E-Clubs: A Rotary Model for the 21st Century

As members of the Rotary E-Club of One World, we are involved in a progressive Rotary experiment that started in 2010 when the formation of e-clubs were approved by Rotary International as a 6-year pilot project. With that action, Rotary took a giant leap into the twenty-first century by allowing clubs to meet electronically rather than having to convene at a certain physical location at a particular time. Suddenly Rotary membership was a real possibility for many whose jobs or other considerations precluded their joining a traditional Rotary club. Similarly, it also gave an alternative to Rotarians who might otherwise resign from Rotary for those same reasons.

In July of 2010 there were 14 trail-blazing e-clubs. Since then rate of growth in e-clubs has been astounding. Less than four years into the pilot project, the number of e-clubs has grown nearly ten-fold.  As of March this year there are 135 e-clubs based in 43 nations. Some, like our own, have members in diverse places around the globe, others have localized memberships, and some are hybrid clubs which mix on-line and in-person meetings.

Despite their proliferation and success, e-clubs still remain a bit mysterious to many Rotarians who aren't quite sure of the requirements or mechanics of e-clubs. In most respects, e-clubs must meet the same requirements as any other Rotary club. We are required to meet once-a-week. We are expected to support the Rotary Foundation and to engage in service projects in our communities and internationally. We e-club members are expected to place service above self, to apply the Four-Way Test in our personal and professional decisions, and to observe the Object of Rotary. As e-club members, we take on the same responsibilities and enjoy the same privileges as any other Rotarians.

Where the difference lies between e-clubs and traditional clubs is in the mechanics and in this respect there are even differences between e-clubs. Unlike traditional clubs, e-clubs are required to maintain a dedicated website and to have access to meeting software (such as GoToMeeting) that will allow them to hold Board, committee or general meetings. E-clubs are also required to provide on-line payment options on their websites. These requirements mean that an e-club must have at least one experienced webmaster in order to maintain their site. They also dictate that e-clubs must take measures to maintain the on-line privacy of their members. 

As noted above, not all clubs meet in the same way. Some clubs are hybrids in that they have both on-line and in-person club meetings. Among clubs that meet solely on-line, there are those like ours that post meetings either on their own website (as we do) or on Facebook so they can be accessed by members anytime of the day or night during the week for which they are posted. There are also clubs that have live meetings via teleconferencing platforms. These latter are generally clubs whose members live in close proximity to one another or at least in adjacent time zones.

There are some definite challenges that come with e-club status - the major one being how to promote fellowship.  Engaging members to work on committees is another. An e-club fellowship has formed and meets on Facebook to discuss and address shared challenges. All our clubs are works-in-progress, it seems and, like our traditional counterparts, each club has its own personality. 

The accompanying video features a talk by Amanda Wirtz, Past President and Founding Member of the United Services Rotary D-5340 e-club, in which she discusses the advantages and potential not only of her own club but of e-clubs in general. We certainly can see that potential in our club with members all over the globe. It is exciting to think of the directions in which the e-club format can take Rotary and the possibilities for connecting Rotarians around the world.

Presenting USR - 5340 District Council (May 2012): 17:32 min:

 

A few E-Club Metrics as of March 2014:

  1. 135 Rotary E-Clubs based in 43 nations
  2. Nations with the most e-clubs
    1. United States - 22
    2. India - 16
    3. Brazil -13
  3. English is far and away the most common language used by e-clubs - 91 e-clubs list it as the language in which they conduct business.
  4. In the US, California leads the nation in the number of e-clubs (5), followed closely by New York (4) and New Jersey (3). Arizona has 2 e-clubs. Eight other states have one e-club each.

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