Caricature of Fred Collignon, by noted Berkeley artist, Stan Washburn

Caricature of Fred Collignon, by noted Berkeley artist, Stan Washburn

A Governor’s Year Goes Quickly,
but the Clubs of 5160 Leave Me in Awe

My thanks to all of you in District 5160; it’s been a fun-filled and productive year as your Governor. And I do mean thanks to ALL of you – Rotarians, Rotarian family members, Interactors, Rotaractors, Youth Exchange, our camps, our Rotary-supported college scholarship students, our Rotary-sponsored youth in Scouts and 4-H, Global and Peace Fellows, and the Friends of Rotary who come out and participate with us in our service projects and fundraisers and club events.  We may only have 3,500 Rotarians, but with our immediate family and youth, we are some 10,000 in this District — working to improve our communities at home and around the world. No small order, but we make a difference every single year.  I have so appreciated how big of a difference we make together.  Each club takes on so much more local and international service than I had anticipated. You are awesome as a group of clubs.

The year had to begin with a formal plan and smart goals, because that was the request from the Zone and RI during my years of training.  I posted those goals on the website long before the year began, and your poor club presidents got copies several times during their President-Elect training, and again during the mid-year reviews.  To my pleasant surprise, we achieved almost all the goals we set out to do.   Our youth groups and our clubs reported far better relationships and more integration of the youth into the life of the clubs.  We used the District Centennial, culminating in the District Conference, to remind each club of the great service it had done in its history, as well as what the District had achieved.   We celebrated the Rotary Foundation Centennial with reminders of the great things the Foundation has done, our imminent victory over polio, and the wonderful projects our clubs have pulled off using District and global grants at home and around the world.

The year included its challenges. We didn’t achieve all the goals – including improving our public relations work. But, we now have “infrastructure” in place that may have an impact by this time next year.  And we have a new word and concept; “branding,” which means RI is also serious about PR. We did improve communications with the newsletter, and my heartfelt thanks goes to Kathleen Franks, our District Newsletter Editor.  While our District Facebook postings bragged about each club, I wish there were more posted, and that more members “liked” the page.  Most important, although we put a huge emphasis from the start of the year on improving all clubs’ efforts to involve and retain members, and though the majority of clubs report modifying their internal practices this year, we will likely have another year in which we fail to grow our number of Rotarians. This, even as our youth programs and service continue to expand. And we had our surprises; including  RI’s clarification of its gun sales ban for fundraisers, and  the effort by our and other U.S. clubs to modify it.  And, my family won’t forget your Governor landing in a hospital for a week early in the year.

Our fundraising efforts were admirable. We again raised a lot of money for our Foundation projects in the District and a really big pot of money for Polio Plus, increased more by Bill Gates’ 2:1 match.    Our Virtual Reality thrust has captured the imagination and commitment of RI and the Rotary Foundation. It is getting huge attention at Atlanta, and provides Rotary the opportunity to transform how we educate the world about the work Rotary does, thereby creating a positive impact on our fundraising and membership outreach efforts.  Our clubs raised on average $4-$6 for their own club projects  for every dollar raised for the Foundation, and that funds yet more local and international service.

Your projects this year were admirable, as well.  You’ll hear about many of this year’s exciting projects at the Awards and Installation Banquet on July 8, and in the June newsletter.  A special shout-out should go to the Antioch club for their Empowerment of Young Women program; not only have all the schools in that area adopted it, but the State Board of Education has blessed it for consideration by school districts across the state.  But there are so many exciting new projects each year– the White Pony Express van, with its local food provision in its first year of full operation, the unbreakable soccer balls provided to school kids in Third World countries, our work creating new parks and revitalizing old ones, our health care international projects and so many more.  And meantime, we continue what for most clubs is their annual work –  training youth leaders of the next generation in doing service, fixing up and working with our local schools, our dictionary distribution, our Rotacare health clinics, our work with Food Banks, sponsoring cultural and community events to bring communities together, our support for veterans and refugees and our public safety officers, and so much more.

Our clubs have continued to work on the emphases of recent Governors and RI.  This was the third and final year of the plan for transitioning youth to Rotary that PDG Pam Gray initiated and  PDG Ken Courville continued. Incoming Governor Gary Vilhauer has already had our youth program leaders develop a new plan to sustain our progress.  The large share of our clubs report doing much more in celebrating the vocations of their members and increased mentoring of the youth they work with.  Most, though not yet all, our clubs now provide their clubs more protection again lawsuits and more protection of the youth they serve by having their Rotarian members undergo Youth Protection training and clearance. We also secured accidental injury insurance for all the youth in our programs whose names are sent in advance to the District.

We saw an increase in our clubs engaged in joint projects with other district clubs, both in local and international service.  Our organization of clubs by area has greatly facilitated that, and made it a lot easier for Rotarians to make friends across the boundary lines of towns and clubs. Very few of our clubs have not participated in a grant since Future Vision started, and we’ve rolled out a lot of procedures and resources to help clubs better design projects and create fundable proposals.  Most clubs may not have needed the help, but for those who do, the help has now been there for two years – they just have to make use of it. And our clubs join hands in membership and fundraising too – note the incredible Young Professionals Outreach Conference staged by the I-680 Area clubs, or the social media fundraising of our Interact clubs, or so many clubs funding their Interactors and Rotaractors to come to the District Conference and train together to reshape our future.  We learned this year that  few Rotarians choose to leave our clubs, those who need to move on often want to continue in Rotary. We’re trying to get our clubs to be more pro-active in helping them find new clubs or ways to sustain their Rotary involvement.

This continuity across Governors and District efforts will continue as Governor-Elect Gary takes over July 1.   We have a Young Professionals Outreach Committee and a Peace Committee which already have conducted some useful training in our assemblies and Conference, and have had other impacts in their first year of existence. Look for more good things from each of those.  Your Governor told each club that our country would need Rotary more than ever after the election, since we’re one of the few places that all people from all political and other perspectives can come together with a common goal of improving our communities.   Our Peace Committee wants to increase that dialogue across ideological, religious and political divisions. The new Public Relations or Branding Committee had a slow start (due to your Governor’s ineptness), but should become much more visible this next year.

I offer my humble thanks to all of you for what you’ve done.  And special thanks to all my club presidents, my great Assistant Governors, my District Conference Chair Pamela Jones, Program Chair Delores McNair and the whole Conference committee, my trainer Jon Dwyer, the District’s long time make-it-happen guru Vic Georgiou, my chief of staff Tina Akins, and the very patient and resourceful new Rotarian Joan Collignon.  And thanks to the Sgts-at-Arms and all the folks who do the work of District committees, and the many folks who simply step up when asked or when they simply see a need.  Gretchen Peralta and so many others, you’re a treasure.  It takes a lot of folks to make a club work, and the same holds true for a District.   It’s been a very busy, fun-filled ride as Governor because of all your work.

I am indeed a lucky man.


Fred Collignon

Almost-Past District Governor