Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

A Tale of Two EcoClubs

A Tale of Two EcoClubs   

by Steve Solbrack, Twin Cities Rotary EcoClub, Rotary District 5950 New Club Development Chair, ESRAG Board Nominee, and Dick Stevens, Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club, co-founder and PDG 5340 

Twin Cities Rotary EcoClub Charters in Rotary District 5950 in Minnesota, USA

Steve is thrilled to announce the Twin Cities Rotary EcoClub was chartered by Rotary International (RI) in February 2019 with 25 members. The EcoClub is a non-traditional Rotary club formed to attract a segment of the population not currently served by traditional Rotary clubs, with a focus on creating a different experience to attract a different demographic. The EcoClub chartered with demographics of 48% female, 44% under age 40, 32% under age 30, and average age of 42. These are demographics almost unheard of in service organizations in North America.

EcoClub membership is an opportunity to build new relationships, develop leadership skills and be part of the larger Rotary world, all with a focus on environmental sustainability. Charter members of the club are establishing their own unique culture and norms that fit the interests of the members. The club engages members in service, fellowship and networking. The EcoClub meets in-person two weekday evenings a month. Meals and beverages are optional, so the cost of membership is significantly less than a traditional club.

Steve served as District 5950 Membership Chair for the three years ended June 30, 2018 and recognized the importance of forming new non-traditional Rotary clubs to attract more younger adults under age 40 and more females to join Rotary. Forming the new club began in earnest in April 2018 with an information meeting held at The Nature Conservancy office in Minneapolis. Over 50 people attended, including 15 supporting Rotarians, and 9 of the attendees eventually joined the new club. The 35 prospective members included 25 young adults under age 40. Even with this exciting start, it still took another ten months to grow membership and charter the club.

Social media was an important tool in the growth and success of the club. Jordann Hartzheim and Austin Campbell, young adults under age 30, created and managed the Facebook page and a Meetup group. The Facebook page has over 170 followers and the Meetup group has over 170 members.  At least 9 of the charter members came directly from the social media efforts. Fourteen of the members have previous Rotary connections.

Beyond promotion and recruitment efforts, relationship-building has been essential in the success of starting the new club. Steve initiated over 15 one-to-one meetings with prospective members as the club was being developed. These conversations were important for recruiting new members, identifying club leaders, and better understanding what new members wanted out of their Rotary experience. Many of the young adults told me they were excited about the leadership development opportunities and were very interested in learning from and being in relationship with club members over age 40. The members over age 40 were excited about the opportunity to be mentors for the young adults. The initial club leadership team of six charter members was elected in September 2018 and includes five females and five young adults under age 40.

The club has consistently enjoyed both social and recreational activities and meaningful service projects: tree planting along the Mississippi River, snow-shoeing on cold Minnesota winter day, a sunny gathering on an apartment building rooftop terrace, and more. It really is a fun, energetic group that Steve thoroughly enjoys being with. In fact, the group was so vibrant, that after 27 years in a traditional Rotary club, Steve joined the new EcoClub. More information about the club and their activities are available in a RI Membership Development podcast featuring Emily Spott, EcoClub president, Jordann Hartzheim, EcoClub membership chair, and Steve, and their Facebook page.  Parts of this article have also  been published in the Rotary Voices Service blog. Steve Solbrack is also eager to talk with others in Rotary who want to pursue non-traditional clubs or share experiences around environmental sustainability. Contact him directly at Steve(at)Solbrack (dot) com.

From a strategy perspective, Tom Thorfinnson, Chief Strategy Officer for Rotary International. strongly encourage Rotary leaders to consider the formation of cause based clubs such as eco clubs.   "Without question our emphasis today and tomorrow under the new plan of action is strongly focus on engagement and a cause based club in grounded in that approach providing directly to its members opportunities to engage in dialogue and service around a cause they believe in!  Well done to the Twin Cities Eco Rotary club and the Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club!"

Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club Focuses on Protecting our Planet's Health

Dick is a co-founder of one of two clubs in California that focus on sustainability and climate change. He started the club in 2013 at the end of his term as DG of D 5340. In retrospect, he would advise to start with at least five active Rotarians as part of the 20 members required to charter.  Building a green Rotary culture was more difficult than he thought it would be and only four from the original charter members remain active in the club. Though not a charter member because of his DG role, Dick has been active from the beginning.

The club has had several starts and stops as its members have evolved their identity and learned how to operate on an ongoing basis. Past president, Niels, and President Dave, have done a good job reaching out to the green community here in North County. President Dave, has a web site, the San Diego Climate Action Network, a weekly calendar of climate related events in San Diego, including Solana Beach Eco Rotary Club's events that has helped attract new members. Niels has made it his mission to become active in all manner of climate action groups. The club now has 18 dues paying members.

Twice a month the evening meeting at the local Montessori school includes a light catered dinner with wine, a social meeting at a local restaurant once a month and a field trip to one of our speakers places of business the 4th week of the month. The focus with both speakers and field trips all revolve around protecting our planet's health.

Annual dues are $300 a year and the meeting fee is $10; members under 30 enjoy a reduced fee of $150. We usually have about 15 members and guest at our club meeting. The club is building membership through its members' active involvement with the local green community and Dave's newsletter. The club is gender balanced at 50/50, and age-wise members range from early 30's to almost octogenarian. The club easily met its tree planting goal with at least 3 planted for each member. Amalee, the new community service chair excels at finding work projects that fit our mission.

Dick thought it would be easy to get this far but that has been far from the case. The good news for Rotary is that they have kept at it, setting an example of service and leadership for others. To learn about other Eco Clubs,  check out the Duluth Superior Eco Rotary Club, chartered in 2008, and see this article in the Rotarian Magazine about the Rotary Club of Morro Bay Sunset, originally chartered in 2011 as the Rotary Club of Morro Bay Eco.