Rotary Club of Atlanta Metro, Georgia
Original membership: 20
Spanning the ages: Atlanta-area Rotarians have a long-standing focus on youth. Their robust RYLA infrastructure and a statewide student leadership program for international collegians are hallmark efforts. Looking to the future, the Rotaract Club of Atlanta gave rise to the nascent Rotary Club of Atlanta Metro.
Club innovation: The club is designed to offer a seamless transition for young professionals who want to advance their careers and their Rotary lives. Focused on networking and mentorship, the club partners with other philanthropic organizations for volunteering opportunities, easing some of the organizational responsibilities of club members.
Despite playing an active role as a past president of the Rotaract Club of Atlanta, Alisha Rodriguez assumed that her demanding job would preclude joining a Rotary club. Rodriguez had heard that a lot of Rotary clubs required a large time commitment and that new members often “would get thrown into committees and get overworked,” she says.
To David Gordon and Warren Turner, then members of the Rotary Club of Dunwoody with long involvement in guiding the Rotaractors, Rodriguez’s apprehensions were familiar. So Gordon and Turner took action, enlisting Rodriguez and others to charter the new club. “Some of them came from Rotaract and some were friends of Rotaractors,” says Turner. “We circled back with Rotarians from our club who had left. They found this type of model more accommodating and appealing.”
To make the service and club commitments manageable, the club emphasizes volunteer partnerships. “We have structured volunteer opportunities by building relationships with other organizations,” rather than inaugurating projects from scratch, says Rodriguez.
“The only charity we encourage members to support financially is The Rotary Foundation,” says Gordon. “We support other charities with manpower, intellectual as well as physical.” The club works with some of those charities in conjunction with the Rotaract club and other Rotary clubs.
An informal mentoring system is in its infancy, but Gordon already has seen strong bonds forged. “We’ve just started it, pairing people slowly but surely,” he says. The older members also learn from the younger members, Turner says. “The younger people are much more comfortable with emerging technologies. We probably prefer email. They prefer Slack.”
“We try to keep the balance between the young members and older members,” says Gordon. As a smaller club, it has avoided the cliques that sometimes develop within larger clubs, Turner notes. “A trap that a lot of Rotary clubs come across is you tend to bond with the same group of people,” he says. “Here, because we’re a smaller club, you’re forced to talk to everybody. It’s about having a conversation, listening to what’s important to people.”
The club meets twice a month but has sometimes replaced a regular meeting with a fellowship session at different locations, such as an upscale pub with bowling. The club has often held social events at a hotel that, despite its location in Atlanta’s trendy Buckhead area, charged the club only $100 for its event space. And a joint meeting with the Atlanta Rotaract club is held every two months.
“It’s a less formal club and people really enjoy it. It’s a group of friends and we try to keep it that way,” says Gordon. “We’re spending a lot of time making sure that our members are happy and that they want to join in.”
— BRAD WEBBER
• This story originally appeared in the August 2020 issue of The Rotarian magazine.