Paul Miller, owner of Sampson Miller Advertising, Inc., describes his membership in the Rotary Club of Minneapolis as "networking in the old sense - building relationships with other professionals." Because Rotary exists for the purpose of community service, Miller says, "it's such a different feel" from groups he's attended where the primary purpose is making contacts.
"In Rotary, you're working on a project, and you get to know people better," Miller says. "It's a very different group of people. They're doing well enough that they want to give back to the community."
For Miller, getting involved in Rotary was about giving back in a very literal sense. He was a Rotary exchange student in high school, living in Denmark for a year. "It's an amazing program," he says. When he joined Rotary, he "jumped right away into the exchange program." In addition, he's worked on the Dictionary Project, which provides every third-grader in Minneapolis with a dictionary. Eventually, he hopes to have the time to devote to an international project, like the playground that Minneapolis Rotarians recently helped build in Ecuador.
Miller says the business benefits of Rotary didn't come overnight. "You build lifelong relationships, and the business you get out of it is the kind of business you want. People think of you and give you referrals, and the person you're dealing with is a company owner or partner. You take care of them, and they aren't going to say, `I can find that item online for 10 cents less,'" Miller says.
As a member of Gen X, Miller says, "I'm not sure my generation has the service drive" of either the Baby Boom or Gen Y. Still, he says, he's seen the membership of the Minneapolis Rotary getting younger in the eight years he's been a member. "I wonder if my generation had to get to a certain point before they were ready to give back," he says.
Doing something positive
Tom Bain, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Burnet, was the founding president of the new Camden Lions Club in north Minneapolis. Its activities have included sponsoring diabetes testing, providing glasses for kids in the neighborhood and raising money for scholarships. They started a young people's affiliate group, the Leo's, at a local high school. The club is also co-sponsoring a new Little League baseball field in Shingle Creek Park with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board and the Minnesota Twins.
"It's really good to meet the members on different levels," Bain says. He's been able to get to know other group members as well as with the recipients of the club's services. Although he describes himself as an "anti-networker" who never brings business cards to Lions events, he's had business transactions both with members of his own club and with people he's met while serving at pancake breakfasts and other club activities. But, he notes, the main reason for the Camden Lions, as with other service organizations, is "bringing people from different neighborhoods together to do something positive."