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The History of Rotary eClubs


eClubs become permanent at the 2010 COL


It took a little over 5 years for Rotary to expand beyond the borders of America.

The Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Canada was the first non-American Rotary Club - April, 1912. (organized in 1910)


79 years later, in 1991, a group of computer users created the now famous, International Computer Users Fellowship of Rotarians (ICUFR) which could be said to be the forerunner of Rotary eClubs.


However, it was another 10 years before Rotary International made another great leap forward by resolving to charter Rotary Clubs that were based entirely on the internet. Authorised by the 2001 Council on Legislation, the 2001/02 Board of Directors agreed to implement a "cyber Rotary club" pilot project whereby up to 75 new clubs worldwide may operate online for a four-year trial period.


In view of the earlier COL directive, a group of Rotarians, from Colorado, U.S.A., created history by forming the first Rotary eClub which received its Charter on 4 January 2002. (15 months after the creation of RGHF) The Club was chartered as "Rotary eClub One of District 5450" and fondly referred to as "Rotary eClub One", consistent with the Rotary Club of Chicago, the world’s first Rotary club, being known by the nickname “ROTARY/One”.


At left Charter President of the world's first Rotary eClub, John Minter, chairs a Board meeting online in 2003.


The Board of RI laid out the goals for Rotary eClub One as:


·        Use the Internet to retain Rotarians who would otherwise be lost to Rotary

·        Use the Internet to attract new Rotarians

·        Use the Internet to facilitate meetings

·        Use the Internet to manage service projects

·        Use the Internet for fellowship by creating a friendly community of like-minded Rotarians


The second Rotary eClub was chartered in September 2004 as "Rotary eClub of District 7150 NY1" and soon after, the "Rotary eClub of District 7890" was chartered. In 2008, a member of the 7150 eClub became Governor of District 7150, making Marlene Brown the first eClub member to be a DG.


In 2004, the Board of RI agreed to allow a total of 14 Rotary eClubs to be chartered as a proof-of-concept trial. By this time, the idea of a trial sample size of 75 Rotary eClubs was deemed to be unmanageable. It was decided that 14 was a sufficient number to allow Rotary International to evaluate the effectiveness of Rotary eClubs, and no further charters would be issued.


In 2004, the Board of Rotary eClub One submitted a proposal to the Board of RI recommending that the descriptor “cyber club” be abandoned in favor of “eClub”. The proposal was based on the premise that Rotary, as an international NGO, should follow the established naming protocol of the United Nations … eGovernment, eTrade, eCommerce, eBanking, eHealth etc. The Board of RI endorsed this proposal and issued a directive that online Rotary clubs must no longer be referred to as “cyber-clubs”. Additionally, the Board of RI directed that the word “eClub” must always be preceded with the word “Rotary”.


By 2004, the RI Council on Legislation (COL) had adopted the 30 minute online make-up credit which required visiting Rotarians to spend a minimum of 30 minutes per make-up visit reading articles, viewing videos and participating in eDiscussions via a Rotary eClub, in order to obtain make-ups credits for occasions when they were unable to attend their own traditional Rotary club.


This COL decision enabled Rotarians everywhere to maintain their attendance obligations when unable to attend a meeting of their traditional Rotary club, while simultaneously fostering enhanced international friendship and understanding.


The COL decision also gave Rotary eClubs an income stream by inviting visitors to make a non-mandatory donation of the equivalent of the cost of a meal at a traditional Rotary club meeting.


Rotary eClubs operate under the full Constitutional requirements of Rotary International with all the Avenues of Service that traditional clubs provide.


They support community, vocational, and international service projects, hold regular eMeetings of their members, organize RYLA, Advanced RYLA, host student exchange programs and participate in all other aspects of Rotary.


Rotary eClubs are just like traditional Rotary clubs, but with some very specific differences -


1. Face to face meetings at a physical meeting place are infrequent (e.g. Rotary eClub of Singapore once a month; Rotary eClub One once a year). Some Rotary eClubs use web-cams during their meetings to create an online face-to-face presence.


2. Permanent membership is not large – for example, Rotary eClub One has 43 members, but averages 12,000 visitors to their website each month, with approximately 7,500 of these visitors claiming a makeup credit.

3. Rotary eClub One created history when its second President, Chris Joscelyne, presided over the Colorado-based Rotary eClub One from his desk in Sydney, Australia, demonstrating the ability of a Rotary club to meet, operate and undertake effective service projects, using Internet technologies as the primary enabler, no matter where members are located. In another example of the internationalism of Rotary eClubs, the 2008-2009 President of Rotary eClub of London Centenary, UK, resides in the Chicago area of USA.

