations.

Let Me Know Your Ideas

If you know of specific projects that I should cover in this new series of free ebooks, or more broadly of successful initiatives taken by clubs or districts that I should be aware of, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

You can do so by sharing a comment on this post or by contacting me by email if you prefer (through the Contact Me page of this blog).

Thanks!

November is Foundation Month: Rapid Update on the Rotary Foundation

Every year, Rotary International publishes an annual report for the organization as well as the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International (TRF). As this is Foundation month in Rotary, it may be useful to provide basic statistics on TRF to underscore the good work done by the Foundation around the world and encourage Rotarians to donate.

In the US, Charity Navigator provides ratings for charities. Ratings are available for financial performance, accountability and transparency, and a combination of accountability and transparency. Charities can get one to four stars overall. TRF has a rating of 97 out of a maximum of 100 for financial performance, and a perfect score of 100 on accountability and transparency, which yields a four stars rating overall (the top rating).

In 2014-15, according to its latest annual report, TRF received contributions worth $269 million, a level similar (after inflation) to the contributions received in 2012-13 ($260 million). These contributions include funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for polio eradication. While in the previous year investment gains were positive and large at $108 million, in 2014-15 there was a small investment loss of $5 million. This meant that after expenditures, there was no net contribution to assets. TRF ended the year with assets just under one billion dollars, as was the case the previous year.

Expenditures for 2014-15 were at $266 million. Of this amount, $224 million was provided for program awards (the rest of the budget is for program operations, fund development, and general administration). The program awards included funding for polio eradication whereby Rotary raised $35 million per year and benefited from a 2×1 match from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation worth $70 million, bringing the total contributions to polio to $105 million. The second largest expenditure was for global grants ($69 million). Funding for district grants was at $25 million.

In terms of areas of focus for global grants, the top category for awards were water and sanitation, as well as disease prevention and treatment (each awarded $20 million), followed by economic and community development ($11 million), basic education and literacy ($8 million), maternal and child health ($6 million), and finally peace and conflict prevention and resolution ($4 million). This last amount for global grants in the category of peace and conflict prevention and resolution does not include the allocation for the Rotary Peace Fellows program and associated Peace Centers.

Overall, it is fair to say that TRF is a highly respected foundation with a unique model for fundraising and the implementation of projects in partnerships with local clubs (through global grants) and districts (through district grants). The annual report of Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation is available here.

I encourage readers of this blog to contribute to the Foundation so that next year can again be a great year in terms of TRF’s reach and positive impact (for readers based in the United States, contributions are tax deductible).

Growing the Membership and Serving the Community: Example of a Strategic Plan for a Rotary Club

On July 1, at the start of each new Rotary year, new club Presidents elected by the membership of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs worldwide take on the responsibility to lead their club for a year.  New elected leaders are also in place, again for a year, at the level of Rotary Districts and even Rotary International.

Rotary has long called on clubs and districts to adopt strategic plans. This is good practice for any organization, but especially so for an organization with new leaders every year. It is not clear exactly how many clubs adopt such plans, given that many clubs are small and may not feel the need to put a strategy plan down on paper. Yet strategic plans can be helpful, especially when clubs or districts try new innovative approaches to strengthening their membership and achieving a larger impact on their community.

Starting this year, my club – the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill, has adopted a number of important and hopefully innovative changes in the way it will function. The changes range from how many times the club will meet each month to the type of service work it will engage in, and how it will aim to strengthen its membership.

As this may be useful for other clubs, I thought I should share on this blog a strategic note that describes these changes and what the club hopes to achieve in the coming year.  Maybe the note can help other clubs think about their own options.

Please do not hesitate to share feedback on the strategic note of my club available here. You can do so by commenting/leaving a reply to this blog post. Over the year I will report occasionally through the blog on the progress (or lack thereof!) made towards our objectives for the 2016-17 Rotary year.

 

Launch of the Rotarian Pro Bono Initiative in Capitol Hill

Rotarians could have a larger postive impact on their community if they used their professional skills to the benefit of local nonprofits.  I have mentioned the idea of the Pro Bono Rotarian on this blog in recent months. My club is launching a new pro bono pilot initiative on July 12 at the Hill Center in Washington, DC.

For readers of this blog living in the greater Washington, DC, area, I hope that you will be able to join us for the launch event. Our keynote speaker will be Eric Goldstein, the Founder and CEO of One World Education. Please spread the word about this event!

