Updated: Oct 4
This amazing organization has been around roughly since cars were invented. In that same time, Rotary has become an iconic international powerhouse with a seat in the United Nations and eradicating the world of the disease Polio as a feather in its cap.
But I still get this question, especially from my peers and people younger than me, "What is Rotary?"
Granted not everyone is passionate about giving back to their community. And with the advent of the internet, younger people who were more technologically savvy were able to find alternatives to belonging to a group like Rotary in order to do local service projects. And Rotary's humility eventually lead to its downfall.
You don't know about Rotary because Rotary, on the local club level in cities and towns across the globe, wanted to serve their communities "behind the scenes" as these hidden do-gooders. Soon the master brand of the Rotary wheel blended into the background and Rotary began heading into obscurity... in North America.
Around the world, Rotary was changing lives in ways many in first world countries might not have been able to connect to. Rotary was helping mothers and children. Rotary was curing disease. Rotary was providing water. Rotary was doing things for populations across the world that we already have the luxury of. The disconnect was seen in the declining membership especially in North America.
Then an amazing thing happened: Millennials. An entire generation of idealistic young people wanted to get off the side lines and actually do something actively to make their world a better place. A few of them stumbled on this powerful Rotary organization that has an extensive network of resources to increase their efforts exponentially. On top of that, younger Rotarians were social media giants and Rotary slowly started to incrementally increase its relevancy.
I still get the question all the time. But now when I answer I reference CXR. I talk about old stigmas dying and young people making lasting change in their own backyard. I talk about our average club membership being around 35 years old. I talk about our club planting 100 trees in a Tempe park in a day. I talk about CXR donating over 1000 suitcases to replace trash bags being used by children in the foster system. I talk about how much fun we have stand up paddle boarding on the Salt River. Then I get a different question: How can I join?