Who Outlawed Networking in Rotary?… a Presidential Perspective

A recent post on LinkedIn asked the following question:

What would Rotary look like if they were to allow business advertising and networking. Would we grow in member size? Would we cease to be a service organization? Would we retain more members? Would the world look at us differently?

As with most LinkedIn discussions, the responses were varied, but the person who I believe went right to the heart of the question was Past RI President Cliff Dochterman, who said: That is an interesting “what if” question — because there is nothing in the policies of Rotary which would prevent networking or advertising within one’s Club. Networking, if there were such a concept was the essence of the Rotary organization in 1905 — and it really has not changed. However, it seems that some Clubs have artificially put a barrier on promoting one’s business. Let’s not forget that Vocational Service is our second Avenue of Service! The very definition of Vocational Service in our Manual of Procedure is “It is the opportunity each Rotarian has to represent the dignity and value of his or her vocation to other club members…” Just read the “Declaration for Rotarians in Business and Professions.” There is no prohibition of mentioning a Rotarians business or profession at a Club Meeting — it is an historic part of Rotary.
A Rotarian should be aware that Rotarians neither seek nor grant to a fellow Rotarian a privilege or advantage not normally accorded others in a business or professional relationship. Just remember — business success and profit are not bad words in Rotary.

In a followup response to me he added:  It always amazes me how some of the myths develop in the world of Rotary. I’ve been to clubs where the mere mention of a business or profession is “subject to a fine.” How absurd. We wouldn’t be in Rotary if we didn’t have a profession or business — so why not take advantage of it. In our house we always ask, “What Rotarian sells that product or whom should be ask about some item we need.” We go to Rotarians because we believe that they live up to just a little higher standard and can be trusted for honesty and fair dealing. That’s the Rotary way. It is always great to walk into a hotel or restaurant and see a sign “Rotary Meets Here.” Somehow, it gives us just a little satisfaction. I’ve always said, “One benefit of Rotary is that you never have to buy insurance from a stranger!”

Thanks, President Cliff!


7 thoughts on “Who Outlawed Networking in Rotary?… a Presidential Perspective

  • Great article Kevin, Nothing much seems to have changed in the last six years, many Rotarians still seem to frown on the idea of networking at Rotary. At least now the validity of this activity seems to be better understood by RI. Recently when handing out my business card at a Rotary function two fairly senior Rotarians asked me “why” as in ‘why would I do that’. Another asked me if I had a Rotary Business card instead. I’m on a mission to change that attitude and have accepted a district position as Vocational Service Coordinator (chair). Will be interesting to see what can be achieved in changing the attitude of some who often give me the impression that they believe the role of a Rotarian is just to be a resource to be ‘used’ by The Rotary Foundation. Maybe I’m being a little harsh in my last statement however some older members have indicated to me that in recent times that is how they have felt.

  • I am always confused when visiting clubs and being exposed to the mature Rotarians who frown on any mention of personal business or member business updates and news. It is like the closing of a door to opportunity. The converse is the energy and fun that I see in those clubs that do openly promote members business experiences and successes. So much of who and what we are is tied up with our careers – we must embrace this in Rotary and give it due recognition.

  • Thanks for the wonderful comments. Our club regularly holds “networking” meetings every 2 months….this brings in new prospective members and we get to know more about our own members and what they do.

    In this economy, we need to do as much as we can to jump start our local economy. Our club will re-alocate about 2000.00 this next month into our local economy instad of sending it off to a far off place. Our new Rotarians are committed to this concept and are on board to help all they can too.

    Thanks for the article, I am going to send it to my club members now…
    Kelly Kyle ~ president
    Redmond Rousers Rotary
    Redmond, Wa. USA

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