Posted on Sep 21, 2022
Rotary District 5440 Governor Elect, Steve Sehnert, visited our club for our meeting of September 21 to bring us up to date on what is happening around the district as well as with Rotary International.  He started by acknowledging the presence at the meeting of a number of individuals who have been leaders both within our club and within the district. 
Much of the early part of his presentation focused on the wide geographic spread of the district (covering Wyoming, northern Colorado, eastern Idaho and the panhandle of Nebraska) and the challenges inherent in providing district guidance and service over such a wide area.  He pointed out that, over the last couple of years, instead of depending on the District Governor to make personal contact with each of the clubs, that responsibility has been divided up between the District Governor, the District Governor Elect, and the District Governor nominee.  This spreads the amount of travel required across three individuals and allows those individuals to become better acquainted with the various clubs and concentrate on the actual business of furthering the goals of the district. 
Mr. Sehnert then talked about the current status of service clubs, starting with the fact that service clubs in general have been struggling in an environment that seems to be focusing less and less on service.  Within that environment, Rotary needs to maintain the ability to accomplish its goals both within the local communities and around the world.  For District 5440, membership has been trending downward for the last four years, although the trajectory has been flattening more recently.  Our club, bucking this trend, has shown a significant increase in membership in the last year.  He pointed out that both recruiting and retention are important in maintaining the health of a club – reacting to the concerns voiced in an exit interview is too late.  He touted the benefits of new-member interviews, trying to identify what is important to the new member and how the club might effectively serve the new member’s needs. 
In contrast to membership trends, he was pleased to point out that the district’s contributions to The Rotary Foundation annual fund has been increasing, with the contributions from our club going way up, accounting for a significant part of the district’s increase. 
By way of illustrating the impact of Rotary world-wide, he summarized his experience with the effects of a Rotary grant in Zimbabwe, a country that experienced astronomical inflation and where the US dollar became the de-facto currency.  The Rotary project taught some 3,000 local women to run small businesses and to establish an informal banking system wherein small amounts of money could be loaned out to each other.  This enabled the establishment of small, profitable businesses which changed things completely, allowing, among other things, the sending of the children to school.  This is one example of literally thousands of similar projects – Rotary money being used well around the world. 
This transitioned to the ongoing fight against polio.  The goal for District 5440 contributions to this fight has been exceeded for at least the last three years.  However, no matter how successful the attainment of monetary goals, the disease has been extremely difficult to eradicate so that the decrease in focus caused by Covid has resulted in the number of cases increasing worldwide. He seemed to be somewhat discouraged by the lack of public recognition of Rotary’s contribution to this fight compared with the recognition received by the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization. 
He then spent a few minutes talking about the District’s goals for the immediate future.  These include leadership development, membership attraction and engagement, Rotary Foundation giving, increase our impact, and increase our ability to adapt and enhance participant engagement.  In the last area, he talked about a newly-established Technology Committee which has the objective of evaluating technology tools that would help us to become more effective, perhaps providing a cook-book of ideas.  These ideas should be made available through  the District 5440 website on line.  He also suggested that we might be able to enhance the perceived value of Rotary by recording our hours of work under the auspices of our clubs. 
In conclusion, he emphasized the benefits of attending the 2023 District Conference to be held in June 2023 in Estes Park and, looking forward, the 2024 District Conference will be held in May of that year in Steamboat. 
Questions & Answers: 
What actions have WHO taken with respect to the recent polio outbreaks?  Although he didn’t address that question directly, he did praise the WHO technical knowledge about polio as well as the Gates Foundation matching funds.  Bill Timpson added the additional comment that peace initiatives are important for work on polio since displacement of people, whether from violence or disasters, leads to breakdown in both health care and vaccination protocols. 
With respect to district grant money, how much is there and how well is it being spent? Although Mr. Sehnert didn’t have any specific data, he does think that most of it is being disbursed and used well.  There are typically two rounds of grants, one in December, the other in the Spring.  He pointed out the activities of both Robin Steele and Chuck Rutenberg in managing the grant process.  He also mentioned the Rotary District 5440 website and as a source of information on Rotary grants. 
Finally, Lloyd Thomas pointed out that RYLA has objectives similar to those expressed in the talk.  It would be beneficial for the clubs to focus on the connection between the clubs and the RYLA clubs to recognize the benefits of that interaction.