By Johnny Archer, past president of the University of Oregon Rotaract Club and past District Rotaract Representative for District 5110
Over the last couple years, I have heard many Rotarians seeking to start up Rotaract in their communities or to connect with a club already in place. I have been a Rotaractor for nearly six years, and have seen Rotary in action at the club, district, zone, and global levels; there is tremendous passion in the organization, and there is no better way to increase Rotary’s impact in our communities and in ourselves than to partner with young people and share this passion with them. This partnership is cultivated through frequent contact and—importantly—reciprocity, at every level: personal, club, and district. I am frequently asked “How can Rotary clubs start, or expand, a relationship with Rotaract clubs?” Here are some practices I have seen implemented to foster this relationship at each level that also help maximize both clubs’ impact.
Make it personal
When I share my elevator talk with potential Rotaractors, one point I always emphasize is the professional and leadership development potential. For young professionals and students such as myself, any opportunity to expand our web of contacts, and our knowledge of the workplace in general, is sought-after. Of course, Rotary’s global network of more than 1.2 million members, including many in our respective communities, makes this a pretty easy sell. When they get to the club and see the close relationship with Rotarians who are local community leaders and have vast professional networks, the pitch really sticks.
A successful program my club implemented a few years ago is Rotary-Rotaract mentorship. This voluntary pairing, based primarily on professions/fields of study, has granted Rotaractors access to an expert in their field of interest, along with their entire network, and frequently a friend as well. The participating Rotarian has the opportunity to share their enthusiasm for their work, experience the fulfillment that comes from teaching another, and gain a perspective they hadn’t considered before.
If enough of your clubs’ members participate in programs like this, opportunities for service that nobody had imagined, especially ones leveraging professional skills, often fall into place.
Bring your clubs together
When Rotaract clubs have a Rotary club sponsor, it is equally important to develop this relationship. Rotarians are called to serve young leaders through the avenue of youth service and supporting a Rotaract club is a great way to do this while enhancing the experience all participants.
Here are several things your club can do to form or strengthen the bond with a local Rotaract club:
Be available—have an open line of communication. This is being beautifully carried out by my former club through an ex officio position for the Rotaract club president on the Rotary club’s board of directors.
Be social—have a policy which encourages Rotarians and Rotaractors to attend each other’s meetings.
Be reciprocal—emphasizing once again this point, everybody likes a good group service activity but don’t forget to include Rotaractors in the event’s planning and execution. Similarly, foster an opportunity for Rotarians to help plan, execute and volunteer at events led by Rotaract clubs. The bonds, trust, and long-term partnerships formed by this type of collaboration will only increase our impact.
Give Rotaractors a voice at the district level
While Rotary’s good work is done at the club level, that work is steered and supported by policies and funds managed by districts. If you want to show Rotaractors that they are important members in Rotary, put them on key committees such as membership, district training, public image, and youth services. Send them to trainings, too—the same ones that Rotarians go to. You should not be surprised when they give you some new ideas to modernize and revitalize the organization.
Training and inspiration happen beyond districts, too. I had the incredible opportunity to attend the RI convention in Toronto in 2018 (funded by my district, I might add), which was just about the perfect first convention for a Rotaractor: some of our shining examples were on display in the general sessions, RI President Ian Riseley made sure everybody knew it was Rotaract’s grand 50th anniversary, and RI President-elect Barry Rassin shared a Rotary theme that resonated with each of us: “Be the Inspiration.” Aside from RI conventions, there are conferences for different areas of the humanitarian sector, zone institutes, and countless other opportunities you can share with Rotaractors.
Connect the world
Hopefully this leaves you inspired to seek out Rotaractors (or young leaders you may inspire to become Rotaractors) in your community and start building a relationship that will bring Rotary to new heights in your area.