Going to Atlanta? Learn about Promoting Access to College for Disadvantaged Youths

The Rotary International Convention in Atlanta is just two weeks away. It promises to be especially well attended by Rotarians from all over the world.

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

If you are going, I hope that we’ll find a way to meet there. My club (Rotary Club of Capitol Hill) will have a booth in the House of Friendship, so I’ll be there regularly. I will also help out for a few breakout sessions and I plan to attend meetings of several Rotarian Action Groups, including the meetings of the Rotarian Action Group for Population and Development (RFPD) and the Rotarian Action Group for Microfinance and Community Development (RAGM).

One breakout session that I hope you will be able to attend promises to be interesting, even if I say so myself. It is scheduled for Monday June 12 around lunch time and will focus on “Promoting Access to College for Disadvantaged Youths”. We will have two great speakers – Eric Goldstein and Martha Kanter, with your dedicated Rotarian Economist as moderator.

Eric Goldstein will talk about how to prepare students for college. He runs One World Education, a great nonprofit that works in public and charter schools in Washington, DC, to prepare students to conduct good research, write convincing  essays, and present their arguments orally. Evaluations of the program show it works, and Eric is a great speaker who is passionate about making the classroom more interactive so that students may lean better.

Martha Kanter was under secretary of education under President Obama. She oversaw policies, programs and activities related to post-secondary education, adult and career-technical education, federal student aid, and six White House Initiatives. Currently, she runs the College Education promise campaigns. She will talk about ways to make college affordable including through scholarships. She is also a great speaker who came a few months ago to talk about her passion for ensuring that all youth can go to college at our Rotary club.

Looking forward to meeting many of you in Atlanta!

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 ebook 6: Tell Your Story in the Local Media – Write about Your Rotary Partners to Celebrate Volunteer Work

The sixth free ebook in the Rotarian Economist Short Books series has been released. The book tells the story of an initiative by a Rotary club to improve its public image by writing articles in the local media about volunteering opportunities for residents to make a difference in their community. The articles feature great local nonprofits, some of which the club is partnering with in order to implement service projects. The initiative appears to have been a success. To download your free copy, please go here.

Free ebook 1 – Double Your Membership In Six Months: 10 Lessons from a Rotary Club Pilot

The first ebook in the Rotarian Economist Short Books Series has just been published. It provides 10 simple lessons for Rotary clubs to grow. The book is based on the success of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in doubling its membership in six months. The book is free and available here in multiple formats.  Please share this link widely for others to benefit from this resource. And if you like the book, please consider writing a quick review!

1-membership-growth

From websites to social media and power point presentations: Free training on communications on February 24, 2017 in Washington, DC

In my previous blog, I mentioned the first of two training events I am organizing in Washington, DC, on February 24, 2017 with my Rotary club. So here is the info for the second event on communications for nonprofits and others interested in the topic. We again have great instructors. The topics to be covered include communications, websites, social media, and even how to do great power point presentations. Previous background on communications is not required. Students (preferably at the graduate level) are also welcome.

The CEO of Grameen Foundation will be our keynote speaker for lunch, so participants to either event (M&E in the morning or communications in the afternoon) are welcome to stay for lunch. The training on communications will take place from 2 PM to 5:30 PM and the lunch will be from 12:30 PM to 2 PM). This is a free event thanks to support from the Capitol Hill Community Foundation. The event will be held at the Hill Center in Washington, DC.

Please don’t hesitate to share this announcement with others. And if you live in the Greater DC area and would like to participate in this event, please register at the following link (space is limited):

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

hill-center-comms

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

hill-center-me

 

Rotary International’s New Website and its Story on Literacy

Rotary International launched a much anticipated new website this month. The Rotary Leader January newsletter mentions five reasons to check out the new site, but I must admit that my main reason to look at it right away was the story on literacy because I knew it would feature a great Nepal project.

NTTI

The literacy story talks about the importance of training teachers. It features several great projects, but the one I know well is implemented by NTTI (Nepal Teacher Training Innovations) and PHASE, two great NGOs my club is working with together with the Rotary Club of Kathmandu Mid-Town. The aim of the project, which will hopefully soon benefit from a global grant, is to improve instructions in Nepal’s primary schools.

Below is a brief excerpt of the story as it relates to NTTI. The story is featured on the “supporting education” section of the new website:

“Before taking part in the NTTI program, one teacher relied heavily on memorization, having her students copy words off the blackboard. After training, the teacher made her lesson on animate and inanimate objects more interactive, says Ashley Hager, NTTI’s director. The teacher asked children to point to objects and describe how they were different. She then listed the differences on the board and paired students up to discuss them. As a final exercise, the class went outside to find examples in nature.

One student approached the teacher with a live ant in her hand and inquired, “This is an animate object, yes?” The teacher agreed. The child then squashed the ant and asked, “Is it still an animate object now?” Caught by surprise, the teacher asked the rest of the students what they thought, and a lively conversation followed. 

Other teachers agree that the training taught them the value of interactive teaching. “It’s transformed my way of teaching and given me brilliant ideas to employ the best teaching practices I have learned,” says Goma Khada, who teaches fourth grade at Shrijana Higher Secondary School in Thumpakhar.”

The literacy story is available at the following link (https://www.rotary.org/en/teaching-teachers-key-literacy). If you would like to contribute to the global grant, let me know!

This story is just one of many great stories on the new website. Stories are provided for each area of focus of the Rotary Foundation. Other stories focus on what it means to be a Rotarian or other topics of interest to clubs. So please check the new website out!

