Posted by Euan Miller
With shutdowns, border closures and social distancing all businesses have had to look at their business models and come up with solutions to trade profitably in the new environment.Regretfully many won’t find solutions and will close.

What about Rotary? Can we survive if our members face ongoing unemployment or substantially reduced retirement incomes? Social distancing and border closures will continue for years’ ahead without a vaccine. There is no guarantee of a vaccine and this is the fourth SARS type virus in the last 20 years.
Some of the learnings from the last few weeks are:
  • Online meetings reported by most clubs suggest that attendance and engagement is higher than we had with face-to-face. They are also cheaper to run, are shorter, some say more productive, can attract guest speakers from all over the world and best of all members don’t have to put up with endless chicken dinners. While clubs have had to adjust for a minority of members unfamiliar with digital technology, everybody is learning fast. If Rotary is to continue to grow, computer savvy millennials will be our future so maybe online meetings will be our future as well?

  • In jurisdictions where groups of up to 10 can meet (while maintaining social distancing) committee meetings are still being held successfully in members’ homes with as much or more fellowship as we have had in the past. Small group projects rather than whole of club may become the norm for the same reasons.

  • International service projects are continuing and the Foundation is still approving Global Grants. International travel to countries that have controlled the virus is likely to recommence later this year so countries in our Zone will be accessible with individual SE Asian countries coming a few months later. Sadly the rest of the world still seems inaccessible. Some exciting changes to The Rotary Foundation funding are coming as well in 20/21 which will make international projects even more attractive and accessible to all clubs.

  • Community, Youth and Vocational projects have been markedly affected and any projects that are likely to attract or benefit large numbers of people in a group setting are unlikely for months, and regretfully, maybe years ahead. Clubs will have to focus on distributed service projects that maintain social distancing, youth and vocational group programs may have to be converted to online and exchange programs will have to be restricted to the region.

  • Fundraising has almost come to a stop. Without revenue our service programs will cease as well and this is the greatest threat to our business model. However this presents the greatest opportunity for clubs to find alternatives. A number of clubs are asking their members to donate their former meal money to the service account. It is amazing how much this raises – easily over $1,000 per member per year and if clubs manage this wisely, members can get a tax deduction on some or all of it as well. Perhaps a Rotary crowd-funding app could be developed using our unique selling advantage - 100% of the donation will go to the project. There will be no exorbitant platform fees that other providers charge and no club administration fees either. We can also offer the donors an opportunity to volunteer to work alongside Rotarians on the project. Cause related projects are a great way to get new members as well. RI has already announced a new cause related club model.