Posted on Feb 01, 2021
Sometimes Rotarians hear others say something like this …
"Oh...that’s not in the Spirit of Rotary"
This begs the question: What is The Spirit of Rotary, and have you ever tried to describe it? 

Firstly, our motto of "Service Above Self" describes our purpose – we strive to provide service for the benefit of others. When it comes to activities in clubs, our focus should be on providing service through the use of our labour and/or resources, or through funding the provision of it.

We are not a fundraising organisation! We are a service organisation which fundraises with the purpose of supporting service activities. When fundraising please remember to always promote the purpose of fundraising activities – what we are doing and why we are doing it. This helps with member engagement and this approach just may attract interest from potential Rotarians!

Let’s now focus on our organisation. We have many challenges including retention of members. It is often said that to get a new member involved give them a job.

  • what are the jobs?
  • how are they decided and distributed?
  • how are they handed on?
  • do we have succession plans?
  • how are members skills recognised and used for the benefit of our purpose?
As Rotarians we say we are ‘People of Action’, and through our collective actions TOGETHER, WE… are ‘doing good in the world’.
  • We are problem solvers
  • We are opportunity creators
  • We are community builders
  • ...and we are much more!
We also say that, as a team of Rotarians, our output is greater than the sum of our parts. For this to occur all parts need to be working in continuous harmony – and that’s the clue to the Spirt of Rotary!
→ Every Rotarian is generously giving of time and acting in good faith
Respect what members can do and value all contributions
→ Everyone does their part - individuals agree what they can and will do, and they do it
When agreeing to do something, get it done in a timely manner - show and gain respect, it is both earned and given
→ Everyone plays their part(s) on time and in sync.
Agreed cooperation is a relatively straight forward concept, and with it together we can achieve great things
→ Everyone has a position/role, and they play within it not trying to occupy, undermine, usurp or get in the way of someone else’s position/role
We may be given a role as a ‘once off’, for a year, or for several years. We don’t ‘own’ the role as within our organisation...we are the custodian of that role for a set time! Sometimes I wonder what happened to cooperation. The type of behaviour that harms us is empire building (often ego driven) and, for some, the subsequent assumption of indispensability. If/when replaced, such people may be prone to display disrespectful, undermining and usurping behaviour. All of this is counter-productive to our purpose, and we all realise the behaviours that disengage us result in potential membership loss.

In short, everyone supports one another through cooperation and goodwill to achieve completion of their respective tasks. Everyone plays a team game, with decency, while living the Four Way Test.

Also, along the way, we have great have fun, enjoy mutual friendships and gain fulfilment through service to others.

Does this seem like The Spirit of Rotary for you?

Each of us can act to ensure behaviours that have the potential to inhibit us and disengage members are eliminated from our organisation through leading by example and modelling the type of behaviour fitting to our organisation. 

Article by PDG C. Ross Carlyle,