Rotary: The Original Social Network

Frequently, when coaching someone on ways to bolster their networking repertoire, I am asked whether I know of any good networking clubs or organizations to join.  My answer is usually in the form of a question – or several questions – as I start digging into what makes the individual tick so that we can, together, identify some groups to investigate that would be most meaningful for him/her.  Today, I learned more about one organization that should be in everyone’s consideration set:  Rotary International.

Let’s start by disclosing that this is not a paid advertisement, nor am I actually a member of this worldwide network.  Rather, I believe it is just a really good example of a professional membership organization where people can get to know one another in a networking capacity, irrespective of their line of business, while working together for the betterment of communities through a variety of service projects.

Today, as the guest of a long-time friend, Craig Novorr, President of Paragon Capital Management, who has become active in the Rotary Club of Overland Park, I was invited to present an overview of my company, Kauffman FastTrac.  First, I was immediately impressed at the turnout – about 85 members came for lunch.  They arrived on time.  They were deliberate in their purpose.  The structure of the session was very specific and all attendees appeared very comfortable with the construct. 

Everyone arrived at or around 11:30am, found their name tags (each color coded for the duration of their Club membership), retrieved a plate of food from the buffet and sat down to enjoy conversation and networking with their table mates.  At precisely 12:10pm, the president of the Club called the meeting to order by striking the official gavel to the official bell.  We all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, listened to a non-denominational invocation and were seated.  At that point, everyone with a birthday or anniversary this week was acknowledged, visitors were welcomed by name and new members were congratulated and applauded.  Several reports were given – their presenters well prepared with brief, fact-based remarks and calls to action.  One member gave a witty and informative overview of why he chose to enter the healthcare profession.  My presentation was at the end.  Even then, the audience remained attentive and engaged – not one person wrapped up in their email or texting! 

Oh, and did I mention, they meet at this location, at this time, in this room, every single week?  As one person put it when I asked if it wasn’t a burdensome commitment, “well, we all have to eat, right?”  Another told me that the strength of the relationships that he is building through Rotary make it worthwhile and that he enjoys both the service aspect of the organization and the opportunity to meet and develop relationship with potential clients.

By the end of the session, I learned that the organization’s moniker is, “Service Above Self,” and that on an international level the group raises money to help eradicate polio.  Additionally, Rotary, which boasts more than 1.2 million members through more than 34,000 clubs worldwide, was founded by four friends in Chicago in 1905 – it was the world’s first service club and its meetings were rotated among the members’ offices (thus the name).  It is a non-discriminatory, non-political and non-denominational organization.  Its members work together, in their communities, on service initiatives to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation and more.

I enjoyed myself immensely today.  Those in attendance were welcoming, interesting and engaging.  Many approached me with offers of assistance, introductions, information.  That’s networking at its finest, whereby all parties recognize the bi-directional importance of building relationships.  If you haven’t already, you might consider attending a Rotary event in your area.

Do you have an example of a Rotary event that you have attended or a project that you are working on?  Are you involved in a similar organization that allows you the opportunity to meet others and engage with them on volunteer efforts?  Please tell us about them.

One thought to “Rotary: The Original Social Network”

  1. I was fortunate to go on three Rotary International exchange programs as a youngster to Japan, England and France. The Rotary model for summer abroad experiences involve spending half of the summer living with a host family and bringing a member of the host family back to the US for a home stay for the remainder of the summer. Usually there is a contingent from each country, so each summer proved to be the ultimate global social network of peers. I still keep in touch with these families, and the experience shaped my world view and young adult life. Thanks for highlighting the great work of Rotary in your blog!

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