Increasing clubs’ participation in international service projects

By Elva Heyge, District International Service Chair and member of the Rotary Club of Kentville, (Nova Scotia) Canada

When I was appointed as District International Service Chair (DISC) in District 7820, my first task was to reach out to the district’s leadership team to work collaboratively on a strategy to increase clubs’ involvement in projects. I also familiarized the team on my role as the connector of project resources and the value of creating a District Resource Network (DRN), an internal consulting group within the district to strengthen clubs’ international service projects.

I developed a strong working relationship with the District Rotary Foundation Chair (DRFC), and together we co-facilitated sessions at district conferences and during club trainings. During quarterly conference calls with the District’s Foundation Team and with club international service chairs, we shared updates on ongoing projects and promoted new project opportunities.

Through the training sessions and conference calls, clubs have become more aware of resources available to them if they want to get involved in an international project. In addition, club leaders approach me for one–on-one consultation on projects they have in mind. I connect them to project resources by:

  • Suggesting they visit the Rotary Learning Center to review courses on The Rotary Foundation and Grant Management for a better understanding of the grant process;
  • Referring them to experts from the District Resource Network who can mentor them in project planning and on TRF’s grant process.
  • Facilitating introductions to nearby clubs to foster local relationships and help them combine efforts and resources – skills, finances, and networks – to have a greater impact.

During my first year, I facilitated a partnership among five local clubs. We met monthly and focused on educating each other and using project scenarios to work through the project planning process.

Initially, I helped clubs learn more about international projects by working through the different project planning phases. With these exercises, they felt more comfortable taking on bigger projects on their own. In that first year, the clubs took on the role of international partner for a $100,000 USD project in South Africa. In the second year, the clubs brought forward their own projects for consideration and evaluation.

By establishing myself as the “go-to person” for international projects, additional clubs partnered with each other and approached me for support on how to proceed with their project ideas. For the very first time (at the end of year two), almost all of the district’s designated funds were used on projects.

Contact me through the DISC Discussion Group, if you have questions or would like to brainstorm how to increase your clubs’ participation in international service projects.

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