And just for the sake of completeness, let me end by mentioning that the five reasons highlighted in the Rotary Leader January newsletter to visit the new website are (1) Better organization; (2) Improved readability; (3) Compelling storytelling (what I just focused on); (4) Prominent calls to action; and (5) Enhanced metrics.

 

Results Are In: 60% Membership Growth in First Trimester

No, Rotary International did not suddenly get 720,000 or so more members, or at least not yet! I am talking about the membership growth in my club – the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, from July to October.60-percent

Let’s admit it: a high growth rate (negative or positive) is more likely with a small club than a large club. Still, after more than five years of almost continuous decline in membership, my club is excited to report a 60 percent growth in membership from July to October. We had 18 members on July 1. Now we have 29, with 11 new members inducted in the first trimester of the new Rotary year. We are still a small club, and we have a lot more to do to gain strength, but we are on the right track.

How did we do it? Let me share our recipe:

Ingredient 1: Less meetings, more service and public events. Rotary’s Council on Legislation has given a lot of freedom to clubs on how they organize their meetings. So we decided to reduce our regular meetings from four to two per month, which gives us more time for service work and organizing public events.

Ingredient 2: Better service opportunities. Many Rotarians are professionals and business leaders, yet most do not use their skills when they volunteer with their club. We changed that in our club by creating teams of Rotarians and non-Rotarians combining their skills to provide free advice to local nonprofits on the strategic issues they face. This is not only more interesting in terms of volunteer work, but it is also more impactful to create positive change in the community.

Ingredient 3: Lower cost. By the standards of Washington D.C., our membership dues are not very high, at $600 per year. But this is too much for many. So we created two new membership types – a membership at half the regular dues for young professionals under 35 years of age, and a spouse/partner membership at one third of the dues. I hope we will be able to reduce dues further in the future.

Ingredient 4: Stronger public image. We are organizing better and more regular public events. One of our recent events was a seminar at the World Bank with great speakers on education for peace and social change. That same week we also had a stand at the main festival in our neighborhood. In addition, we have been writing posts for a local blog, a series of articles on volunteering for the local magazine (Hill Rag) for our neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and another article for a free weekly newspaper (Current Newspapers).

Ingredient 5: Strategic planning. We now have a strategic plan, our first since the club’s creation in 2003. The plan gives us a vision, and clear milestones and targets that we are trying to achieve.

Ingredient 6: Luck. Part of our gain in membership was just luck. For example, two new members transferred from other clubs due to changes in jobs and the location of their workplace. What’s great is that they bring with them a lot of experience in Rotary.

It remains to be seen whether we will continue on the path of membership growth for the rest of the year. We expect some members to relocate, so we will need to recruit more members simply to compensate for that.

We also have a lot of work to do to achieve our goals in terms of impact in the community, which matters even more than membership growth. But we are making progress, and we have exciting initiatives coming up that should help us become better known and make a larger difference in the life of the less fortunate.

This post is reproduced with a few changes from a post published by the author on Rotary Voices on Friday November 4, 2016.

Which Is Better? Creating Your Own Event or Participating in an Existing Event?

As part of our new strategic plan, our club is stepping up efforts to improve our public image and our presence in the community, in part through social and traditional media, but also through the organization of public events and participation in existing events. Which is better? Creating our own event, or participating in events that already exist in your community?

As expected, the answer is “it depends”. Both types of events are an option, and if you can do both, all the better for your club. Let me illustrate this with two events for our club in the past week: our participation in the Barracks Row Festival (an existing event) on September 24, and our seminar on education for peace and social change at the World Bank (an event we created) on September 20.

The Barracks Row Festival is an annual family-oriented community event for Capitol Hill, the neighborhood in which our club is located in Washington, DC. Some 140 organizations and vendors have stands. Depending on weather, up to 10,000 people pass through the street where the event is located from 11 AM to 5 PM. For the second year in a row, we participated. This year our stand featured a bean bag game (as shown in the picture where you can see that our game has the Rotary emblem!)  Children and adults who succeeded in throwing a bag in the hole got a cute slap bracelet. In practice, we (of course) gave the slap bracelet to all the children who wanted it. Thanks to one of our members and her colleagues, we also had face painting for children for a few hours. This was as expected an even better attraction for children than the bean bag game.

barracks

A few hundred people came by our stand, on a few occasions because they were interested in Rotary, but mostly because their children wanted to play or get their face painted. We did make a number of useful contacts, but more importantly we got our name out there in a positive way.  We contributed to an important event in our community, which we should do independently of any potential benefit for our club.

Our second event this past week was very different. We organized a seminar at the World Bank on education, peace, and social change with three very good speakers: one from our public school system and two from great local nonprofits (Street Law and One World Education). A Rotary Peace Fellow from George Mason University served as discussant, and one of my colleagues at the World Bank served as chair.

I will write more about the seminar when I will have the video to share, but for this post, in terms of comparing participation in an existing event with organizing a new event, the lessons are twofold. First, the seminar was well attended (with about 55 participants), but it reached fewer people than our stand at the Barracks Row Festival. On the other hand the people we reached included professionals that we are aiming to work with through our Capitol Hill pro bono initiative whereby we provide strategic advise to local nonprofits and agencies on the challenges they face. The event not only contributed to the broader discussion on education and peace, but it also contributed to our credibility as a partner. The fact that we co-organized the event with the World Bank. a respected organization in DC, did not hurt.

So, the message that I wanted to convey with these two examples of recent events for our club is simple: if you can, you should consider multiple types of events to make your club better known. Some of these events could be created from scratch, as we did for the seminar at the World Bank, while others could entail participation in existing community events with broader reach. Both types of events are great opportunities to make your club better known and contribute to the community.

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.