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Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

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Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

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Thursday, 7 January 2016

Part 4: Field Trips Play an Important Role in Rotary Program Scheduling

Let your imagination go wild. Why not?
 Written by Robyn T. Braley 

Field trips can play an important role in a club schedule. They provide an opportunity to “experience it firsthand” rather than just hearing about it from a speaker in a meeting.

As leaders, Rotarians are well versed about many aspects of their communities. Field trips to manufacturing plants, public infrastructural facilities, agricultural facilities, human service organizations, food processing plants or other destinations can provide background and understanding about important things you would not gain through a speaker or video alone.

Touring a not-for-profit center that has requested funding support can help to clarify their need. Visiting a drop-in shelter or food bank can be deeply disturbing and provide first hand knowledge about the issues they face.

Field Trip Purpose

  • To gain insight and knowledge
  • To experience processes and procedures
  • To provide unique fellowship opportunities

Field Trips require a lot of work to organize, promote and stage. If you have 3-4 per year, that is a lot. As a rule of thumb, if there is no value in visiting a site other than hearing a good presentation, then book the program for your club.

Variety Does It

Our club, the Calgary West Rotary Club, chartered a bus for a 1 hour trip to Olds College, a world-class educational institution. The field trip started with a joint luncheon with the Olds Rotary Club and a brief presentation by the College President.

The campus tour included demonstrations of how satellites connect their classrooms with research operations taking place in other parts of the world. They allowed us to sit in on an interactive class with students located in two different geographic regions linked by technology. Both groups were profiled on large screens as the lecturer answered student questions.

Our club visited the Stars Air Ambulance headquarters. We had no idea how sophisticated and encompassing the operation was or how big of an area it served.

We enjoyed a light lunch followed by a short overview of the service. Touring the call center manned by medical professionals, the aircraft dispatch center and other key functions of the service surprised most due to the scope of the operation.

I remember standing in the hanger as our guide provided a quick explanation of the key components inside one of the helicopters.  We wrapped things up by taking a photo of our President waving from the window as he sat in the pilot’s seat.

We were about to disperse when, as if on cue, an emergency call came in. The demeanor of the staff became very serious. We were asked to stand back while the aircraft was towed out of the hanger onto the tarmac ready for action. The emergency crew rushed to board the unit.

We watched as the engine fired up, the blades began to rotate, and the aircraft slowly rose into the air and speed off to provide lifesaving medical aide to someone who needed it. You can’t stage an ending like that.

Taste Testing is Popular 

My club recently booked a trip to Big Rock Brewery which markets locally brewed beer throughout Canada. The experience started with a great meal in their onsite restaurant.

The tour was fascinating. We learned about the intricacies of brewing from the importance of water choices to grain selection and storage. We were told why this product was different from that of Europe and other parts of the world.

The field trip turned out to be a winner. In fact, we were told it was one of the longest they had ever given due to the questions asked by the Rotarians.

There was a back story. The fact that I was involved in organizing the tour is now a club legend as I don’t drink alcoholic beverages. Field trips often provide unique fellowship opportunities and conversation starters.  

Field Trips Can Be Sobering 

Calgary Rotary Clubs partnered with the NHL Flames Foundation to partially fund The Rotary Flames House (RFH). The RFH is a hospice that serves families from Alberta who care for children 0-17 years old that live with a progressive life-threatening or life-limiting condition.

Rotary Flames House; Children's Hospice
It is located on the same property as our state-of-the art Southern Alberta Children’s Hospital. After a bag lunch and a short overview of the Hospice in a theatre in the hospital, we crossed the road ready for the tour. 

I remember standing with fellow Rotarians in the foyer of the hospice. As we listened to our guide it suddenly dawned on us that many of the kids that would come to stay at the hospice would probably never go home. The room became very quiet.

Use Your Connections

Connections with club members often result in developing a field trip that might not be available to the general public. A club Rotarian might be a board member, a senior executive or have another connection with the organization to be visited.

One of our members has done substantial work with various First Nations. He arranged a unique tour of the Tsuu t'ina reserve, which is adjacent to Calgary. We gained insight and understanding of the complexities of aboriginal concerns.   

We met in the council chambers where the symbolism of various features were explained. Then, we boarded a bus for a tour of areas not open to the public.  

Tsuu t'ina dancers participating in a Pow Wow
We did not have a demonstration of native dancing as shown in the photo, but we learned Tsuu tina dancers travel to different parts of North America and the world to participate in Pow Wows and various arts events.   

Our club visited a world class military museum. It was touching when one of our members pointed to a giant mural of fighting men to point out an image of his father who was a senior officer in the Canadian Army.

Field Trips and be Stressful

My first year as Chair of our Program Committee I noticed the Canadian Institute for the Blind was scheduled with no other information. The date had been booked by a Rotarian who wasn’t on our committee and didn’t know our protocols. The member was vacationing in another country and no one else seemed to know the details of the program.

That week an email arrived asking for confirmation about the impending field trip. FIELD TRIP?

A couple of quick calls were made to the CNIB. The Executive Director was very understanding and worked with us to organize a lunch. Some frantic emails went out to members who responded with a good attendance. What we learned was worth the effort – and last minute stress.

Field Trip Check List 

Field trips must be well organized. You may wish to assemble a team to ensure the overall experience will be the best it can be.
  • Clarify the reasons for the trip; who, what, where, when, why
  • Get all contact information from the host.
  • Organize club promotion, presale of fees, transportation (private or group).
  • Carify the roles of both the host organization and the club organizer. For example, will there be an appropriate number of guides for the tour?
  • Ensure there are hard copies of maps, parking information, and exact instructions about where to meet if visiting a large organization. Remember, Rotarians are Rotarians.  
  • Determine who will provide lunch, how much it will cost, when it will be available and where will it be eaten.
  • Agree on a schedule; arrival time, lunch time, presentation time, tour time, approximate finish time.
  • Arrange for the host provide a short overview or video to provide background for the tour.
  • Determine whether the facility is accessible for people with disabilities.
  • Provide information about company safety procedure’s or other requirements if visiting a lab, manufacturing or food processing plant or industrial site
  • Robyn Braley is a marketing specialist, keynote speaker and writer. He is also a Rotarian who is passionate about Building the Rotary Brand. Robyn has led two teams that received the Rotary International PR Award. He has also served as the PR Chair for District 5360. 

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