Will I Make A Difference?

Will I Make A Difference?

by Nancy Eidsvik Ma


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Author Nancy Eidsvik, MA, was the first woman ever elected to serve as the president of her local Rotary Club, and she undertook this community-based action research study to examine how the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert could best expand its volunteer service to the community.

Her research, originally appearing in her master's thesis, provided members of the Rotary Club and the community with the opportunity to share their impressions and experiences of the Rotary Club. It offered an avenue for participation in establishing recommendations to strengthen the Rotary Club's presence in the community. She relied on a broad range of research methods, including focus groups, world café, interviews, and surveys. Ethical considerations included confidentiality, free and informed consent, minimizing harm, and maximizing benefits.

She shares her recommendations to expand public awareness of the Rotary Club, establish a strategic plan to address organizational effectiveness, and encourage key planning to identify opportunities for volunteer services. These recommendations can be used by other Rotary Clubs and service organizations, to assist them evaluate and strategize how to best expand their volunteer services to their communities.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462044177
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/07/2011
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.57(d)

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Will I Make a Difference?

Community Service through Rotary
By Nancy Eidsvik

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Nancy Eidsvik, MA
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-4417-7

Chapter One


The focus of my research study is the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert, chartered in 1921, and currently has 58 members. Rotary Club membership represents a cross-section of local business, professional, and community-minded people, who participate in fellowship, service, and fund-raising activities. Its membership comprises of volunteers who choose to give freely of their time, energy, and talents to help other people and do so without expectation of compensation. "Volunteering time for a variety of purposes or caring and sharing has been a part of most societies throughout human history" (Hodgkinson, 2003, p. 35).

Rotary members dedicate their time, skills, expertise, and myriad other resources toward improving human conditions. Belonging to Rotary gives men and women an opportunity to contribute to their local and global communities, as well as personal enjoyment and social well-being, through participation and fellowship with other members. To further understand the Rotary Club as a volunteer organization and the service to the community, it was necessary to discuss the overview of Rotary and the significance of the opportunity.

Overview of Rotary

The Rotary Club is a member of the global system of Rotary International, which provides members the opportunity to participate in worldwide activities. Rotary International was founded in 1905 and has a rich heritage of public service throughout the world. Today, nearly 1.2 million members from more that 32,000 Rotary Clubs in 200 countries serve as volunteers in their local, district, and world communities (Rotary International, 2007d, ¶ 1-2). Rotarians initiate local community and international projects that address many of today's most critical issues, such as violence, drug abuse, contaminated drinking water, hunger, illiteracy, polio, AIDS, and the environment (Rotary International, 2007c, ¶ 12). The organization also supports programs for youth, educational opportunities, and international exchange for career development (Rotary International, 2007h, ¶ 3). Rotary provides opportunities for its members to participate in a wide variety of projects and programs, and it is imperative that their efforts, dedication of time, and expertise, both to raise funds and provide services, are placed to best meet the needs of their community. Therefore, it was appropriate that my research question asked how the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert (Rotary Club) can best expand its volunteer service to its community.

As well as serving the community, the Rotary Club has activities for the members such as weekly lunch meetings and fellowship. This gives the members the opportunity to hear interesting speakers, receive club updates from the directors and member reports on various club projects, and to plan service activities. These clubs are autonomous and determine their own service projects, based on both local needs and international projects. Rotary Clubs are non religious, nongovernmental (Rotary International, 2007d, ¶ 2), and open to every race and culture, welcoming everyone as equals (Eliasoph, 2003, p. 205). Rotary International exemplifies what Rotary is and Rotary does, as stated more than 30 years ago by the Past Rotary International President:

We cannot possibly administer an organization with the ramifications of Rotary International, or even a Rotary club, without mechanics, techniques, and procedures. If, then, we are to have such machinery, let us have the best possible. But it is important to know and remember that the machinery is not an end in itself—it is a means to an end. The objective is better Rotary, and better Rotarians (Thomas, 1974, p. 56).

Also, as members of Rotary International, these local club members contribute their time and expertise to provide the commendable work that they do. The Rotary Club also donates annually to The Rotary Foundation for international service and education, particularly in the developing world.

In contrast to the wonderful work of members to raise these funds, I have seen the challenges within the Rotary Club in the declining membership and limited participation by members in club activities. I have been involved in most facets of the Rotary Club. In 2004, Rotary International's centennial year, I was elected the first woman President of the Rotary Club, after serving in many capacities as chair of various committees, as well as five years as secretary and a term as treasurer.

