February 25, 2023

Five ways Rotary can support communities

From promoting peace to protecting the environment, Rotary’s seven main causes focus on improving the lives of individuals and communities throughout the world. There are many ways in which Rotary on local, national and international levels. This year’s Rotary International District 1040 Conference, taking place on the 6th and 7th October 2023 in Scarborough, will bring hundreds of people together to discuss how Rotary is “Supporting Our Communities.”

Over the last few months, we have reached out to and heard from many clubs, big and small throughout the district. In preparation for this year’s conference, we have put together examples and insights gathered from these conversations about how Rotary in Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire is connecting with and supporting local communities.

Below are five things that Rotary can start, continue or improve to support their communities.

1. Consider location

Rotary members meet in lots of ways: in hotels, in pubs, in community halls and online just to name a few. Location, however, impacts the experiences of guests.  

In East Yorkshire, South Cave and Wolds Rotary have a different approach to meetings. The club  meets in both a golf club and a church community hall on alternate weeks. Meetings at the golf club include a two course meal followed by a speaker or other activity. Meetings at the church community hall, however, are a lot more informal as members gather to have coffee and biscuits and discuss Rotary business.

The club often sponsors young people to take part in events or courses that they may not otherwise be able to attend. Current club president, Alan Alston, explained that young people are invited to visit the club and speak with members on the days they are at the church community hall rather than at the golf club. From experience, they noticed that young people are more comfortable in the familiar and informal environment of the community hall and it makes it easier to speak with them and understand the young person’s background and what they hope to achieve from Rotary support.

2. Work in partnership

Collaboration and partnership working is an essential part of how many Rotary clubs operate in their community. A quick search of Rotary activities across the district will show that the events with the most success in terms of awareness, output and helping the community come from collaboration and partnership working.

The annual Hull Santa Fun Run and Walk brings together groups and individuals of all ages to take part in a 3km course while wearing a Santa outfit. In addition to having festive fun at local Pickering Park, the event provides an opportunity for participants to raise awareness and money for their own causes if they want.

Jointly organised by Holderness and Humberside Rotary, over several years the two clubs have worked in partnership with other organisations and groups (such as Friends of Pickering Park) to provide the venue, marshalls, food and drink stalls, face painting, festive music and other entertainment on the day. Organising the event venue, registration, Santa outfits and overall logistics for the runners and spectators, means that participants can focus on fundraising for causes personal to them–an opportunity they may not have otherwise.

Overall, nearly a dozen businesses, charities and organisations collaborate to make this annual event happen, creating stronger ties amongst the partners and the community.

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3. Build social connection

For many people, having opportunities to socialise with new and familiar people is high on their priority list. Social connection is more than just chatting with another person. Social connection can lower anxiety and depression, help regulate emotions, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy and even improve immune systems.

For 25 years, Huddersfield Pennine Rotary have organised a community bridge event for any member of the local area to join. The event attracts people who are not only interested in playing bridge but also want to meet and socialise with others in the community.

Held five times a year at a local golf club, the event gets between 60 and 80 individuals attending for a lunch followed by five rounds of bridge and afternoon tea. Huddersfield Pennine Rotarians host the event and wait on tables, making sure that guests are looked after. Though there are some prizes and fundraising for local charities (over £50,000 raised in the 25 years), the event is largely focused on creating social connection–an important aspect of individual and community health.

4. Add a twist to tradition

Rotary across the district is well known for their commitment to their communities, particularly through grants and sponsorships. Community grant schemes, like those by Haworth and the Worth Valley and Doncaster St. George’s are great examples of ways Rotary can help other groups and individuals. Some clubs, like Bradford Bronte Rotary, have taken this idea and added a twist.

Bradford Community SOUP (based on the Detroit SOUP events) brings members of the community together to hear pitches about projects to improve the local area. The event is run in partnership between Inn Churches, a local charity, and Bradford Bronte Rotary. At each event, attendees get free food (which is donated, sponsored or rescued) and a voting token. Representatives of the three projects have a few minutes each to pitch their ideas, answer questions and bid for attendee support. Votes are cast and the project with the most support receives the prize pot.

Bradford SOUP completed its 27th event in February 2023. The event is a good example of how clubs can take inspiration from other successful events, form partnerships and create a service that is beneficial to the local community, especially during tough economic times like those we are living through today. 

5. Share what you do

The majority of Rotary success relies on individuals, groups and the wider community to know what Rotary does and how they can get involved or support a cause. Whether a club is collecting funds during a Santa’s Sleigh event or getting the community involved in hands-on activities, like creating sustainable period products for women and girls, people need to know what is happening.

There are many different examples of how Rotary promotes activities. South Cave and Wolds Rotary have found success promoting their work through the local village newsletter. The newsletter provides the club an opportunity to let local people know what Rotary does in terms of activities and sponsorship. The club has found success in doing this as they feel more people are aware of Rotary’s presence and come to the club for support having read the newsletter. In return, the club is more aware of what the community and individuals need and can respond in a way they feel is appropriate for everyone.

For clubs like Aireborough Rotary, using digital channels is an effective way to promote activities. In March 2022, the club led a strategic campaign across their social media to gather support for an event benefiting Zarach, a local well-known Leeds charity benefiting children in need. The club is committed to their online presence on their own club website and social media where they market their activities as well as share interesting work and events happening throughout the community.

From village newsletter to the potential worldwide audience of social media, it’s up to clubs to decide how they want to share their news and with whom they share it with. The more Rotary communicates their work in different mediums (be it online, in person, in print, on the airwaves, podcasts or video) the more opportunities are created to connect with local individuals, find potential collaborators and volunteers and provide support to those who need it.

These five tips are just starting points which Rotary clubs can take and make their own. There is no one way to support a community and there is no one way to do Rotary. As long as clubs are prioritising the real needs of people, then that’s a great place to start.

Rebecca A Mendoza is a freelance writer and member of York Rotary. You can learn more about her work at www.rebeccaamendoza.com

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