By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
A unique Young Professionals Branch of the Rotary Club of Dundas will help build the community’s future leaders, while solidifying the organization itself.
Interest exceeded expectations when about 20 people in their 20s and 30s dropped by an information meeting held at the Dundas Museum last Wednesday night to hear more about the potential of the new “club within a club.”
Rotary Club past president Ken Hall said a general framework for the group had been drawn up – but it will be up to the new branch itself to develop its own priorities, plans and rules.
“It’s got to be your concept,” Hall said. “I don’t want someone who is 84 running the Young Professionals Branch.”
Although the local Rotary Club has been involved in youth leadership projects, and there are “Roterac” clubs for university students, members suggested something was missing.
Hall said the financial expense, and time commitment of joining the regular Rotary Club can be deterrents to young people just setting out on their own, opening new businesses or starting a career.
“What we’re trying to do is fill the gap,” Hall said.
The local initiative reflects a growing effort by Rotary Clubs around the world.
Cindy Meehan, Director of Membership Development for Rotary International told the Dundas Star News last week the organization is looking at ways to deal with an ageing membership. One method is “satellite clubs” aimed at making it easier for young members to develop within Rotary – much like Dundas’ planned Young Professionals Branch.
“It’s nice to see it happening in Canada,” Meehan said in a telephone interview from the Rotary International office in Evanston, Illinois.
She said Rotary has a formal, traditional structure that’s not always accessible to younger people starting their careers. Clubs have to be more flexible to bring in new blood.
“We’re more determined in our focus on young people,” Meehan said. “You don’t get the results unless you’re deliberate in how you approach it. The biggest thing is to get people involved before we ask them to join.”
The Rotary Club of Dundas took a first deliberate step last week.
Hall suggested the Young Professionals Branch hold their own meeting once a month, and join a meeting of the main club once a month. The Rotary Club of Dundas meets every Tuesday at Noon.
Hall said the first combined meeting will feature Hamilton Chamber of Commerce president Keanin Loomis on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at the Dundas Valley Golf and Curling Club.
Rotary Club director, and former president, Frances Manias spoke to the group about the impact Rotary has – locally and worldwide – and the many opportunities the club can offer young professionals
Manias mentioned financial commitments the club has already made to a local eco-park, and the Creekside Drive parkette – as well as significant efforts to eradicate Polio around the world.
“Twenty-million children were immunized in one weekend. That’s the scope of Rotary,” she said. “We get together to work in the community – the community sees that. As you seek to build your businesses and establish contacts, Rotary carries weight in the community.”
Hall noted there are many existing Rotary Club projects, from the annual Lobsterfest to the variety of projects, local and international, mentioned.
“These are the things that our group is doing….and any of your ideas,” Hall said. “The key thing is what your ideas will be.”
Hall suggested the new group should consider a small membership fee – perhaps $25 per person – to create a bankroll that will help them support any programs or projects they develop.
He also encouraged them to find new members to join the Young Professionals Branch.
“We could double this number within a meeting or two,” Hall said. “The more you have, the easier it is for you. It’s your ideas that you bring to the group, and sort of sell them – and the group works on them.”
Hall said the branch should have its own president, treasurer and secretary. The fledgling group showed some early signs of organization, agreeing the secretary position should be a rotating job – with someone different taking on the task recording minutes of meetings and circulating them to members. There was consensus it shouldn’t fall to the same person every month.
Meehan said the United States has the largest Rotary membership of any country – with 336,426 Rotarians. Canada has 25,122 members. She said the interesting membership story is India, which has the second most members at 123,000.
Most importantly, Meehan pointed out, is India’s successful great succession plan to bring in young members. One university alone has 1,500 students in an affiliated Roterac organization. They continue to be active after graduation, then join the Rotary Club as they establish their businesses or careers.
“It’s a nice model,” Meehan said. “In the States and Canada it’s not as seamless as you see in India.”