The State of the Club 2017

Remarks at the State of the Club meeting on January 6, 2017 from President Todd Johnson, LA5 secretary Rick Gibson, and President Elect Charisse Older

From where I sit, what I see is that our club needs to change with the times.  We have an amazing history.  We have every reason to be proud of what this club has been.  But there’s a quote that is often misattributed to Einstein that is nevertheless true and it basically says,

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result”

The time has come for radical change. 

Our club’s future is ours.  We have been given a great gift, a legacy to build upon. 

We have been taking steps to build on the legacy of our club and create a new future.  I have been very strong in trying to align the executive team to think in terms of a three and even five-year plan.  You all know that we have a new president every year.  But we need to get everyone on the same page if we are going to build our club. 

So you may ask yourself, “Why is this important?”  Well, it’s important because just outside the doors of this California club there are people who depend on us.  There are people who need, really need, our good service.  And, there is a city that needs our leadership.


"Our club’s future is ours.  We have been given a great gift, a legacy to build upon."


Look at the response to our Fast Five community grants.  That $73 thousand dollars really meant something to each of those organizations working in the homelessness arena.  Look at the success of the Angel City event that is driven by LA5 but has now become a district wide event.  Look at the excitement we generate and the hope we bring for all the students who receive our scholarships.  This club, our club has donated millions of dollars to our community through our history.  That is something to be very proud of.

Our year has been blessed with many terrific speakers starting with Mayor Garcetti and Fiona Ma.  Dr. Mulchaey was a surprise treat from Pasadena.  Our conversation on the 3 Faiths was filled with hope.  The Homelessness panel helped our club advance our understanding and commitment.  The Paul Harris Lunches were very successful this year.  And I already mentioned the Fast Five and the Angel City events. 

And the coming months have some great speakers already lined up including Gene Sykes with the LA2024 bid, Lee Zeidman who is CEO of Staples and LA Live.  A former Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Steven Galson, Howard Marks, the Founder and Chairman of Oaktree Capital,  Branden Chapman with the Recording Academy, largely in charge of all their productions including the GRAMMYS.  And finally we are in dialogue with our new Senator, Kamala Harris. 

Our club, your club, attracts this very high level speaker.  That is another thing to be very proud of.

But let’s talk about some of our challenges.  If we want to continue to operate our club the way we have been, then we have a significant need to increase our membership.  That may be tough to hear but you need to hear it.  In a nutshell, our club needs 350 members to be operating in the black and make an even bigger impact on our community.  We are currently sitting at about 270 members.  Otherwise, we have to raise money for club operations - which we do, in fact, need to do this year. 


"...just outside the doors of this California club there are people who depend on us.  There are people who need, really need, our good service.  And, there is a city that needs our leadership."


None of us joined this club to do that.  We all want our money to be going to good works.  However, without our infrastructure, for a club of our size and stature, we cannot have the same impact.  So I am going to be asking you all to participate in some kind of fundraiser to get our financial house back in order. 

Now there are a lot of details in our club’s budget.  BUT, we are not going to do a deep-dive into the budget today.  If you want to really understand how the club’s money is used – and believe me it is used wisely and judiciously – please know that every board meeting is open to you to attend.  And you are welcome to speak to anyone on the executive team as well as our Executive Director. 

It is important to note that a substantial part of the long-term solution to our budget challenges can be accomplished by bringing in new members.  This is the best and most efficient solution to help right the ship going forward.  And it is something that each of us can do – share the gift of Rotary with a friend, a colleague or a family member.

I would also like to insure that everyone understands that club operations and our Foundation operate independently of one another.  You should also all know that our Foundation is strong.  We have one of the largest foundations of any club in Rotary hovering at about $8 million dollars.  One of my goals is to align our club’s activities and our messaging with our Foundation’s amazing work.  If you don’t know what our Foundation does, you will be very impressed.

A great example of this is our Scholarship Fund.  That’s the one we all know about.  But do you all know about the Children’s Court?  Do you know about the water wells that JT Warring is building in Myanmar?  Did you know the foundation give us the seed money for the Fast Five? There are a number of things that many of you may not even know our foundation is doing.


"...without our infrastructure, for a club of our size and stature, we cannot have the same impact."


Our foundation, much like this club, has been built by years of leadership and the financial generosity of our members through annual donations, fundraising events or legacy grants.  I’d like to introduce the foundation board:

Jim Simmonds
Megan O’Rourke
Ken Chong
Dave Tomblin
Bruce Murdoch
Jose Vera
Russ Wittenberg
​And myself

These people have the awesome responsibility of managing this amazing foundation and I thank them for their work. 

Our club, the fifth oldest club in the world, is one of the only Rotary clubs that can really boast that we have a legacy built upon a three legged stool –

That is:

  1. Our History in this Community,
  2. Our Strength with our Foundation, and
  3. Our unique and powerful relationship to Rotary International. 

​Three distinctive pillars support the platform of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles and give it a distinct advantage. First, LA5 is uniquely associated with Rotary International. The club is not only one of the largest and most venerated clubs of the global organization, one of its distinguished past presidents currently serves as the chair of the Rotary Foundation. Secondly, LA5 has served the City of Los Angeles with distinction for over 100 years. Many of LA5’s most prominent citizens have been counted among its membership since 1909. The club continues to attract LA’s influential leaders who seek to strengthen and support the community. Finally, LA5 hosts an $8 million foundation, one of the largest in Rotary.

This platform gives LA5 the strength, reputation, character, and access it needs to be the leading service organization in Los Angeles.

A proven process is designed to demonstrate what consistently brings success to a certain organization. As we are a membership organization, our most important proven process is what it looks like when people become members, ideally stay members and ultimately develop into leaders of our club. This illustration outlines the LA5 process. Each stage of that process is accompanied by the tasks and activities that most often occur as well as topics that members should be educated on. Members will move through these stages as their own pace however with the support of past presidents, senior club leaders and our committee chairs. This visual is designed to help members at any stage understand where they can go next but equally important is that it gives prospective members better understanding of what it means to be an LA5 Rotarian.

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