Tuesday, October 30, 2007

External communication and networking for NGOs

Communication is necessary for every interaction, we communicate with each other all day through different means. Communication is necessary for working together since it offers us the opportunity to increase our audience, gain more knowledge and experience. Therefore Rotaract clubs need communication, and we need to improve it all the time. Communication and networking go together. Many of us might not pay attention to the word “networking” and find it useless; however it is something that we all do. Networking is the fact of establishing contacts, keeping contacts and using those contacts. This is a very important tool to improve the communication between NGO (Non Governmental Organization). However, some NGOs may have poor networking and this is the case of Rotaract morocco.
This paper aim to find solution in order to improve the external communication between NGOs and how to use those contacts in order to work more effectively and I will take the Rotaract Morocco as a case study. We have two kinds of communication: the communication inside NGOs or internal communication, and communication with other NGOs and funds or external communication. In this paper, I will be focusing more in the external communication between the different Rotaract clubs in Morocco. However, no matter what kind of communication we will address, all forms of communication networking is highly recommended and very important.
Before starting talking about ways of improving the communication, a brief overview about Rotaract is highly recommended.
Rotaract History
According to Rotary website, Rotaract is a Rotary-sponsored service club for young men and women ages 18 to 30 foster leadership and citizenship and want to make a difference. It is either community or university based, and they’re sponsored by a local Rotary club. This makes them true "partners in service" and key members of the family of Rotary. . It was founded in 1968 by Rotary International, an association of clubs made up of service-minded business and professional leaders. This clubs enable Rotaractors to grow personally and professionally, address community needs, and promote international understanding through friendship and service
As one of Rotary’s most significant and fastest-growing service programs, with more than 7,000 clubs in about 163 countries and geographical areas, Rotaract has become a worldwide phenomenon. The word Rotaract comes from a combination of the words “Rotary” and “Action”. The first club was chartered in 1968 at the University of North Carolina, USA. Today there are over 7,500 clubs in over 154 countries with an estimated membership of 170,000 young men and women worldwide. Rotaractors should be of good standing and reputation in their communities. Under the guidance of a Rotarian advisor, Rotaract clubs conduct formal meetings, usually every week, which feature speakers, tours of local businesses, cultural activities, discussions, and visits to other clubs. Each year, Rotaract clubs conduct at least one service project in each of three areas of service: vocational, community and international. In addition to their service agenda, Rotaract clubs also focus on professional development, organizing career-related programs to assist members and peers outside the club in making informed career choices. During the week of 13 March, Rotaractors join in a worldwide celebration of World Rotaract Week. This coincides with the date that the first Rotaract club was officially certified by Rotary International. In celebration of this week, Rotaractors plan and carry out service projects and local events to raise awareness about the club.
Many Rotaract service projects focus on issues of importance to young people such as AIDS, the environment, homelessness, urban peace, and drug abuse prevention. Often Rotaractors work in tandem with area Rotarians Projects and activities may include:
• Blood drives
• Benefit concerts
• Literacy campaigns
• AIDS education
• Environmental clean-up efforts
• Professional and vocational forums
Rotaractors may also
Assist in organizing Interact clubs or mentor Interactors
Participate in Rotary Youth Leadership Awards
Become Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholars or Group Study Exchange team members
Seek membership in their local Rotary club
Rotaract started expanding all over the world. Almost height years ago, the first Rotaract club in Morocco was created in Casablanca. After that, it started expanding all over Morocco and this is of course thanks to the Rotary club who helped in the creation of the first Rotaract Club in Morocco. The aim behind creating such organization in Morocco is to build a mutual understanding between the different Rotaract clubs in the world. This club introduced a new culture within the society, a culture where all of us should help each other in order to decrease the level of poverty and make from Morocco such a good place. Rotaract started expanding all over the world in order to break down the barriers and promote peace, and this is with the aim of changing the world to a better place and being the change that they want to see.
Rotaract of Al Akhawayn University has been operational since September 23, 2001. Today, the club gathers about twenty active members and volunteers who with their participation and projects follow the goals of Rotaract. Rotaract club AUI is part of a Rotary District 9010 which includes clubs from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco Members of the district frequently gather on multidistrict conferences thus informing and maintaining friendly connections and ties. Rotaract club offers young and ambitious people to recognize the needs of their community and to, through their own contribution in fulfilling those needs, develop and improve their knowledge and skills, as well as to build their high moral principles.
Message statement:
Every club has its own slogan, for the AUI Rotaract Club is
“We Lead the Way”
Our vision statement is: to be an outstanding service organization
Mission Statement: to improve our community
Identification of the problem
In Morocco, there are more than twelve Rotaract clubs operating and following the same path, but they suffer from one major problem: the external communication between the different clubs is very weak. This constitutes a huge obstacle because they don’t communicate and hence they are not aware of each other events and major activities. As the president of Rotaract club, I can claim that Rotaract clubs Morocco lack the external communication and there is no contact with their members. After more than four years within Rotaract clubs, we just met one time. We are not aware of what is going on outside our clubs and this constitutes a challenge for us. Actually, the Rotaract club Morocco needs to cooperate together and come up with project at the national scale, but since there is no contact between the members, this is almost impossible. It is true that the Rotaractors are encouraged to keep their contact information current and updates in order to facilitate the communication, but even though, the problem persists.
We are trying to overcome these weaknesses and make improvement in this area. By improving the external communication, the Rotaract clubs in Morocco can establish strong connections and broaden their network and thus increase exposure to opportunities. Rotaractors can accomplish more if they can reach out to Rotaractors.
Research question:
The big question is: How can we facilitate the external communication and through which means?

