The Membership Experience with Lisa McCurdy

Lisa is a proud member of the Rotary Club of Washington.

In this episode we talk about some unique projects, community building and enhancing the membership experience.


Peter Tonge 0:20
Welcome to this episode of Talking Rotary. I’m Peter Tonge, and I’m a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg Charleswood.

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And I’m Mandy Kwasnica past president and also a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Charleswood. We are so happy you have joined us here and I are so excited for the new podcast and thankful to our many listeners. Let’s start Talking Rotary.

Peter Tonge 1:06
Hi, everyone, I’m Peter Tonge. Welcome to another episode of Talking Rotary. I’m here this morning with Lisa McCurdy, and Lisa is in Washington, DC. Lisa, how are you this morning?

Lisa McCurdy 1:18
I am well thank you. How are you?

Peter Tonge 1:21
Nice to see you. Um, Lisa, for our listeners around the world, maybe you can orient yourself and let them know where you are.

Lisa McCurdy 1:29
Absolutely, I am in the nation’s capital of the United States of America. That means I am just a few miles from the White House and the the Capitol Building and our judiciary etc. You know, the Supreme Court so I’m, I’m steps away from where all the action takes place.

Peter Tonge 1:53
Good for you. That’s been a very interesting place to be these days.

Lisa McCurdy 1:57
Oh, always, never a dull day.

Peter Tonge 2:01
There you go. Because you told me a little bit about your Rotary club.

Unknown Speaker 2:06
Absolutely. So I am a member of the Rotary Club of Washington, DC and it’s the first Rotary Club in our district, our district 7620. We represent the District of Columbia as well as central Maryland, there are about 62 I believe clubs in our Rotary district, and our club in particular, celebrates its 100 and 10th. Birthday, on the 11th of this month, so just a few days away. And our club also established a foundation in 1922. To be able to fund those good works not only those signature projects of our Rotary Club, but also good works of other local nonprofits that are delivering direct services to the community. So our foundation celebrates its 100th, its centennial this year on the 26th of July. So I’m super thrilled. We collaborate with other clubs around the world to launch and administer global projects. And locally, we distribute approximately $200,000 in local in grants to local nonprofit organizations so that all of the residents of the District of Columbia metropolitan area feel as though they can thrive in this world.

Peter Tonge 3:38
That’s amazing. Now, I think, for people outside of Washington, DC, is probably seen as a rich and vibrant area. But that’s not necessarily the case. Right?

Lisa McCurdy 3:51
That’s right. That’s not true for everyone. And so we want to make sure that those who might feel as though they’ve been forgotten or didn’t necessarily have all of the opportunities that some of the rest of us have, that we can bring some of those opportunities for to them, whether it’s through education, whether it’s returning citizens who want to now thrive. In this new environment, we focus a lot for frankly, on the environment, we actually plant trees for each and every in honor of each and every one of our weekly speakers. So 48 trees, in connection with the National Park Service to reforest the community. So there are a lot of things that we we like to do and continue to hope to do over the next 100 years to just make this community in this world a better place for each and every one of its residents.

Peter Tonge 4:55
I love that idea of planting a tree for your speaker when a bro One thing to do, that’s so much better than giving out a pen or something like that is

Lisa McCurdy 5:06
Exactly something sustainable. And actually, most recently, the National Park Service and I can share this link at some point with you has been able to help us to pinpoint via GPS, a tree for each speaker. So each speaker can receive the certificate, and they can pinpoint and identify the the tree that has been planted in their honor. So that that makes it a little bit more special, too, they can see how that tree thrives.

Peter Tonge 5:39
Absolutely, that’s terrific, a little bit like tracking your shoulder box that you’ve sent somewhere in the world. I think it’s a really terrific idea. And you and I were speaking a little bit earlier, and you mentioned, let me share this with you that one of the things that we love about Rotary is the fact that not only is it global, but it’s also very local. Tell me a little bit about that. And,

Lisa McCurdy 6:06
Sure, you know, that was one of the aspects about Rotary that I found very unique, I have been involved in many nonprofit organizations served on a variety of boards, but I love that the impact of Rotary is global, far reaching the most remote communities feel the impact of votaries work and but right around the corner, right in your own community, you can design projects that allow you to, you know, build community, right where you live. I also love the aspect of even when we support projects and implement projects around the globe. Rotary does not march in to the community and tell the community what it needs. We very much collaborate, we assess what the community needs and requires we ask those types of questions we draw the community in as partners on projects. And I think that’s why Rotary is so successful, because we are not saying we know better than you community, we’re here to support your needs. You tell us how we can be most supportive, and you know, what materials are best to be used that will inform sustainability and how we should communicate and collaborate with you. So that this is the best partnership in collaboration classical?