From these various positions, I have been able to observe many of the attributes, as well as the problems, inherent in volunteer organizations. This research and application of findings have formed the basis for my research inquiry. Hence, through a process known as community-based action research, I had explored and identified strategies for strengthening the volunteer base, so the club can meet the needs of the members while serving the community.

The aim of my research was succinctly stated by Stringer (1999) as "not to establish the truth or to describe what really is happening, but to reveal the different truths and realities—constructions—held by different individuals and groups" within the community (p. 45). This research identified the means to build collaboration that enabled the members and the community to formulate mutually acceptable solutions for everyone's benefit (p. 188). As a result, I established the following research question and subquestions.

My research question was: How can the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert best expand its volunteer service to its community? Subquestions included:

1. What are the expectations by the community of the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert? 2. How has the club currently met the members' needs in order to retain and strengthen the membership? 3. What have the members done to make the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert a stronger volunteer community organization so that the Rotary Club of Prince Rupert can better serve the community?

The Opportunity

The opportunities for the Rotary Club are endless. Kouzes and Posner (2002) suggested, "Leaders inspire a shared vision, in which the people imagine an exciting, highly attractive future for their organization—visions and dreams of what could be" (p. 15). Leaders have the belief they are confident in their abilities to make extraordinary things happen. Kouzes and Posner further described that "every organization begins with a dream, which is the force that invents the future" (p. 15).

To develop that dream, the Rotary Club needs to plan for the future, and my research project was a timely opportunity to seek new challenges, create new vision, and seriously get involved in the leading edge. It is time to let go of the belief that this is the way it has always been done and the often-heard comment that, if it works, why fix it? However, equally important to remember is that the future is built upon the past. The chances are that the "resources that move the organization forward will be largely drawn from the same resources that brought it to where it is today" (Bellman, 1990, p. 74).

It was my belief that learning from one another—members who have years of experience, combined with new members' energy and new ideas—was a very powerful combination and must be communicated in a way that does not threaten and is welcoming and approachable. Groups with a common purpose and vision, such as Rotary, "create the conditions that will mobilize their energy, engage their enthusiasm, and generate activity that can be productively applied to the resolution of issues and problems that concern them" (Stringer, 1999, p. 28). For these various reasons, my research used community-based action research, which involved both the community and Rotary Club members, to identify areas of mutual interests, goals, and objectives for themselves and for the Rotary Club.

It was appropriate and opportune that the President of Rotary International challenged local clubs to strengthen their organization, through being more attractive to potential new members and retaining the members they have for their Rotary clubs, to be able to better meet the needs of the communities they serve. "Stronger clubs make it far more likely that your clubs will attract the kinds of members you want as your fellow Rotarians" (W. Boyd, personal communication, January 22, 2007).

This challenge to its members was meant to motivate the local club to seek new ways to make Rotary stronger, thereby making our communities better. To make the club better, we must ensure we have ample members to provide the services required. This is a wonderful opportunity to find ways to entice more people to join Rotary and seek opportunities for our club to grow stronger and more attractive, so that we can expand volunteer services in the community.

Significance of the Opportunity

In these economically challenging times, the Rotary Club needs to identify other creative and innovative ways to raise funds, to continue with its financial assistance to organizations in services or projects that benefit the community. Prince Rupert has seen a substantial decline in its population since the Skeena Cellulose Ltd. closed its pulp mill in June 2001 (Prince Rupert Economic Department, personal communication, October 19, 2007). The pulp mill employed approximately 700 workers and with its closure has caused an estimated 350 families to move away to find employment elsewhere. As well as the closure of the pulp mill, the fishing industry was in decline. When fishing was at its peak operations, it is believed that the industry employed around 2,825 fishers and cannery workers. In contrast, today, it is estimated that there are only 1,515 fishers and cannery workers (O. Eidsvik, personal communication, July 20, 2007). As a result, the population of Prince Rupert declined from 16,714 people in 1996 to 12,815 people in 2006 (BC Stats, 2007). Therefore, with the population decline, the membership of the Rotary Club has decreased as well, which has placed the club in a state of change.

When we are faced with new challenges, we live with a high degree of ambiguity. "Change and the accompanying uncertainty throw us off our equilibrium. Yet, it is these fluctuations, disturbances, and imbalances in organizations that are the primary sources of creativity" (Kouzes & Posner, 2002, p. 186). To build on this creativity, the Rotary Club must search for opportunities by seeking innovative ways to change and grow. The exciting new changes will result in the rejuvenation of the members, by giving them new and different challenges.

