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As Rotary International embarks on a new leg of their ongoing digital transformation journey, member engagement takes center stage
An organization based on people, relationships, and action, Rotary connects professionals with diverse perspectives who are committed to making the world a better place for all.
Each year, Rotary’s members contribute millions of dollars and volunteer hours to promote health, peace, and prosperity in communities across the globe. Through volunteering, Rotary’s 1.4 million members make lifelong friendships that transcend political, cultural, and generational boundaries and foster global understanding and respect.
Rotary is the driving force behind efforts to eradicate polio. With its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary has achieved a 99.9% reduction in polio, with less than 150 cases reported in 2020 compared with 350,000 a year three decades ago. To date, Rotary members have contributed $2.1 billion to protect more than 3 billion children from this paralyzing disease. With the infrastructure they helped create to end polio, they have built a lasting global health legacy that is now used to protect millions of people from other diseases — like COVID-19.
Creating an environment of peace is the cornerstone of Rotary’s imperative to make the world a better place for all, exhibited by their ongoing work to fight disease, provide clean water and sanitation, improve the health of mothers and children, support education, and to grow local economies.
These days, Rotary is upgrading its efforts to connect through an ongoing digital modernization initiative designed to add value to their members’ experiences through technology. The organization’s Chief Information Officer, Paul Haisman, leads the journey, which is designed not just to incorporate current technology into the organization, but to add value to their constituents through it.
“The three core reasons people join Rotary are to serve within the local community, to connect with others, and for professional leadership and development opportunities,” he said. “One of the main goals of Rotary is being committed to making the world a better place through lasting change, and that's really the driver of this journey.”
Haisman helms Rotary’s 179-person international IT team. While most of the engineering staff is located in Pune, India’s eighth largest city, approximately 60 IT admin, management, supervisory, and service desk infrastructure support team members work alongside him in Evanston.
The Journey Continues
Unlike many organizations that faced difficulties in shifting to remote work, Rotary was well prepared to face that consequence of the pandemic. With millions of participants and multiple independent, international clubs under their umbrella, remote operations are standard. “We were already prepared so it made that transition much easier,” Haisman admitted. “We’d already started a modernization journey with our infrastructure and that turned out to be a great decision.”
Increasing pressure from clubs and participants — Rotary’s preferred term for members and other engaged constituents — led the organization to embark on their technology trek some years ago as part of their growth imperative. “Technology is certainly a valuable tool to leverage especially if you're targeting the younger generations who expect to access general digital offerings,” Haisman said.
The digitization of club and district administration took place a few years ago and continues to evolve with new features and functionality every few weeks. “What we're seeing now is an increasing need to focus on more personal engagement, which is what many of our participants expect. Bringing more people in through engagement services that provide value to attract and grow membership is definitely a goal.”
Each year, the Rotary Foundation processes over $200 million in grants, so grant management is an important aspect of the digitization project. “There's a high volume of grants to be managed,” Haisman said. “That encompasses grant applications, grant approvals, and the distribution of funds, so there’s a big finance piece.”
Another significant financial concern is fundraising and donor management. Raise for Rotary supports digital fundraising campaigns that are led by their members, and another value add is the digitization around their Learning Management System, which is used extensively to provide leadership development opportunities for Rotary members.
In large measure, the digital transformation effort is propelled by the maturation of their product model. A key part of that is creating a product portfolio for a number of functional areas, including philanthropy, district club management, and donor management. Also, the introduction of dedicated product teams helps build expertise and internal knowledge through continuous improvement product release cycles.
“It's a very different model than what Rotary traditionally has done in the past, where we've had our business units make requests to IT,” he said. “From an IT perspective, resources and staff still report up into IT but are part of this dedicated product team, so it's more of a matrix structure within our organization.”
The project is still in the early stages, but work on the product portfolio is complete. “Our next step is defining the structure around those dedicated product teams and then working to bring our teams in alignment with the new product structure,” Haisman explained.