Peter Tonge 7:46
Absolutely. No. Do you have a local project that you’d like to talk about? Do you have a favorite that you’d like to share? Oh, sure.

Lisa McCurdy 7:55
Well, we have several actually. We give dictionaries to each and every third grader at in DC, District of Columbia, public and charter schools. And while you know, many of us are focused on electronics these days, and you know, online reading, you’d be surprised how inspiring inspired by a physical book a physical dictionary in particular, that has a wealth of information even beyond the meaning of words, how much that is treasured by a young person. And it just helps to, you know, continue their journey, their educational journey, their journey of learning, and when they take that book home, it helps you know, the entire family to continue its journey of education. We also and this is a project that we’ve launched in World War Two, so that emphasizes the age of art just a few years ago. And this is Walter Reed bingo. So our club each and every month, host bingo with the recovering wounded soldiers at Walter Reed military, hospital, and not just with the wounded soldiers, but also their families. So it’s an opportunity for the families to come together and have a little fun during a challenging time. And we have hosted that since World War Two and it just brings us so much fulfillment to see the joy on the faces of you know, the the youngest members of the family, you know, as well as of course the wounded soldiers themselves. So those are just a just to to touch on but we really love building community in so many different ways.

Peter Tonge 9:57
I love the idea of of the finger at Walter Reed. And for those that don’t know, Walter Reed is like one of the biggest military hospitals in the US, right?

Lisa McCurdy 10:08
That’s absolutely correct. Absolutely correct.

Peter Tonge 10:11
So I think I think that’s so neat. And again, it’s not, it’s not having a Rotary club meeting around around a table somewhere, you’re in the community with your reverie compatriots, and whenever I think that’s a fantastic project. So and and I also love the idea that is run for so long. beak, because it wasn’t like, Okay, we’ve taken care of the World War Two vets, we can move on and do something else. Right?

Lisa McCurdy 10:39
Absolutely, absolutely. You know, while we have those long standing sustainable projects, you know, we are, of course, open to new ideas, too. And so we love when we have new members that bringing new ideas and one thing that we recently wanted to focus on where, you know, when you have a club that’s been around for a while, the ages, the the, you know, kind of median age can start to creep up there. And we certainly wanted, you know, to ensure that our club remains active for the next, you know, 110 years. And so we have been, we’ve we’ve done a good job of encouraging and fostering relationships, encouraging our Rotaract Club members to become Rotarians whence they kind of graduate out of Rotaract. And as well as just younger members of the community, young professionals, young leaders, to become members of our club. And what we heard from them was, they’d like to be super engaged in the community. And we thought, well, you know, we support 3040 nonprofit organizations each year through our foundation, as I mentioned, through the grants, and those organizations have wonderful projects that are already underway. Let’s support those, let’s roll up our sleeves and jump in there and help to build a garden, for instance, at a local school that also educates the children on nutrition and environmental sustainability. Let’s, you know, feed the homeless, and we do so actually, in concert with Salvation Army, when a number of years ago, we help to purchase a van that travels around the District of Columbia identifies those individuals who are without, you know, inside lodging, so are homeless, and who might need a meal, and we assist with the distribution of those meals, as well. So just a variety of opportunities to actually engage with the community. We like writing the checks, we like that, you know, several generous Rotarians have allowed our foundation to thrive and allows us to distribute at such high numbers, you know, funds to fund local nonprofits, but we also like to roll up our sleeves and get involved in the community and really connect and help to support and establish and administer some of those projects as well.

Peter Tonge 13:30
Sounds like you found a really good balance between the two, exactly. Sort of, you know, supported an organization through a donation, but also the projects where you can get involved and be part of it. I think that’s, I think that’s what makes a vibrant Rotary Club.

Lisa McCurdy 13:48
That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And listening to your members. I mean, these ideas, you know, come from great, committed members of our community. And and so that that’s just a fantastic way to move forward and to sustain your club as well, to your point.

