I can highly recommend BH Sunrise Rotarians add this neat opportunity to your storehouse of Rotary knowledge. Sometimes it just isn't convenient (or physically possible) to attend a live club meeting. eClubs make it easy to stay involved as well as maintain your perfect attendance. I have personally made up a missed meeting at the Tampa eClub. Read Joseph Derr's account below and for more information, including a list and access to eClubs, click here.
Editarian Barry Davis
E-clubs forge new path for Rotary
14 September 2004
By Joseph Derr
Among the legislation proposed at the 2004 Council on Legislation in June was item No. 04-18, "to allow attendance credit for a 30-minute interactive club Web site activity."
The passing of this item significantly expanded the definition of make-up meetings, and by extension, Rotary activity. Now, if a member misses a meeting, in order to receive attendance credit, he or she can go online. This offers an alternative to making up a meeting at another club.
The Council's recognition both attests to the number of Rotary club Web sites - estimated at 4,000 and growing - and highlights a recent trend in the Rotary world: Web-based clubs that are not merely Web sites of physical clubs but legitimate clubs that exist exclusively on the Internet.
Pilot projects planted the seeds
The first e-club, Rotary eClub of District 5450 (Rotary eClub One), was initiated in June 2001 as part of the New Models for Rotary Clubs pilot project and currently has 13 members. The Rotary eClub of District 7150 NY1 and the Rotary eClub of District 7890 followed under the three-year Rotary eClub Pilot Project (formerly known as Cyber Rotary Clubs Pilot Project).
Twenty-six clubs are now participating in the eClub Project, which was adopted by the 2001 Council on Legislation to help extend Rotary to those who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to meet traditional attendance requirements.
(Note: see sidebar at left for complete list, as well as links to various clubs.)
"The majority of our members are folks who believe very strongly in Rotary and all that it stands for but find that business demands prevent them from meeting traditional club-meeting percentages," says Marlene Brown of Rotary eClub of District 7150 NY1, which has seven members.
Chris Joscelyne, president of eClub One, adds: "Our members have given a total of 150 years of service to Rotary, and eClub One provides the opportunity for them to continue to serve. Without eClub One, these folks would be lost to Rotary."
A new attendance experience
Joscelyne views the passing of the attendance-credit item in June 2004 as a victory for an idea that the club has championed for some time.
"It's an endorsement of the information-rich attendance experience we offer Rotarians who visit our club online for 30 minutes or more," he says. "We hope that the Council on Legislation enactment will encourage Rotary clubs everywhere to embrace the concept of an online make-up as a valid attendance credit."
To earn an attendance credit, Rotarians usually log on to the Web site, read online material on a range of subjects, post comments, and submit a form to the club secretary. "The overwhelming comment from visitors is that our online programs educate, inform and inspire. That's a great outcome for an investment of a 30-minute visit to our Web site," Joscelyne says.
Joscelyne says in a typical week, eClub One welcomes some 2,375 visitors, 715 of whom participate in a meeting program and apply for a make-up credit.
More than just a make-up
But full-time members of Rotary e-clubs like to emphasize that their clubs offer more than just a quick make-up. "A make-up visit to Rotary eClub One is not a 'quick fix' but a real opportunity to become a better informed Rotarian," Joscelyne says.
As fully functional and legitimate Rotary clubs, e-clubs pay dues, participate in community projects, and function much like any other traditional club, except that a Web site serves as the only meeting place.
This virtual gathering has some Rotarians criticizing online clubs as lacking fellowship, while others fear the replacement of weekly Rotary meetings altogether with online activity.
John Minter, the founding president of Rotary eClub One, answered critics of the cyber clubs recently on his club's Web site: "We do not advocate the online make-up venue to replace anything but rather to expand and enhance the wonderful world of Rotary."
Attracting new blood
The e-clubs are also attracting new kinds of full-time members, who enjoy opportunities for service they would have otherwise missed.
The Rotary eClub of District 7890 currently has 10 members and is made up of Group Study Exchange alumni who were inspired to join Rotary following their experience.
"I had an incredible experience and was excited to continue my involvement in Rotary when I got home," says Ruth Ursone, a member of the D-7890 club. "That I can communicate with my fellow Rotarians through the Internet, at times convenient with my work and school schedules is a perfect fit."
The club's membership is a diverse group of young Rotarians, all new to Rotary, says EmmaLee Smith, president of the D-7890 club. "Our members come from a wide variety of professions - teachers, journalists, graduate students, entrepreneurs."
Full-time e-club Rotarians counter concerns of lost fellowship online, saying that the unique nature of e-clubs actually encourages greater interaction among members.
"We have daily contact with each other online, and in many ways we interact to a greater degree than a traditional Rotarian who only meets with his or her club once a week," says Smith. The club meets socially at once a month and club members participate on a regular basis in community service activities, individually and with other Rotary clubs.
Going above and beyond
E-club members are so excited about the new way to experience Rotary that they are going beyond minimum requirements for membership.
"Several of our members exceed the minimum 12 hours personal service per calendar quarter by many hours each quarter, a tangible demonstration of commitment to our ideal of service," says Joscelyne of eClub One, currently involved in projects ranging from youth skills training in East Timor to foster parent support and Vocational Service teams. The club also is participating in the Ranfurly Library Book Aid project for the Pacific Islands.
The future of e-clubs seems bright, especially to members who are hooked on the concept. "I'm sure the numbers of e-clubs will grow throughout the world, but I don't see them replacing the regular in person meetings. I see e-clubs as more of an option to keep extremely busy professionals involved in Rotary," says Brown of Rotary eClub of District 7150 NY1. "As more and more folks become aware of the e-club option, the membership of, and involvement in, Rotary will increase dramatically."
Paul Harris could have never imagined e-clubs when he founded the first Rotary club nearly 100 years ago. Whatever the future holds, no one can doubt that e-clubs are providing a whole new way to experience Rotary and bring new members into the Rotary world.