Target audience
Communication system enables the exchange of effective and efficient information. The external communication is the exchange of information which occurs between the organization and external parties such as community members, but in our case it is about the external communication between the different members of the Rotaract clubs in Morocco. However, the internal communication is an exchange of information which occurs within the organization itself. In today world, knowing who to communicate to, what, why, when and how is becoming vital.
Goals of the paper: 1. Develop and implement a communication strategy using technology to economically increase and improve both internal and external communication.2. Develop a robust public relations committee for internal and external marketing of Rotaract Clubs in Morocco.
Solutions and communication vehicles :
In general, every organization has its own method of communication. The most used methods of external communication are
- emails
- telephone calls
- fax
- letters
- blogsopt
In order to find solutions to this problem, Rotaract AUI took the initiative and called for a general assembly where all the representatives of the clubs should be present and discuss the problem. People from different clubs came to the meeting and suggested some solutions. We concluded that the Rotaract club Morocco should elect a national coordinator that should be in touch with all clubs keep every one informed about all the events and facilitate the communication.
The national coordinator must help in the management of all clubs over Morocco and come up with a national action plan. This person is very important since he or she might try to get in touch with all clubs and s/he the link between the Rotaract and rotary. Without a national coordinator, the effective of the clubs is negative and their output is very low. The national coordinator is also responsible for promoting the program, disseminating information among all Rotaract and sponsor rotary clubs
Besides that, Rotaract clubs of Morocco should design a media strategy in order to create visibility about their work among its members and public opinion. This is what Rotaract clubs of Morocco can do in order to implement this strategy:
Develop a website or blogspot: the use of blogs and website is becoming now very famous and everyone is tending to create their own space. Thanks to this new tool, Rotaract clubs can highlight their work on a global scale. However, having a website or a blogs requires some work. Someone should update it continuously in order to ensure that the information is fresh as possible. It is not professional to have a website or a blog with information that dates back to more than 5months, and this might create a bad impression on the people checking it out. After words, we decided within Rotaract Morocco that each club must create a blog, and then between all of us we will create the website for Rotaract morocco where we can link all our blogs. Only one club out of twelve is using a blog to share their information and events with us, and Rotaract AUI is the second club to create a blog. Websites can be expensive to maintain, that is why it requires a professional to do it, however a blogspot is easy to maintain and can be a substitute for a website. This is free service on the internet and requires no domain fee, additionally space can be unlimited. Another new phenomenon it is the use of facebook. Many Rotaract club over the word have their facebook, that is why I took the initiative to create a facebook group for the Rotaract club of AUI, and then for Morocco. But even with the use of all theses tools, people still inactive and they don’t use it effectively. People need to adopt this new culture and get used to it, however this will take time. The diffusion of technology in our country is still weak even if every one has access to it.
Design a newsletter: this is a good tool to inform the outside world about who we are and what we are doing, and why we are doing it and where we are doing and how well we are doing it. It should be the primary voice of the organization in order to create awareness. Rotaract Morocco used to have this newsletter where all members contribute on it, but since 4 years ago, they did not distribute anything. Rotaract Morocco should have a quarterly newsletter than can be electronic in order to save the printing costs and can be sent to everyone
Annual report: all clubs of Rotaract must produce an annual report that must be public. Actually all NGOs need to publish it. The annual report can be exchange between the different clubs and also sent to the relevant stakeholders.
Media relations: Rotaract clubs needs to get in touch with press in order to frontline their public relations. Writing to magazines, journals or website is very interesting. The use of posters, pamphlets and brochures is also essential point of marketing.
Special events and social gathering between the members: a gathering can be organized at least every 3 months. Besides the electronic ways of communication, there is no better than the interaction face to face, that’s why conference, seminars or social gathering is an important to build good network. Rotaract try to organize seminars just for its members and every club try to organize a weekend for Rotaract members where all Rotaractors meets in order to share their experiences and knowledge. Besides, we agreed that all representative of clubs should meet every three month in order to discuss the others cancers, and also in order to work in project at the national scale.
