If you want to go fast, says an old African proverb, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Members of Toastmasters International and Rotary International are going very far indeed, through an alliance that unites them in their shared goals and builds new ones. The two organizations formed a strategic alliance in 2019, enabling Toastmasters members “to make new connections, contribute more to communities, and potentially elevate clubs” while allowing Rotary members to develop new communication and leadership skills.
Toastmasters and Rotarians who’ve been working together on a local level say the alliance has taught them how much they have in common and how much they can teach each other.
Click play to hear the hosts of The Toastmasters Podcast speak with the author of this article, Kate McClare, DTM, about the collaboration between Toastmasters and Rotary.
Benefits to Both Groups
In Mauritius, Port Louis Toastmasters—the first Toastmasters club on the island—and Port Louis Rotary Club—the first Rotary one there—have collaborated on several events. Kavish Ramful, a Past President of Port Louis Toastmasters, says both groups benefit from their alliance: Toastmasters share tips on communication and leadership, while Rotarians offer opportunities to serve people in need. The two clubs worked together on a fundraiser for Safe Haven Halfway Home, a temporary shelter for homeless teenaged girls. Besides helping the cause, Ramful says the project helped him strengthen his impromptu speaking skills.
With joint projects like this, he says, “speaking in front of an audience becomes easier. We get the opportunity to speak in new settings other than our usual club settings. In a sense, we are given the opportunity to speak in the ‘real world’ and to finally be able to use those skills that we practiced for all this time.”
It has been gratifying to help Rotarians expand their skill set, Ramful adds. He notes that members of
the organization have a great need to help others. “Collaborating with Rotary helps us to fulfill this need to help others that is found in Toastmasters as well.”
Teaming Up in Peru
Toastmasters and Rotary clubs in Lima, Peru, had a similar vision. “We wanted to learn from one another respectfully and generously,” says Carlos Millones, DTM, a member of both Lima Toastmasters and the Rotary Club of Lima. Through attending each other’s club meetings, Toastmasters wanted to test their own training and leadership skills, while the Rotarians sought to enhance skills like project management. “Rotarians knew they had the people and the tools,” he says, “but it was helpful to give them the training in the use of the tools. Through the alliance, that could be done.”
The partnership had benefits beyond the members of the two clubs. They conducted a youth program in September 2020 with local children ages 10–12, loosely based on the Gavel Club concept for non-traditional Toastmasters groups. At weekly meetings, the young participants served in the various roles of a traditional Toastmasters meeting, from Toastmaster of the meeting to prepared speaker, evaluator, and timer. Members of the two clubs even organized a competition following the standards of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest.
“Collaborating with Rotary helps us to fulfill this need to help others that is found in Toastmasters as well.”—Kavish Ramful
“It was a great opportunity for the youth to see that the future depended to a great extent on how well they could express themselves,” Millones says, “and for the organizing team to see that there is much more value beyond the mere fact of giving speeches and facing audiences. It gave meaning, and it gave direction as to what we were here for.”
Even as a 30-year veteran of Toastmasters, Millones says he could still add to his communication and leadership skills, including time management, which he did when presenting strategies to Rotarians. “Working with people who were open to learning and eager to implement new things gave us the strength and commitment to prepare ourselves, even to the extent of chartering a new club [Structures College Toastmasters, chartered in May 2021], with members who are more aware of these chances to grow together as a result of the alliance.”
Working Together Around the World
There are other examples of Toastmasters-Rotary collaborations:
- Toastmasters in Australia presented at two Rotary district training workshops, breaking down what makes a speech dynamic and engaging.
- In Kenya, Rotary district leaders and their Toastmasters counterparts forged a plan to incorporate leaders and speakers from the other organization into their conferences and training programs.
- Leaders of a Rotary district in Nepal have established an alliance committee comprising members of both organizations. The committee has held joint webinars, some of which have attracted more than 3,000 participants.
The mutual advantages of a Toastmasters and Rotary alliance were irresistible to Laura Lobo. She’s a member of two Toastmasters clubs—Bemidji Area Club in Bemidji, Minnesota, and the Cass County Club in Fargo, North Dakota—as well as the Rotary Club of Park Rapids in Park Rapids, Minnesota.
“I joined [Rotary] largely because of the partnership,” says Lobo, who started working on a local alliance as part of a Level 5 project in the Innovative Planning path of the Pathways education program. She says more than 100 people expressed interest in participating. Organizers are working with Community Changemakers, a Facebook group formed to help Rotarians and Toastmasters connect and grow as leaders.
Lobo believes that Toastmasters and Rotary teaming up builds goodwill between the organizations and helps them reach the audiences they’ve been seeking on their own. She’s been promoting the alliance throughout her Toastmasters and Rotary Districts and encouraged clubs and Districts to “take a look and see how they can make this happen.”
In Lima, the alliance has energized members of both organizations. They want to bring the experience to more Toastmasters and Rotarians, to show them the value of sharing their skills with each other and in their communities.
Kate McClare, DTM is a professional copywriter and President of Miami Advanced Toastmasters Club in Miami, Florida. She gave her first Ice Breaker in 2011, shortly after joining Toastmasters.
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News from Toastmasters International