Peter Tonge 14:06
Now, one of the things that we talked about briefly is you’ve been using some new technology to reach other Rotarians as well. Tell me about that.

Lisa McCurdy 14:17
That’s right. It’s been about two years since an online platform was established called Clubhouse it’s audio only. So that makes it super unique and very convenient. It’s convenient because you don’t have to dress up to get on camera. Right, just clear out clear your invoice in the morning, drink little water, maybe have some hot tea or something and you’re ready to roll and so on clubhouse we’ve built a community of Rotarians and Rotaractors and frankly all of the members of the Rotary family from you know, former interact authors and You know, youth exchange, we want to bring in the entire group of, you know, members of the Rotary family. And we of course hope that they rejoin as as Rotarians. But we host conversations around Rotary topics every Saturday morning at 10am. Eastern on a variety of topics. We’ve spoken about how to attract and engage and retain members we’ve discussed, what are some of the most sustainable and fulfilling projects that individuals have hosted around the world. We do host a forum where those clubs that are looking for additional partners can come and share their project, the design of their project and encourage and collaborate for our new Rotary partners. And we have typically 4050 individuals from around the globe on these who participate in these conversations. So you know, every continent pretty much for the most part is are almost is represented every Saturday. And it’s just a wonderful way for Rotarians to come together in a different way. Zoom is great, of course, in person is fabulous. But if you can literally click on your phone, your iPhone or your Android and join a conversation, a meaningful conversation on a topic that resonates with Rotarians and rotaractors and other members of the Rotary family. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful way to connect. And we’ve actually hosted a few sessions they’re called rooms in our virtual clubhouse on what it means to be a Rotarian. And we have been able to connect some individuals who are not Rotarians to clubs and they’ve become Rotarian. So we’re also building the rotary community, because clubhouse is the platform for a variety of different topics and organizations. And we’ve been able to grow our numbers a little bit in Rotary. So that’s been really inspiring as well.

Peter Tonge 17:25
I think that’s great. I love when we make use of new technology to help go go Rotary and to do good work. So that’s an I, I love the idea that it’s simple. It’s a little while on a Saturday morning, as you say audio only can do it in your PJs and

Lisa McCurdy 17:46

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Lisa McCurdy 18:16
I’m going to share in just a few more topics that we have already hosted. We’ve discussed microcredit, we’ve discussed rotary and the environment. And, you know, programs that different clubs have hosted with rotaries newest area of focus. We dissected the avenues of service. We’ve discussed collaborations between for instance, Rotary and the UN and Rotary and the OAS Organization of American States. We’ve examined Rotary fellowships, we have shared our current projects. We’ve done a walkthrough of what it what rotary is, because we know that there are still some in the community who aren’t quite sure what Rotary does. And so we want to share those opportunities with them, too. So this is just a snapshot of the weekly rooms every weekly topics we’ve hosted for the last year and a half.

Peter Tonge 19:19
That’s great. I think it’s fantastic. If you could share that info with me. I will include it when we distribute the podcast because I think there’ll be some others, including myself that will be interested in joining and finding out with all of that.

Lisa McCurdy 19:32
Fantastic. That’d be wonderful.

Peter Tonge 19:34
I’m always up for meeting more Rotarians.

Lisa McCurdy
Let’s talk about Imagine Rotary, our theme this year under our first woman president of Rotary International, that’s very exciting to many of us. You know, imagine rotary is, I think really similar to a lot of aspects of rotary and that you can make rotary what you want to make of it for yourself, for your community, for your family. And, you know, imagine just thinking about all that you can design and create the many ways to serve through Rotary. There’s no one way to serve. There’s no one type of club. There’s no one platform. So just kind of the expansiveness of that theme really excites me, because I know that we’re going to have some really great and creative thinking around the theme, and designing wonderful projects and opportunities to just do even more good in the world.

Peter Tonge 20:51
Absolutely. I love the theme. As I told you, I had the pleasure of meeting getter for Jones yesterday, she was in my city as as part of a cross Canada tour. She’s also a Canadian, for those that don’t know. So as a Canadian, I’m very proud of that. And she decided to start her term by doing a tour across Canada. So she could, she could meet other Canadians. And she talked about exactly that theme of of being open about finding. These are my words, not hers, but it was kind of find your own way to do Rotary. Imagine what you can do whatever work you want to do whatever you want to take on we can, as Rotarians, we can find a way of making that happen. And I yeah, I think that’s, that’s a really amazing thing. I think she’s, I think she’s going to have a very impactful year, which I hope opens up the door for a whole lot of other people as well.

