Posted by Pete Leenhouts on May 06, 2020

Did you know acquaintance is the heartbeat of any successful Rotary club? The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster the development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service. 

Rotary’s emphasis on acquaintance, when coupled with an individual and club focus on service, has led to an extraordinarily effective local and worldwide network of business, professional, and community leaders. Yet, acquaintance is, of itself, not the goal - but it is an important waystation on the path to effective action.

Rotarians recognized the importance of acquaintance and its relationship to effective action very early in the organization's existence. Although Rotary’s early focus was on fellowship and business networking, members soon incorporated the elements of service. In 1906, just a year after Rotary formed, an amendment was proposed to the new club’s bylaws, which stated "An organization that is wholly selfish cannot last long. If we, as a Rotary Club, expect to survive and grow, we must do some things to justify our existence. We must perform a civic service.” (from the book A Century of Service, by David C. Forward).      

Acquaintance tied to action has made Rotary the most successful alliance of its type in the world today.  Why?  The answer is simple: Effective networking. Effective networking is defined by how many business, professional, and community leaders get to know, and receive value from, an individual or organization.

Put another way, effective networking isn’t what is gained from the people the networker knows, it’s the result of the value the networker gives to those they get to know.  Look at our association, Rotary International.  Rotary International’s vision and leadership, and ability to network with UNICEF, WHO, the Centers of Disease Control, and world governments to eliminate polio is a value given to humanity that is unmatched in the annals of world humanitarian service. This extraordinary accomplishment was achieved by applying the effective networking principle of giving value instead of expecting to receive value.  But value it has received.  Do you think the Gates Foundation would have given the millions of dollars to Rotary for polio eradication had Rotary not given, and continues to give, to humanity?  Acquaintance is fundamental to who we are as Rotarians, to what we have accomplished - and to what we have yet to accomplish.

Effective Rotary clubs should be networks of business, professional, and community leaders, active or retired. Those networks, and the acquaintance upon which they’re built, contribute to Rotary’s effectiveness as an organization. So, should a person join a Rotary club to gain acquaintances and to network?  Absolutely!   Rotarians are intent upon “service above self” -  the networking value a person gains as a Rotarian is the result of the value they contribute to the organization. 

(parts of this article were suggested by and strongly influenced by the excellent article “Effective Networking – Rotary’s Heartbeat” by Rotarian Jim Henry, Rotary Zone 34).