by John Borst, District 5550 Director of Communications

What should be done when a president-elect doesn’t appear on the club’s membership list, let alone the club’s executive positions?

Or how about a club president about which Rotary International appears to have no information?

Those are just two kinds of problems I have faced as the District 5550, Director of Communications.

Our District and most of the District’s clubs use the ClubRunner Content Management System (CMS) platform. The Clubrunner CMS has two distinct components. The first, what I call the front end, is what members and the public can see when they log on to the site. This is usually thought of as the “Home” page, the one associated with the site’s URL.

The second main component, what I call the back end, is the area where “members only” get access through the “login” feature. In ClubRunner, this is where each member can create a personal profile, access information on other club members, send out e-mails to club members, track attendance, or send out invoices, as well as other add on administrative features.

It is also the place where ClubRunner has built in a layer of security using a member classification system. For example each regular member has a security setting of 70. This permits them a minimum set of information such as seeing other members names, addresses, e-mail address, place of business and so forth.

A member who helps manage the home page, such as adding the name and topic of a forthcoming speaker, would be assigned a 60 security the level. A treasurer and a secretary would be a 50 and could send out invoices or record attendance levels. The president can do the same and more with a 40. The manager of the website has a 30 rating.

imageA somewhat similar system exists at the District level.

At the club level the President (40) and the website manager (30) are the only members who can change another member’s classification level.

The two examples at the start of this post occur when the club comes to the District for assistance. Neither situation should exist if the website manager or president know a little about how to manage the “back end”.

ClubRunner and Rotary International are also striving to build a system called “Data Integration”. For example when a club secretary enters a new member’s data on the club website, it also appears on the District site club list and is registered into Rotary International’s database at the same time. A new member would then be able to login into both the District site and RI’s “Rotary Central”.

In the first instance where a president-elect is missing from the club list, a District web manager can go in and add the member’s information on the Club data base which is accessed through the District website. This updates the Club’s website at the same time. Even though the District web-manager can tell the member his login name and if necessary provide a temporary password, the one thing he cannot change is the member’s classification or security level.

This makes no sense when everything else can be edited.

When I took this issue up with ClubRunner’s senior management staff, I learned that Club’s are extraordinarily protective of their websites and data.

In one case one club did not even want the District Governor or any District personnel to see their membership list and made such a request to ClubRunner. More recently in response to a Rotarian who did not even want his fellow club members to see his profile a new setting of 80 was created to permit individual members to hide their profile.

If neither is in violation of a Rotary rule or regulation, such requests, in my opinion, appear counter intuitive to both the Objects of Rotary and the Principles of the Four Way Test.

As it currently stands I was unable to change the president-elect’s status as he prepared to get up and running for the 2014-15 year. I had to direct him to the person in his club who was registered as a 30, the same person who was not keeping the list up to date in the first place. Both of us, of course, felt some frustration in not being able to complete the task.

From my perspective, if I am to be of assistance to the Clubs in the District, I believe ClubRunner should create a system which permits one District member to be of such assistance to the Clubs. If a club wished to opt out of such assistance they could have a setting within the club website to set such a parameter. The default should be set on opt-in-to-assistance.

I am left asking, “Is this really a violation of a club’s autonomy or of a Rotarian’s privacy or should it be viewed as an acceptable level of statistical management by Rotary International as delegated to the District Governor to oversee?”

This is especially true in the case of the second example, where RI appears to lack data on the Club’s executive. I discovered this when using the Rotary Location App on an iPad where RI had no name for a Club president. In fact there were three such clubs and these were the same three clubs which did not have “Data Integration” activated and had no website so activation had to be set at the R.I. website. After three years with no action and because I could see the president’s e-mail address and could reset the password, I took the liberty of attempting to login as the club president. RI had no record of the president’s e-mail so I could not login as I had hoped. Obviously, it was never provided using the regular mail to RI.

In discovering this situation I wrote to the three club-presidents involved and only one responded.

The day is fast approaching when paper will no longer be a medium of information exchange. Already, registration for many community activities, such as swimming lessons can only be done on-line. Eventually, the only way a new member to Rotary will be registered is also on-line.

It makes little sense to prevent the Director of Communication from assisting either a club member from changing a security level or the District Governor from ensuring all president’s are recorded with RI even going so far as to register the name with RI on his or her behalf.

As it stands now the question of where the line between the organization’s orderly collection, recording and sharing of data in an electronic format and the line of honouring and protecting a member’s privacy or a club’s desire to be independent of the District and RI, and both’s ability to distrupt the orderly collection and recording of data for the larger organization exists is not very clear.

It is at the very least, time we talked about it.