Lisa McCurdy 21:48
I agree, I agree, opening yourself up to new ideas as a leader, really, really is welcoming to, to the members welcoming to the members. And that’s how you retain members giving them voice giving them an opportunity to share their ideas, that does not mean that every single idea will be implemented, but just providing a platform for people to share and people to add a little bit of creativity to design, you know, their membership and their experience. We talked a lot about the membership experience. I think that is, you know, our way forward our way to growing and sustaining Rotary.

Peter Tonge 22:35
Absolutely. And I it’s so, I mean, we talked in Rotary for so long about membership, but I think you framed it in exactly the right way the membership experience.

Lisa McCurdy 22:46
Mm hmm. Exactly. From from, you know, and again, and our club, we think about these things a lot, we host retreats, leadership retreats, and we host several, you know, club assemblies to engage our members, because we don’t think that we know at all we need to hear from the members, and, you know, perspectives change as well. And so it’s just, you know, a great way to, we also avail ourselves of those surveys that that Rotary, that you can extract from those surveys for your membership, they’re already designed, why not use them, you don’t have to even establish them yourselves to get feedback from from your members and to really understand, you know, what they’re looking for and the type of experience from you know, courting members. So, designing the orientation, we call it a prospective member orientation, that describes more fully not only our club, but Rotary International in the opportunities for you know, Global Exchange, to that first period of time, three 618 months or so, where you have a new member and you have to ensure that you they become engaged and they feel welcomed, and they become involved and find their community within Rotary. And that adds the, what they call the stickiness of they remain members and then you know, your long standing members, you can’t forget them. I remember my year as rotary club presidents. So I was president of our club, the 2018 2019 Club year and then most recently, I was president of our clubs Foundation, the Rotary Foundation of Washington DC just finished that term 2021 to 2022. But during my club year, as I mentioned, we had encouraged a lot of nice, young, younger professionals and they were and have been And, you know, just really helping us to continue to thrive. But we have some very long standing members, and I wanted to honor their service as well. And if you know anything about Rotary, if your past leader, you’re always called back to serve in some capacity, whether it’s, you know, behind the scenes or right there and another leadership position. And so I established a past Presidents Council. So the President’s Council allows for those past presidents to share their wisdom with the incoming and the current president. And so it does not, of course, supersede that president’s decision making and judgment. But we find that you know, any challenges or opportunities have likely been visited by past presidents. So it’s just a nice sounding board for for our current and incoming presidents to be able to share and collaborate.

Peter Tonge 26:06
That’s an interesting idea. It’s almost like Rotary elders. It is community we call those rotary elders right that people either with the

Lisa McCurdy 26:19
Honour their service and ask for their wisdom, that’s exactly right. I love that idea. We might add that to the name.

Peter Tonge 26:27
I’m okay with that. It’s a natural concept here in an indigenous community. So I think that’s exactly what it is.

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Peter Tonge 27:10
I only have one standard question for the bad guys. And it’s this, you could be giving your time and your energy and your resources to lots of organizations and you have why Rotary?

Lisa McCurdy 27:22
And that’s an interesting question because I have more recently shed. Some other organizations that I feel very strongly about however, I feel quite frankly most strongly about rotary in it is, you know, the rotary model of impact. We’ve seen it over a decade. So over a century, we have seen how the Rotary Foundation, sustains and supports the community and members ideas for projects and just making this world a better place. And we know that Rotary has the resources and so I’ve always said you can have a great idea and a big heart and want to impact the community but frankly without resources you know, it’s going to remain an idea and not come to fruition so kind of the combination of great sustainable programs and projects and policies and procedures and resources. That’s why I am here and and a big proponent and a proud, big proponent of rotary and proud Rotarian, you know for life, we are indeed people of action. We get things done. Our impact is felt around the world and right next door.

Peter Tonge 28:50
Absolutely. Lisa, thanks for reading the Word.

Lisa McCurdy 28:55
I love to do it’s a great, my my favorite topic.

Peter Tonge 29:01
Thank you so much. I appreciate the conversation.

Lisa McCurdy 29:04
Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for inviting me, my pleasure.

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