Program Report: Club Assembly

Behind the Scenes: Downtown Durham Rotary Club Annual Review Program

Club President Seth Jernigan noted that this past Monday marked the 29th meeting of our Rotary fiscal year – but hey, who’s counting, right Seth? As Rotarians found their seats and tucked into lunch, he remarked to tablemate Mimi O’Brien, “I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet,” to which Mimi replied drily, “I’m sure people will appreciate that.”

The annual state-of-the-club assembly program gets an undeserved bad rap, so President Seth entitled his comments “Behind the Scenes.” I found the title to be appropriate, as I learned more about numerous club projects of which I had some awareness, but no tangible context in terms of actual numbers or measurement of the impact our club has on the community.

For example, I know that we’re the largest club in our region, but I didn’t realize our ranks have swelled to 217 active club members and 29 honorary members, with weekly attendance averaging 115-120 Rotarians. Seth noted the importance of our new meeting venue in helping drive membership, saying that while the Convention Center was perhaps a good fit for an old-fashioned, traditional service club, the PNC Club at the DBAP is an exciting and energizing match for a club like the Downtown Durham Rotary. (Not to mention the great food!)

President Seth reports that the club’s annual budget is currently $167,000, with about 57 percent of that allocated for meal cost. We have a savings “cushion” of $15,000, as well as two donor-advised funds: the Durham Rotary Community Fund ($176,000) and the Second Century Fund ($77,000). Both can be used only for the support of non-profit organizations. Historically, funds have been used to support initiatives related to youth, education, scholarships, and district and international grants.

This focus is mirrored in the club’s three areas of concentration for fundraising efforts: CART, scholarships/youth support, and the Rotary Foundation. The 2017-2018 Foundation goal is $60,000, of which $51,000 has already been raised; the Polio Plus goal is $10,000, and we are two-thirds of the way toward meeting that goal, with $6,341 banked year-to-date.

This year’s club president is, of course, Seth Jernigan, with Brady Surles in line as president-elect and Todd Taylor on deck as president-nominee. Shelly Green is vice president; Emilee Collins, secretary; Geri Lail, treasurer; and Stan Morris, sergeant-at-arms. B.C. Dash is the immediate past president.

The club recently approved the leadership slate for 2018-2019, which includes: Brady Surles, president; Todd Taylor, president-elect; Emilee Collins, president-nominee; Erik Benson, vice president; and Geri Lail, treasurer. The club has not yet approved this leadership group.

Many ideas for club service activities originate in our robust and hard-working committees, which include Membership, Fellowship, Communications, Area 7 Grants, Rotary Foundation, Education/Youth, RYLA, Rotaract, Programs, and Governance. If you are interested in serving on any of the committees, please get in touch with Seth or Brady Surles.

One of President Seth’s priorities as leader of the club has been to more clearly define and articulate the Strategic Plan and Vision Statement, relative to its five guiding principles of fellowship, integrity, diversity, leadership, and service. Under his guidance, the board has identified three club priorities, with clearly stated goals attached to each: Support and strengthen the club; focus and increase club service; and enhance Rotary’s public image and awareness to increase membership and improve diversity.

He wondered aloud about challenges and opportunities facing the club relative to establishing more focus. As members are aware, the club has dozens of different activities and opportunities available each year. Would one large, signature event better serve the club and the community as more impactful in terms of both fundraising and elevating the club’s image? President Seth encouraged members to consider these options as we move toward the end of his year of service.

Next, Membership Committee Chair Marge Nordstrom took the stage to present a summary of that committee’s valuable work. She reported that our recruiting efforts are going well, echoing Seth’s statement about the value of our new meeting venue in bringing in new members. Of the club’s current membership ratio, women are growing in numbers, up to 41 percent of the total group. Marge pointed out that “year of birth” is not required on the membership application so we don’t have an average age of the membership, but the committee has made it a priority to target younger recruits in recent years.

Under Marge’s guidance, the committee has strengthened its focus on member retention. Currently, about half of the resignations take place within the first two years of membership; the committee has created “New Member Teams” to address the issue. Once around eight new members have been inducted, a team is created, consisting of the new Rotarians, one seasoned group leader, and one newer member. These groups provide a forum for peer support, guiding and welcoming the new members into the club.

In addition, a new orientation format has been instituted. Members of the committee are focusing on staying in close touch with new members during those critical first two years, making sure they are aware of engagement, service, and networking opportunities. Marge proudly revealed that, by the end of this month, the club will have recruited as many members in the first nine months of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which is more than were recruited in the entire year previously.

As I said at the top of this report, there are so many great things going on in our club that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Given space limitations, in this report I can’t begin to go in to the myriad activities in which members are involved each year.

I welcome the annual “state of the club” report if only as a reminder of the wonderful work that is being done in Durham, the region, and in the world, and the pride I feel in being part of such a remarkable group.

Submitted by Carver C. Weaver

Note: The PowerPoint presentation used by President Seth can be accessed here.

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