Rotary & Service Organizations Outreach

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This training provides specific advice aimed at providing resources and training on how to best prepare for your outreach to service organizations and especially Rotary clubs.
TOC and Guide Section
What are service groups?

Service organizations are another name for your local clubs, fraternal associations, veterans’ post, volunteer fire and rescue groups, or local civic leagues. They are almost always both nonprofits and operated to benefit educational or charitable purposes on the local level. Each of them also provides wonderful opportunities to conduct outreach to your fellow community members. The focus of this training will be on Rotary Clubs, but you can follow the same guidance for other groups.

Rotary today

Rotary Clubs exist throughout the world and in nearly every small town in America. Rotary Clubs have represented local pride and a source of energy and funding for good things in the local community and throughout the world. Rotary Clubs offer business networking, ethical standards and service opportunities. 

There are no “national” Rotaries. In total, there about 35,000 Rotary Clubs globally, with more than 1.2 million members. These clubs are assembled into 539 Districts. Districts are assembled into 32 Zones. Rotary International (RI) encompasses everything. 

Although the Polio Plus eradication campaign is top down, Rotary is primarily club-based, and grassroots oriented. RI does not make policy pronouncements, with the exception of its focus on Polio eradication. 

Rotary’s values

For Rotary, two key values are “Service above self” and the "The Four-Way Test."

Adopted in the 1940’s, "The Four-Way Test" is only twenty four words long. It remains today a central part of the permanent Rotary structure throughout the world and is held as the standard by which all behavior should be measured.  Many clubs recite this in unison at some point during their meeting. 

1 Is it the truth? 

2 Is it fair to all concerned? 

3 Will it build goodwill and better friendships? 

4 Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 

Dr. Katharine Hayhoe addresses climate change this way in this episode of her Global Weirding series.

Social values drive Rotary and the object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise. In particular it encourages and fosters: 

  • The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service
  • High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society
  • The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life
  • The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service

It is important to understand the values of the organization and relate them to climate stewardship in general and the CCL’s advocacy for the solution of the Energy Innovation Act. 

Rotary does not promulgate or advocate for policy positions; rather, it does projects in six areas of focus: Promoting peace; Fighting Disease; Providing Clean Water; Saving Mothers and Children; Supporting Education; Growing Local Economies. 

For more information about these areas of focus and Rotary’s history and values, see the more in-depth Rotary 101 Guide written by CCL Rotary & Service Club’s Action Team Lead Karen Kendrick-Hands.

Reaching local clubs

Each club has a Constitution, (mandated by RI), bylaws, collects dues, and records member activities. Members are expected to attend weekly meetings. Each club has a president. Size, budget, and involvement of clubs varies. Downtown Madison, WI is one of the largest (480 members), and has a large enough budget to staff 2.5 FTEs. 

The smallest of clubs have only a dozen members, and of course all functions are performed by volunteers. 

To join a Rotary club, any individual must be approved by a vote of the members, pay dues, are expected to attend meetings (and/or events), and perform service and meet the participation and contribution expectations set by the club. Members are expected to support their own clubs activities and ALSO give money to the international foundation, The Rotary Foundation.[TRF].

Getting invited to speak

If you know a Rotarian, (we love to wear our Rotary Pins), ask her or him to invite you to speak. 

If not, you can use the Rotary Club locator to search for clubs near you. This locator will give you a list of club names, meeting place, day of the week, and web page link, within a certain mile radius. The club web page gives great background about the local clubs members and projects. 

Every Club meets weekly, usually with a meal - breakfast, lunch or dinner, with the whole meeting lasting 60-90 minutes, including eating. 

Every club needs a 15-20 minute program every week. Small clubs can frequently offer a speaking slot with only a few weeks wait; larger clubs may have formal application and lengthy approval processes taking months or years. I

If your schedule is flexible, you can offer to be a substitute speaker, ready to appear on a few hours’ notice. Check your local Club’s website. There’s wide variance among clubs in regards to how much information they put on their websites; but Rotary requires record keeping and provides all clubs with a basic website structure, so you should be able to find contact info for the president, president elect or secretary. 

Often the President Elect is in charge of ensuring that there is a speaker every week.

Preparing to Present to your local Rotary Club

Using their website and other resources, find out what special projects your local Club does in your community (or elsewhere; many clubs partner with other clubs overseas). 

When you are invited to speak at a local club meeting, expect the following: 

  • your sponsor will orient you and introduce you to the other members
  • usually the speaker is a guest of the club, so you will not be expected to buy your own meal
  • There will be a pledge or other ceremony. (Some clubs are singing clubs - do join in!)
  • The members might recite the Four Way Test, (or it might be displayed on a banner), which is a great entrée for you.
  • Attendees may be asked to contribute a few dollars for something (so have some small bills with you - for the fifty/fifty raffle or “Happy Bucks”).
  • There is not usually a business meeting, although occasionally the club will have to vote on an internal business matter.

Learning more about the club’s projects is great mealtime conversation. Before you present, acknowledge the club’s service projects and how their work is “Making a Difference.” Acknowledging the value and success of the Polio Plus eradication campaign is a sure-fire way to gain appreciation.

Most clubs will work hard to preserve your 17-20 minute presentation window. Also you will usually want to save time for questions at the end. If there are several questions, it’s okay to go to the friendly faces first. 

Non-political nature of clubs

Rotary Club Constitution language states the clubs shall not be involved in political activities. Members are instructed to be involved in “community, national, and international affairs” but may not - as a Club - endorse politicians or shall not take action dealing with world affairs or international policies of a political nature.” 

Please respect that asking a club to be an endorsing organization is antagonistic to the deeply held and cherished principle that Rotary is “nonpolitical.” What your presentation does offer is an opportunity to speak to the whole club, and afterwards you may find individuals who are interested in the Energy Innovation Act as individuals and business leaders in their community, not as Rotarians. 

You may gain some new members, endorsers or find some allies. The challenge for a CCL presenter is to maintain the position that though CCL is seeking the legislative solution of the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act. Carbon Fee and Dividend, the problem we are addressing is beyond politics and is indeed a humanitarian crisis.

Press play to start the video (13m 32s)
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Rotary Basics
(from beginning)

Polio Eradication

Rotary's Values & Focus

How to work with Rotary

How to present


Karen Kendrick-Hands


Download PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.

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Grassroots Outreach, Grasstops Outreach
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Training Resources

Don’t forget!  For every presentation or outreach event you host with a fellow civic organization,  log an action for your chapter!

Link to CCL’s Action Tracker

Example Presentations

Link to Video Files for Dick Smith and Dr. Jonathan Patz’s Rotary presentations