Past President Mary Brady and President Ralph Sprague, Rotary Burlington North
Our biggest struggle at the beginning of the lock down due to COVID 19, was knowing how to run a meeting virtually. The Zoom application was new to most of us. Luckily, we had a member of our club whose company allowed her to use her account for personal reasons, and she was familiar with the technology. This allowed us to start offering our meeting virtually immediately. We soon realized that it was going to be a while before we were going to meet in person again - little did we know that this was not going to be for just a few months.
A big challenge was many of our members not being familiar with how to attend a meeting using audio and video. Many of our tech savvy members volunteered to do some one-on-one calls with them to get them up to speed. We are most proud of the fact that every one of our members are able to participate at our virtually meetings. All our members are now active online participants - even one who did not have email in the past.
At our first meetings, we did not have guest speakers, rather, we focused on regaining contact with our members and providing an opportunity to hear how everyone was doing. It was such a shock to everyone that it would be a while before we could meet in person again. We did an activity called Rose, Thorn, Bud – we asked each member to share with us: 1 Rose (something good that has happened), 1Thorn (what is really challenging for them right now) and 1 Bud (what are they looking forward to). This allowed us to find out how everyone was doing, and how we could help each other with some of the challenges.
Since March we have had several new members join our club and it has been a struggle for them to connect to everyone since many of them have never met in person. We strive to get new members onto a committee as soon as possible so that in smaller groups they have an opportunity to connect and build relationships. One of our newest members even made a suggestion so he could get to know more of the members. We have started doing breakout rooms at the beginning of every meeting so that we can replicate the smaller conversations that generally happen over breakfast. We put people into random break-out rooms so they have a chance to see and have conversations with different people each week. This has been really well received by our members and guests.
There have been some benefits to meeting online:
  • It has made it easier for our members and guests to attend our early morning meetings as they no longer have to drive to the meetings. This has also provided an increase in our attendance.
  • There has also been an increased savings to our members as we no longer pay for breakfast. It has provided past exchange students the opportunity to attend our meetings from their home countries.
  • It has been great to see how they are doing and get an update on what they have been up to since they were here on exchange. It has given us the opportunity to have presenters not previously available due to distance and time of our breakfast meetings.
  • The online meetings have allowed us to stay in touch with each other and to continue to carry on our business. Our members, however, miss seeing each other physically, some are on their own, we have informally stayed in contact and to ensure everyone is O.K.
  • Another positive advantage of virtual meetings is that we are now able to attend keynote speakers arranged by our District, other Rotary Districts, Rotary International or other organizations.
  • Online training is now more accessible and better quality than in the past.
As we continue to be affected by COVID, our Board of Directors are concerned that in this environment some members may unintentionally pull away or lose interest through lack of contact.  The Board has requested each of our committees to look for additional opportunities to do hands-on volunteer work. First, the community need is greater now than ever before, and , second it provides some of our members the opportunity to physically join others in providing support. Our Community Committee has looked to providing financial support to the organizations that are providing the much needed support in our community – making our donations stretch to reach the greatest amount of people.
This year has been difficult for fundraising, as many small businesses can no longer make donations as in the past, and some individuals do not have as much disposable income as before. Our Sergeant-at-Arms has initiated a Toonie surcharge to all members each week during Fines/Happy Bucks. We have also asked those members that are able to and want to participate, to donate the cost of breakfasts on a quarterly basis to our Rotary Burlington North Foundation. These two items are assisting with increasing our club funds for next year’s budget and this has helped us to build our foundation account to make up for some of the shortfall of our fundraisers. Foundation donations receive tax receipts which members would not normally receive when paying for their meals.
Moving forward we do not know what our club meetings will look like. We suspect that we will adopt some of the new things we are doing, possibly offering some of our meetings virtually, all we know is we cannot wait until we can all get together for a breakfast meeting in person.