The Rotary Club needs to change the way it thinks, offers challenges, and ultimately changes, so the members will be committed and enrolled. "Enrolment is a natural process from genuine enthusiasm for a vision and willingness to let others come to their own choice" (Senge, 2006, p. 206). Therefore, as leaders of the Rotary Club, it is your duty to entice your members to be enrolled to achieve commitment and satisfaction, by identifying and seizing the opportunities to become a stronger volunteer organization. Conversely, the Rotary Club needs to be cognizant of what will happen to the organization, if the members do not address this opportunity for growth and change.

It is important members of the Rotary Club realize that, without growth and change, the result could be loss of members, due to members not being challenged by new activities. Members may become stagnant by merely attending meetings because they are required to do so. As a result, the club can lose the vibrancy of an active, happy, and satisfied membership that is evident today.

It is imperative that the club prepare a strategy to develop a stronger club, to enable its members to meet the service expectations of our community, as well as giving those challenges and satisfaction to the members in their volunteer service. It is the hope that my research project will give the Rotary Club that strategic planning process to achieve member retention so it has enough members to perform its services. It is an important time for the leaders of the Rotary Club to strategically plan for the future of the organization.

Therefore, in the planning for the future, the significance of the opportunity for the Rotary Club is that this research project can form the basis of the strategic plan that will take it into the next decade of service to the community. As well as the benefits to the Rotary Club, the significance of the opportunity also challenged me into finding the answers through research and inquiry, rather than instinct and past experience. My leadership stretch was in using tools of research and applying the findings to real situations. As well, to accomplish this research study, it was necessary to review the system analysis of the opportunity to understand how the Rotary Club related within the global system of Rotary International.

System Analysis of the Opportunity

The application of these situations to real situations required me to describe the entire system that would impact the opportunity. The system includes the organization within the global, cultural, and societal components in which the project has taken place. The following will describe the factors and underlying issues that influence the opportunities.

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster: FIRST. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service; SECOND. High ethical standards in business and professions, the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and the dignifying of each Rotarian's occupation as an opportunity to serve society; THIRD. The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian's personal, business, and community life; and, FOURTH. The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service (Rotary International, 2007a, ¶ 1–5).

In an era of globalization and democratization, volunteering is rapidly being recognized as the entity that helps hold societies together and as an additional useful resource in solving social community problems (Hodgkinson, 2003, p. 36). In the global system, Rotary International is the parent organization to which all Rotary clubs must belong.

Within Rotary International are 530 districts whose role is to be the liaison between the local clubs and Rotary International and to assist their member clubs in all matters pertaining to Rotary (Rotary International, 2007g, ¶ 2). The other primary function of the District, as stated in the District Manual, is club member development and training through regional seminars and district conferences (Rotary International District 5040, 2007b, p. 62). The value of training sessions is the vast learning for all members, not only for the volunteer aspects, but for their professional and social development of skills. Rotary District 5040 is comprised of 2,100 Rotarians in 56 clubs encompassing most of British Columbia (see Figure 1), but not including Fort St. John, Okanagan, or Kootenay areas (p. 74). This provides the opportunity for access to many clubs, members and resources throughout the district.

It is imperative that Rotary clubs collectively realize that, as stated by Bussell and Forbes (2001), "It is the members who bring the new fresh ideas, either from their own experiences and skills or from those with whom they are in contact" (p. 244). Rotarians are active community members and, therefore, are valuable sources of input and information. People also endeavour to work in harmony within their membership, through identifying shared problems and collaborating to find solutions that benefit themselves, as well as the organization (Wheatley, 1999, p. 70).


Excerpted from Will I Make a Difference? by Nancy Eidsvik Copyright © 2011 by Nancy Eidsvik, MA. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


LIST OF TABLES....................XIII
LIST OF FIGURES....................XV
CHAPTER ONE: FOCUS AND FRAMING....................1
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW....................23
CHAPTER SIX: LESSONS LEARNED....................185
APPENDIX A: Consent Form for Participation in Focus Group #1....................209
APPENDIX B: Consent form for Participation in World Cafe....................213
APPENDIX C: Consent form for Participation in an Interview....................216
APPENDIX D: Consent form for Focus Group #2....................219
APPENDIX E: Consent Form for Survey....................223
APPENDIX F: Letter of Invitation to Focus Groups....................226
APPENDIX G: Questions for Focus Group #1....................230
APPENDIX H: Letter of Invitation to a World Cafe....................232
APPENDIX I: World Café Agenda....................235
APPENDIX J: World Café Questions....................236
APPENDIX K: Invitations to One-on-One Interviews....................238
APPENDIX L: One-on-One Interview Questions....................242
APPENDIX M: Questions for Focus Group #2....................243
APPENDIX N: Letter of Invitation to Participate in the Survey....................244
APPENDIX O: Letter of Acknowledgement to Participate in the Survey and Questions....................248

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