The partnership connection
Haisman, who took the reins as CIO this year, inherited Rotary’s ERP migration from PeopleSoft to Oracle Cloud. The process has been underway for quite some time, which may actually be beneficial to the organization, as one of the most common reasons for failed implementations is a lack of time to go through the extensive process. As it became clear that Oracle would eventually stop supporting PeopleSoft, upgrading their 20-year-old on prem ERP system gained importance.
Another driver of the migration was the need for a unified, integrated, global financial, and budgeting solution across all of Rotary’s international offices. “As a global organization we had several independent financial management systems that then had to be aggregated manually — you can imagine the amount of work that went into that — and we needed one that would scale and grow with us into the future,” he said.
Rotary partnered with Huron Consulting Group for assistance, and with that, Rotary went live with Oracle Cloud in July. “Getting to this point as a nonprofit is a huge accomplishment, and Huron was a big part of that success, helping us navigate through what we didn't know we needed to know for this to be successful.”
Haisman points to two main reasons for the feat. “No. 1, we had a partner to hold our hand through this process, which they're still doing as we settle into our stabilization. Securing the necessary talent up front is extremely important, and as our implementation partner Huron was part of that.”
Reason No. 2 was the support of Rotary’s General Secretary and executive management team, without whose backing would have made the project more difficult to execute. “Throughout this project, our culture embraced the newer technology, which I think is huge,” Haisman said. “Sometimes if you work with something for 20 years it's really hard to change, and change management was a big component of this success.”
Burwood Group also added behind-the-scenes consulting support for infrastructure modernization and migration to cloud. Said Haisman, “They have provided a tremendous amount of support modernizing our infrastructure and cloud migration.”
Part of Rotary’s tech progression is their development of a participant digital experience platform that provides their content administrators and digital marketing team with a self-managed content platform. They called on Rightpoint Consulting to provide consulting services for that aspect of the initiative.
Finding, hiring, and retaining IT staff in the current environment is extremely challenging, especially for nonprofits, who may lack the cachet and funding to attract the field’s best and brightest. To aid with their IT staffing, Rotary engaged global staffing leader Accion Labs, whose dedicated crew works as an extension of their international team. “Accion gives us the flexibility to make decisions about how we build our teams and to make sure that geographically they can work together on a daily basis.”
Haisman stressed that while some century-old organizations find it challenging to undertake a transformative technology journey that doesn’t have a clear endpoint, that's not the case with Rotary. Developing a definition of digital transformation in the context of Rotary’s needs and goals at the start of the project was an essential step that led to its current success and will keep it on track in the future. To help lead Rotary through their digital journey, they looked to SoftServe to provide expertise in assessing and developing a comprehensive digital strategy and roadmap. They continue to provide the support required at all levels to ensure overall success.
For Rotary, the key focus of the current transformation is improving participant experience, success, and value. “That’s a big shift from where we were previously focused on clubs and leadership,” Haisman concluded. “Now we are really focused on digital engagement at the participant level.” As a charitable nonprofit designed to connect and improve lives of people everywhere, Rotary has a century-deep understanding of engagement. After all, it’s been their journey all along.
Rotary is a membership organization that brings together people of action from all continents and cultures who deliver real, long-term solutions to the world’s most persistent issues.
The heart of Rotary is our clubs. In communities across the globe, Rotary members come together to strengthen their connections to friends and neighbors and their commitment to improving lives.
Rotary International is the association of Rotary’s 36,000 clubs worldwide and is comprised of a diverse global team of professionals who support the work of Rotary clubs and the operations of The Rotary Foundation.
The Rotary Foundation helps clubs work together to perform meaningful, impactful service.
Rotary’s top-rated, award-winning Foundation has spent more than $5.3 billion on life-changing, sustainable projects that help people in need around the world get clean water, medical care, literacy classes, and other essentials.
In addition to the headquarters office in Evanston, Ill., Rotary operates offices in New Delhi, Sydney, São Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo, Zurich – and a shared services/IT offshoring office in Pune.
Visit www.rotary.org to learn more.
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