Using E-mails: creating a mailing list is primordial to communicate and keep in touch with each other. We should not wait for others to take actions, someone should take initiative till the other get used to it. By building a mailing list and mailing regularly, using e-mail and news group or website, every one will be updated and aware of others events. The Rotaract club thought about this, and we are using yahoo group in order to communicate. However, people are still not that used, and even with the presence of these methods, we find problems since not every one is cooperative and replying to the emails. Another method was the creating of two groups in facebook, one for Rotract AUI and the other for Rotract Morocco. But even though, not every one is active. We are trying to get everyone involved by starting a discussion, but unfortunately only few replied. As we can see, even with the presence of the different tools, the real problem is on the people mind. People must get used to this new ways of communication. We are in the digital age where the traditional ways of communication are not effective anymore and people must adapt to it. It is really hard to change people’s mind and this may led us to another topic. However the best thing that we can do is showing interest.
Use of Faxes: it is an expensive method and time consuming compared to the use of emails, but it can be highly recommended in some cases. Faxes can not be deleted, and the receiver is obliged to read it before it can be destroyed. Rotaract use already this way in order to inform others about a special event or issue or send official forms.
The use of sms’s : this is an effective and rapid method to keep everyone updated and to communicate fast. It is a very effective since all members have access to cell phones and the answer can be quick. However it can be sometimes cost effective because of the huge number of members.
Develop an ad: only one club out of twelve has an ad. As part of the project, I have created a spot for Rotaract AUI. This can be very effective visual information about Rotaract. It must be short and more than 10 minutes since people don’t have time. I will try to cover all the important projects within our club and send it to the different clubs additionally; it must be uploaded in “youtube” so every one can have access to it.
Data base: This data base is a vital way to improve the networking, and have the contact of all members available.
Word of mouth: this is the most traditional and powerful means of media and all the members should be involved in this. Everyone should be well informed to talk about a specific issue anytime anywhere.
The communication between the clubs must be two-way. Those are some of the methods that Rotaract clubs can apply for an effective external communication. Every method of communication has a different meaning but it is very effective. Those are the most important actions that the Rotaract Morocco must develop : Objective for 2007- 2008 :
- Create the Rotaract of Morocco website.
- All clubs must have blogs
- Add Rotaract advertiser in the website
- Create a data base
- Re-evaluate internal audit process
The use of finding of this project:
This project will distributed to the different Rotaract clubs over Morocco in order to use it as a reference. They are many strategies that can be implemented easily and used effectively, so it will be a good idea that every club get a copy of this project and use it as a guide for improving their external communication. It can be used also as reference to improve the communication between the organization and the community since those strategies is applicable for both cases.
Brief overview about the internal communication:
The internal communication between the members is very effective. Each week one hour meeting is held in the student activities office for our club, and it is the same case for the other clubs all over Morocco. An email is sent 24 hours before in order to communicate the timing and the place of the email. After the end of every meeting, a meeting minutes is sent to the members to keep them updated, remind them of their tasks, and inform the ones that were absent about the tasks. This effort is made in order to increase the communication and each one should be aware of its tasks and what they are supposed to do. In addition, e-mail is a primary form of communication. We created a facebook group in order to facilitate the flow of information, but unfortunately is not effective. Besides, as part of this project, I created a blog that allow board members to post comments/ requests/ questions and post document, and it is a new way to increase the availability of documents to all board members.
It is true that the Rotaract clubs in Morocco is facing several problems, but we have our strengths also. Our greatest asset is the dedicated, intelligent and talented members. Our members are enthusiastic, take initiative and work hard to accomplish the goals of the club. Communication has three parts: a sender, a message and a receiverwhen you want to communicate you will find that all three parts change from one situation to the other. Your work will improve when you are able to analyze your communication: think every time about who the sender is, what the message is, and who the receiver is.

Frank. J ( 2007). The NGO Network Alliance Project. Media Strategies for NGO sustainability. Retrieved September 19, 2007 from :

Fraser.P.S. (2001). The Practice of Public Relations. Pearson: New Jersey
Rotaract. Retrieved October 3, 2007 from: http://www.rotary.org/en/StudentsAndYouth/YouthPrograms/Rotaract/Pages/ridef ault.aspx