Council approves dues increase, unlimited e-clubs

Representatives from Rotary’s 532 districts met in downtown Chicago 21-26 April, approving a number of measures designed to strengthen Rotary, increase membership, and enhance the organization’s capacity to serve.

The Council on Legislation meets every three years to consider changes to the policies that govern Rotary International and its member clubs. This year’s Council accepted an increase of US$1 per year in per capita dues, removed limits on e-clubs, permitted satellite clubs, and changed the name of the fifth Avenue of Service to “Youth Service.”

The dues increase means Rotary clubs will pay Rotary International annual per capita dues of $54 in 2014-15, $55 in 2015-16, and $56 in 2016-17. Dues for 2013-14 had already been set to $53.

The RI Board of Directors proposed the increase based on a five-year financial forecast that projected that Rotary’s spending would exceed revenues by $9 million in 2018 if there were no increase. The result would be a drop in the General Surplus Fund below the level required by the RI Bylaws.

With the increase, spending is projected to exceed revenue by about $5 million in 2018, according to the forecast, which keeps the surplus fund above the mandated level. Supporters said the increase would be sufficient to keep pace with inflation without necessitating cutbacks in service. Dues are the primary source of funding for Rotary’s operations.

During the week, the 2013 Council considered more than 170 enactments and resolutions proposed by Rotary clubs, districts, or the RI Board.

“It has been a pleasure for me to serve you as chair and work with you this week on the legislation before the 2013 Council on Legislation,” Council Chair John Germ said. “You have come with energy and thoughtfulness, and you have represented your districts well.”

Council Representative William Pollard from Virginia, USA, noted that the representatives were united in a desire to make Rotary a stronger and better organization.

“Rotarians have different viewpoints on various issues and topics, and this is good for Rotary,” he said. “I quickly learned that some items that might not be important to my district might be very important to a district in another country.”

Among other actions during the week, representatives:

-          Allowed districts to have more than two e-clubs. The 2010 Council made e-clubs, which meet electronically, a permanent part of Rotary. Proponents argued removing the limit will bring in new members and will appeal particularly to young professionals, who may be less able to meet in person weekly.

-          Approved satellite clubs, whose members meet at a different time and location from their parent club but are still considered members of the parent club. The measure is intended to make it easier for members to develop the core for a new club.

-          Increased the number of clubs that can take part in pilot projects from 200 to 1,000. The RI Board uses these pilots, which last for up to six years, to test new ideas, methods, and organizational frameworks for clubs. Pilot clubs that participate in these experiments are fully functioning Rotary clubs but are exempt from some requirements of the Standard Rotary Club Constitution.

-          Approved changing the name of Rotary’s Fifth Avenue of Service, currently called “New Generations Service,” to “Youth Service.” The 2010 Council approved this Avenue of Service for youth, which joined the already established Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service, and International Service. The name “New Generations” was meant to reflect the need to build the next generation of Rotarians, but proponents of the name change argued Wednesday that the word “youth” is more universally understood, both inside and outside Rotary, and clarifies the fact that these programs encourage Rotarians to empower youth.

-          Approved a measure allowing participation in club projects to count toward club attendance requirements. The measure amends the Standard Rotary Club Constitution to require that a member attend or make up at least 50 percent of regular club meetings or engage in club projects for at least 12 hours in each half of the year, or a combination of both.

-          Approved a measure allowing Rotarians outside the United States and Canada to receive an electronic edition of their official regional Rotary magazine, if one is available. Rotarians within the United States and Canada were given the option of receiving a digital version of The Rotarian by the 2010 Council.

-          Approved a measure creating the office of vice governor, who would act as a substitute if the governor became unable to serve. The vice governor would be selected by the district’s nominating committee from among the district’s past governors.

-          Removed the travel reimbursement policy from the RI Bylaws. This will enable the RI Board of Directors to develop a policy that is flexible, able to address emergency travel situations, and able to take advantage of cost-saving opportunities.

-          Defeated two measures affecting Rotaract, Rotary-sponsored service clubs for men and women ages 18 to 30. The Council rejected raising the age limit to 35, arguing that the older members would have little in common with 18-year-olds. They also argued Rotarians should reach out to include Rotaractors who are reaching the age limit in their Rotary clubs. They rejected establishing lower dues for Rotaractors who want to join Rotary, partly because Rotaract membership records have not been collected by RI.

Douglas Vincent, a representative from Ontario, Canada, said he was a little disappointed the Council didn't adopt more changes, but feels the process serves a valuable function.

"Rotarians are the people who drive the organization," Vincent said. "It's important that representatives from the clubs, in a grassroots fashion, direct the policies and rules that govern Rotary International."

With the Council adjourned, an official report of action will be compiled, sent to clubs, and posted online. Clubs have an opportunity to record opposition to any action. If at least 5 percent of the clubs entitled to vote oppose an action, the legislation is suspended and the general secretary conducts a ballot-by-mail. A majority vote would cause the proposal to be rejected. All Council actions otherwise go into effect 1 July.