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Networking and Business Advertising in Rotary?

A recent post on LinkedIn asked the following question:


What would Rotary look like if they were to allow business advertising and networking. Would we grow in member size? Would we cease to be a service organization? Would we retain more members? Would the world look at us differently?

As with most LinkedIn discussions, the responses were varied, but the person who I believe went right to the heart of the question was Past RI President Cliff Dochterman, who said:
That is an interesting “what if” question — because there is nothing in the policies of Rotary which would prevent networking or advertising within one’s Club. Networking, if there were such a concept was the essence of the Rotary organization in 1905 — and it really has not changed. However, it seems that some Clubs have artifically put a barrier on promoting one’s business. Let’s not forget that Vocational Service is our second Avenue of Service! The very definition of Vocational Service in our Manual of Procedure is “It is the opportunity each Rotarian has to represent the dignity and value of his or her vocation to other club members…” Just read the “Declaration for Rotarians in Business and Professions.” There is no prohibition of mentioning a Rotarians business or profession at a Club Meeting — it is an historic part of Rotary.
A Rotarian should be aware that Rotarians neither seek nor grant to a fellow Rotarian a privilege or advantage not normally accorded others in a business or professional relationship. Just remember — business success and profit are not bad words in Rotary.

In a followup response to me he added:
It always amazes me how some of the myths develop in the world of Rotary. I’ve been to clubs where the mere mention of a business or profession is “subject to a fine.” How absurd. We wouldn’t be in Rotary if we didn’t have a profession or business — so why not take advantage of it. In our house we always ask, “What Rotarian sells that product or whom should be ask about some item we need.” We go to Rotarians because we believe that they live up to just a little higher standard and can be trusted for honesty and fair dealing. That’s the Rotary way. It is always great to walk into a hotel or restaurant and see a sign “Rotary Meets Here.” Somehow, it gives us just a little satisfaction. I’ve always said, “One benefit of Rotary is that you never have to buy insurance from a stranger!”

Thanks, President Cliff!