For those not living in the Washington, DC area who may be interested in the initiative, please don’t hesitate to post a comment on this blog or contact me if you would like to learn more about this initiative and how you could launch similar initiatives in your club.

The info on our launch event is provided here as well as below.

Launch of the Capitol Hill Pro Bono Initiative

Tuesday July 12, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Hill Center

Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003

To help us plan, please register at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8DDPLQK.

What? Help local nonprofits to achieve higher impact. As a lawyer, marketer, social media expert, evaluation specialist, or other professional, volunteer your skills to help nonprofits improve/expand their services.

Why? Because you can often make a larger impact in the community when you volunteer your skills to help nonprofits excel and grow.

How? Join an initiative from the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in 2016-17 to provide pro bono advice to local nonprofits in Capitol Hill and beyond.

Who? This initiative is for Rotarians and others to engage in service work. Non-Rotarians are welcome to join teams advising participating nonprofits.

Keynote Speaker: Eric Goldstein, Founder of One World Education

One World Education is an innovative DC-based nonprofit running the largest writing program in DC public schools, reaching close to 6,000 students in 2015-16. A team from the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill and American University recently conducted an independent evaluation of One World Education, suggesting positive impacts and strong appreciation by teachers and students. Eric Goldstein will explain how the program works, why writing skills are essential for students to succeed in college and careers, and how nonprofits can benefit from professional pro bono advice.

Eric Goldstein is the founder of One World Education. Previously he was an educator in public, charter, and independent schools. He earned a US Department of the Interior Partners in Education Award while teaching in DC. Eric holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Vermont and a Master’s of International Policy from George Washington University. His career in education started after a solo 5,000-mile bicycle trip across the US in 1999.

 

 

Pro Bono Rotarian Initiative

Rotary is about fellowship and service work. How do we increase the impact of our service work in order to achieve higher impact in our communities while also fostering fellowship among Rotarians and others committed to making a difference in the life of the less fortunate? One potential response is the concept of the pro bono Rotarian or Rotaractor.

In my (limited) experience, many clubs engage in service projects that do not really build on the professional expertise of their members. Beautifying a school before the start of the school year, serving food for the homeless, helping in the renovation of a house for a vulnerable family, distributing dictionaries to third graders, or even joining a polio vaccination drive for a short period of time are all worthwhile activities. Such activities should continue and they often enable many members in a club to be involved in the service projects of the club.

But these one-shot activities typically do not build on the expertise that Rotarians have developed over many years in their professional career. In addition to traditional (local) service projects, Rotarians should probably also engage in more extensive pro bono work, for example to provide advice to nonprofits as consultants would. While the term pro bono is often associated with free legal advise, pro bono work can be done in many other areas, building on a wide range of expertise that volunteers may have. The value of the volunteer time that Rotarians would allocate to pro bono consulting could be very high for local nonprofits, with potentially larger beneficial impacts for communities than is the case with traditional projects. Again, the idea is not to pitch one form of service work against another, but to expand on what clubs currently do in their service work.

Importantly, I believe that a pro bono consulting model may also be beneficial for fellowship among Rotarians. While for some issues faced by nonprofits pro bono consulting can be done effectively in a short period of time, for more complex issues analyzing the challenges faced by a nonprofit and suggesting a solution takes a few months. For these challenges, pro bono consulting is typically done by a small team of 3-5 volunteers who commit to dedicating a bit of their time for several months in order to provide in-depth professional and free advice to local nonprofits. As Rotarians work together on such pro bono projects, stronger fellowship and friendships will emerge, and the vitality of clubs will improve as well. The pro bono Rotarian concept can really be a win-win for local nonprofits, Rotary clubs, and the communities we serve.

This coming Rotary year, I will help my club explore in a systematic way pro bono consulting opportunities with local nonprofits in our area (Washington, DC). You will hear more about this in coming weeks and months through this blog. We will start small, and we will assess the value of our pro bono work along the way. But we hope that the idea will grow and strengthen our club, as well as other clubs that may adopt this model.

If you would like to move in this direction in your club as well or if you would like to discuss similar ideas you may have, don’t hesitate to comment on this blog or to send me if you prefer a private email through the Contact Me page. I will be happy to help if I can, and I look forward to learning from you if you have already adopted a pro bono consulting model in your own Rotary or Rotaract club.