Welcome to the midpoint of the Rotary year! President Ross spoke to the Club about the first six months, and the plans for the second six months.
President Ross called to order the first meeting of 2017, welcoming all members, and inviting them to silence their cell phones and inviting Jay Pugh to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ken Kimbrough spoke of being inspired by the Chinese proverb/curse “May you live in interesting times!” He ruminated on the positives of life in America and in Washington DC, and the good things that we sometimes forget as we worry about the future.
Secretary Alicia Fougere greeted our guests and visiting Rotarians:
  • Arnoldo Beltran visited us from the Rotary Club of Cochabamba in Bolivia
  • Kasey Corbett was a guest of Marilyn Cruz
  • Irma Ruiz was a guest of Max Salas
Marilyn Cruz announced the birthdays and anniversaries, found on our website.
  • May O’Brien announced the monthly Happy Hour on the 1st Thursday, where we will raise a glass to our new newly elected Directors! She also reminded us of the Movie Night next Thursday.
  • Nancy Riker spoke about the Duck Race, and encouraged members to use sites like Crowdrise to sell tickets to the Duck Race – she used it last year to great results!
  • Jennifer Hara reminded us to give to the Club’s Foundation – the fundraising drive is ending soon!
  • Erminia Scarcella announced that the dinners to raise funds for the earthquake victims in Italy were very successful, raising over $5000! In April we will be hosting members of the Appia Antigua Club; our Club sent a delegation to visit their club last year. Please join us in welcoming them in April.
In this first meeting of 2017, halfway through the Rotary year, Ross presented the State of Club update for the members. He began by inviting Mike Carmichael to update members about the Financial situation and progress.
Mike reported that the most important news today is we are in the black at the midpoint of the Rotary year, and we still have nearly $100,000 in emergency reserves (down from about $200,000 a couple of years ago, but still good).  A realistic budget, the dues increase, and better controls are working.   We are also working closely with the Duck Race committee to be sure there are no surprises there.
Of the members who have left in the past few months, eleven resigned or were terminated because of unpaid debt. None seem to be a result of the October dues increase since all involved debt incurred well before then.  They still owe a total over $10,000 which is old enough that our auditors may deduct that from last year’s income, increasing the FY2016 deficit.  There are a few more members who need to bring their accounts up to date, but the good news is we are aggressively working down our accounts receivable and our better adherence to bylaws procedures should prevent  building them up so high again. At one point they exceeded $60k.
Our outside auditor should have a report on last year by the end of this month.  They also prepare our annual 990 tax return for IRS and you will get a copy of that.
Moving our accounting in-house has had a few rough patches, but Sarah and Lynn have done an extraordinary job with the process.  I still think we can do the work in-house for about half of what we were paying an outside accountant.  
In the process of pulling together documents for the auditor we found gaps in our record-keeping, which required detective work to find and provide all the invoices and documentation that were needed.  Some were with us and some with the accountant and some fell through the cracks as we had three Club Administrators this past year. Sarah has restored better record-keeping to greatly cut down on the staff time needed next year.  Also, going through all of our electronic records for the accounting transition, we found a few members were not being charged all they owed and we are in the process of dealing with them now. 
Pretty soon we will have cleaned up all the old mistakes and will set about making our own new mistakes, like the invoice for this new quarter that said it was immediately overdue.  Hopefully new mistakes will not be big and not last long. 
If you have any questions about our processes ask Mike, and if you have any questions about your own account, ask Sarah.  And if you really want to understand anything complicated, ask Lynn.
Ross talked about the background of the financial issues, from the illness of Gene Massey during his term as Club Treasurer, to identifying there were issues and doing a deep dive to find them all, and dealing with the resignation of Gretchen as Executive Director. Mike, Lynn Holec and Sarah Elsamanoudi formed an ad hoc committee to identify and address these issues. A key part of the new Club roles was limiting the role Sarah fills as Club Administrator to Finance issues only. The Secretary and Sargent at Arms roles expanded to assume the additional tasks.
Ross reflected on the importance of teams – working together, but also having a broad base of skills that lets each member cover essential functions, rather than relying on single members to have the sole knowledge and responsibility for key functions.
 The essential focus of Ross’s year as Club President will be Financial Discipline and Governance. Financial Discipline means that if something is not in the budget, it will not be spent – and just because its in the budget doesn’t mean it must be spent either! It also means monitoring member debt and clearing a backlog of unpaid member dues.
Concerning Governance, Ross realized that the Board does not always follow established policy. Darren Crew is leading an effort to review the Minutes and policies to create a policy document book that will serve future Boards. Our Board also wasn’t following all the bylaws, and we need to identify which need to be enforced, and which need to be changed. As a Club, we need consistency in Governance and Financial management.
The Duck Race was thoroughly debated before it was given the green light, and Ross and the Board strongly support the Duck Race. With the initial expenditures from the first Duck Race not repeating, we look forward to a very successful fundraiser and event. Ross thanked Lisa McCurdy and the Duck Race Committee for all their hard work and encouraged members to give generously and get their friends involved!
As we get the basics sorted out, we also need to explore the big issues. With 104 years of history, we have a great club, and need to continually explore strategies to keep members involved, motivated, and proud to be Rotarians. However, even as we adapt to our members, our city and community, we need to maintain our principles. Some ideas and issues we need to explore include:
  • Our volunteer and grants programs: Brendan McGinnis (Chair International Services Committee,) Lynn Holec (Chair Community Services Grants), and Michael Harper (Chair Youth Programs) are reviewing the current programs to identify the return on our investment.
  • Focus of programs – do we want to focus on particular themes, on small or large grants, on one off or long term grant commitments, etc.
  • Frequency of meetings – the requirement for weekly meetings has been removed; as a club we should explore our options and make informed decisions.
  • Rule of 35 – continuing the program, the cost, the cap on number of members. Its been a very successful program, and many R35 members are very active on committees and in activities.
These and other issues will be raised at Town Hall Meetings, then the results of those discussions will go to a Board vote.
Ross wrapped up the meeting with the Raffle – won, once again, by own inspirational Ken Kimbrough! He won $35 from the small pot, and did not win the large pot of $401.
Stu handled the hospitality table, Bill Dent was our greeter, and Alicia Fougere prepared the Meeting in Review.
See you next week for the C-SPAN program! Members will have a chance to see the C-SPAN bus and take a tour inside before or after the meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 1.30pm.