Allan Nichols gave us his Viewpoint tonight. He said:
'It’s my opportunity to give a viewpoint as the first one of the New Year, and Bill has given me special benefits of speaking for not more than 30 minutes.
'So where are we? COVID-19 has certainly been, not absolutely sure it has actually gone, but everything is still the same or is it? I believe that there has been quite a significant change in our society that will probably stay around, I hope, for quite a while. I think that there has been a change in the relationships of people on a social basis; people seem more realistic about their willingness to help and support friends, neighbours, and relatives, and there is no doubt that work patterns have probably changed forever. Let us hope it continues.
'I have been a member of this Club for probably 24 years and have seen many events, functions, and personalities that we have had in the Club over that time. In fact, if you look at the Club through my eyes, the 3 Fs are the most important side of the Rotary membership. That is fun, fellowship, and fundraising, which I define as the Community components of the Club. Although we have fellowship every week, unfortunately, I don’t believe it is quite the same as having fun. If you look at such events as our Wine and Cheese meetings, and this will change to Nibbles and Wine for the next meeting, they are a great way to meet, understand and relate with our members. Last week we had 2 members at our Wine and Cheese who had never been there before, and I know they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. But, other events being considered for the new year include such things as ‘Table for 8’ or similar, and these will certainly bring about a greater ability to understand and participate in our Club. These types of activities were very much part of our environment in days gone by. I believe that the greater emphasis on such activities will breathe fresh air into the club’s activities.
'Certainly for me one of the most enjoyable parts of my Rotary membership (dare I say this) has been the 500 cards group that meets every Wednesday evening. We have been operating for at least 13 years. We started with 16 members and apart from 2 deaths in our numbers we still have 14 original members and have really maintained an incredible amount of fun and laughter over that time.
'I guess I can be regarded as a ‘Grumpy old man’ but it is very important as a Rotary Club that we relate well to the community. This includes both relationships with the community and projects supporting aspects of the community. If we are going to provide financial support, let us be very clear about what that financial support can do and how we are going to raise the money. I would have to say that I haven’t agreed with a number of funding choices we have made and I guess that we can’t all be on the Board, but I believe it is important to understand the feelings of the Club before these decisions are made. Currently, although we have started with and will follow up this year with the golf tournament, it probably has limited income. The Book Fair is still in a reduced format for this year, and next year, who knows? We must remember that the average age of the Club is over 70 years and it is therefore critical that we really refine everything that we do to recognise this. I am afraid that I really doubt that we can attract a number of people in their 40s to join the Club. I would have to say that as a 40-year-old, I wouldn’t join a Club with people of this vintage.
'There is no doubt that Rotary membership is on the decline. Our membership numbers are now around 48, which is probably the lowest number for a long time, certainly around 68-70 was considered as a realistic number on the basis that we wanted to keep a similar format in our Club and maintain the social and community aspects at a managed level. Equally, all Clubs whether sporting or other community-based clubs are suffering similar declines. The other issue is that having managed to recruit people into an organisation, how do you keep them there and how do you manage to get them willing to really participate and take up leadership roles within the Club? These are ongoing issues and I am sure that they will be around for quite a while yet. Consider for a moment the fate of Jaycees, a Club formatted around young people (under 40 years old) which I felt to be formatted around fun, fellowship and fund raising together with a culture of training people for development in the work place. When I joined Howick Jaycees in 1975, we had 120 members; now they don’t exist. Probably one of the major differences that affected Jaycees and other organisations is the change in the age when people got married and had children. In my day, it was probably early 20s; now it’s probably early to late 30s. The result of this is that free time for parents is now probably quite different, together with the significant impact of both parents quite often now having equally senior roles in business.
'One of the other huge changes in our society over that time has been the ability to communicate with one another via ‘cell phones’ and the internet. Perhaps this has also been responsible for some, if not all, of these facts. The World Wide Web wasn’t created until 1990, and in 1991 there were a total of 1,193 users in the country. Today every person from the age they can open their eyes seems to have a cell phone and the ability to contact people on a 24-hour basis becomes a reality thatmight not be that good for all employees. The positives however are the ability to work from home and I am sure that will have a huge impact on organisations such as Rotary. It is likely that Zoom and other similar communication means will become much more attractive, even though I don’t enjoy them, together with a probable reduction in the number of ‘face to face’ meetings, maybe having them every 2 weeks. Possibly the norm might be a combination of the two formats as for example was started by the new club of KauKau a number of years ago.
'But I do also believe that the post COVID era might throw up some interesting new opportunities as people settle down and rethink their priorities. Demands on working time with so many working from home might change peoples desire to become involved. I believe that there is a more sincere wish for people to become involved with other groups whether young or old and possibly with a greater empathy for other people. I am sure that these thoughts, or others, might throw up some interesting opportunities for our Club.
'My viewpoint is that our Club will continue to be a strong community-based organisation but we must be prepared to recognise changes in our society and how we can benefit from those changes. We must review everything we do and how we do it, not be afraid to make changes and not be afraid of upsetting a few people on the way.
'And, from my perspective, ensure that everything we do strengthens the Club and very importantly – we have fun'.