What’s a meeting like?
Nothing too strange! A typical meeting is as follows. We start on Tuesdays at 12:15 pm. Not later. Not earlier. Our time is important, so we start on time. After a few formalities, we discuss any urgent matters. That out of the way, we begin lunch, when we typically hear a “pitch”, a talk about how someone could improve the world … if only we just gave them some of our money.
Perhaps the easiest way to describe the pitches is to compare them to those investment pitches that many people have seen on the popular television program called Shark Tank. There, the “dragons” (Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, and Mark Cuban) critique business ventures of entrepreneurs pitching for investment money. However, at our meetings, we are the dragons, and we don’t want to make any money. Rather, we want to give it away! And have a little fun doing so! In fact, that is our weak spot, we like to have a little fun. To give a few examples, recent pitches have been for a water production facility in a third world country, for a local theater company wishing to enrich the community, and for a local medical program for low-income women. Eventually, we vote on the better pitches. Voting "yes" means we will invest our own time to assist and monitor progress. Funded people and entities are often invited to come back and report on their progress.
The last example above was actually such a routine progress report about a program we had already funded. The speaker explained in passing that he had attended a wedding. We don’t pay people to go to weddings. Was he wasting our money? It turns out that his group helps give free health care to women that have no health insurance or alternatives. But, he also gives free advice. In a tear-jerking story, as a result of one visit, a distraught father who had come in to arrange an abortion for his girlfriend ended up having a huge change of heart. Not only did the mother decide to have the baby, but the couple decided to get married, and the couple invited the speaker to their wedding. The baby is very healthy. So our Rotary club is literally responsible for people's lives.
On the other hand, a lot of great projects don’t get funded. One can learn a lot watching us scrutinize a pitch/proposal. Sometimes we uncover a flaw in their plan. Other times, it might be management. Still other times, it might just not be something that particularly "grabs" us. Because of the amount we've given out, our reputation precedes us, so people with great ideas on how to help the world hunt us down in the hopes we give them the time of day, and allow them to make their pitch.
After the pitch is over, we often have another short talk. We also discuss issues of interest to local business leaders. Not because we have to or anything. It just comes up organically.