The President of the first Rotary club (Rotary Club of Chicago/"ROTARY/One", Robb Knuepfer left) and the President of the first online Rotary club (Rotary eClub One, Chris Joscelyne) shared the podium at a historic Rotary meeting in the Cathedral Hall, University Club of Chicago, during Rotary's centenary year on 21 June, 2005.

4. Rotary eClubs generally have user-friendly and regularly updated websites. Content is continually refreshed to meet the needs of members and visitors.


5. Rotary eClubs offer access to forums where members and visitors can comment on a wide range of issues and discuss Rotary subjects of common interest.


6. Most Rotary eClubs offer their members a secure “members only” online clubhouse where members’ privacy can be respected and protected.


7. Some Rotary eClubs require a minimum of 12 hours service per quarter per member.


8. Voice over IP (VoIP) and online collaboration software is used for effective online communications between members to ensure efficient management of each Rotary eClub, its service projects and its fellowship activities.


The first 4-year trial of Rotary eClubs met with such success that the evaluation trial period was extended for a further 4 years requiring a final COL decision in 2010 when delegates will vote to retain or abandon Rotary eClubs as legitimate Rotary clubs.


While there was some initial dissent to the proposed creation of Rotary eClubs, the final decision at the 2010 COL will be based largely on the following factors:


·        that Rotary eClubs are committed to the Avenues of Service, The Rotary Foundation and to their Rotary District, just like any traditional Rotary club

·        greater awareness of Rotary activities in other countries;

·        increase knowledge of Rotary via the Internet;

·        improve international understanding through Internet outreach;

·        encourage international co-operation among Rotarians no matter where they live;

·        provide a productive service channel for Rotarians who cannot attend traditional Rotary clubs;

·        retain Rotarians who would otherwise be lost to Rotary due to work commitments, travel demands or health issues

eClubs become permanent at the 2010 COL


The first non-American Rotary eClub was also the first non-English language Rotary eClub based in Brazil.


Following is a list of all Rotary eClubs operational at the time of preparing this brief history. Slowly, short histories of each club will be created.


At the time of preparing this brief history, the active eClubs found are:

Rotary eClub One - Colorado, U.S.A. D5450 (2002)

Rotary eClub Distrito 4500, Brazil (2003)    (POR)

Rotary eClub NY1, D7150, New York, U.S.A. (2004)

Rotary eClub District 7890, Connecticut, U.S.A. (2004)

Rotary eClub of The Southwest USA, D5510 (2004)

Rotary eClub of 3310, Singapore (2004)

Rotary eClub of Southeast U.S.A. and Caribbean D5510, USA (2004)

Rotary eClub of Verkkkorotary.fi, Finland (2004) (SU & EN)

Rotary eClub Zante Hellas District 2470, Greece (2005) (HE & EN)

Rotary eClub London Centenary, U.K. (2006)

Rotary eClub of District 3450, Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia (2006)

Rotary eClub of Taiwan (2006)   (CH)

Rotary eClub of Latinoamérica, Mexico (27 Jan, 2005) (ESP)


The Board of RI received a consolidated numeric performance report as at 30 December 2007. The data in that report showed the combined achievements of all Rotary eClubs for the period since their charter dates.


Here are the combined statistics for the 14 Rotary eClubs as at 30 December 2007:

281 membership total


54,743 hours of service since charter

344 Community Service Projects

74 International Service Projects

45 Vocational Service Projects

56 Youth Service Projects

21 Matching Grants organized or supported

113 Paul Harris Fellows

33 Multiple Paul Harris Fellows

13 Benefactors

Rotary eClubs are comprised of real living, breathing, working Rotarians doing real Rotary projects, while using the Internet as a tool to manage their clubs, manage projects and share fellowship with like-minded Rotarians. Use of the word "virtual" in the Rotary context is deemed to be negative, because Rotary works in the real world, not in the virtual world. Rotary eClubs are truly part of the real world of Rotary International.

After the COL in 2010 it is hoped that this list will inevitably grow. Meanwhile, our intention is to list the 14 Rotary eClubs which have been instrumental in forging this new style of Rotary club at the beginning of the 21st Century.


Source - Rotary eClubs Pilot Project (not verified by RGHF)

Posted by Greg Barlow, Malaysia in 2008
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