OUR PRESIDENTS SPEAK: Otto Prohaska, Sturbridge

Please tell us what factors helped you decide to join Rotary.

The reason for my being an excited and active Rotarian is that Rotary is a very effective and efficient organization with focus on local services as well as international ones. Our members’ hearts are in the right place and our goals are exactly where the needs are.
What helped me decide to join is the “four-way test,” which is a guiding reminder of how people, not just business people, need to live and work together.
On the practical side, one of my early contacts with Rotarians helped my decision to join. As an assistant professor with a joint appointment at the University of Technology in Vienna and at the Medical School of the University of Vienna, Austria, I developed a novel probe for brain research. The Rotary Clubs of Vienna, Austria, of Florence, Italy, of Toulouse, France, and of Athens, Greece awarded me for that development their “Leonardo da Vinci Price” for novelty, aesthetic, and creativity. Members of the four clubs met in the baroque Palais Schwarzenberg in Vienna and presented me with the award in the presence of the president of Austria. But most importantly, they allowed me to listen in when they spoke about their Rotary projects. That’s where I realized the power of Rotary, and the good which its members can do when working together locally and internationally!
Of your club’s activities, what do you consider the one thing that best identifies what your club is all about?
Our club is all about service, but it is not just one service we provide, and the services require different approaches and support by varied numbers of people. I, therefore, don’t see just one thing that best identifies what we are all about: it is the fellowship which strengthens and motivates us to help and support each other to better serve others in need.
 What is your club doing this year to attract new members?
Our Membership Committee has started to put new approaches into place, in part stimulated by the suggestions provided by the different membership support activities at the district level, in part based on our own experience. We are working on the integration of techniques, which are used in marketing and sales, and trying to adapt these techniques for our goal of attracting and retaining new members. We will be glad to share successes when we have some!
Do you have any advice to offer others in the district about how best to achieve a successful fundraiser?
We found that we are most successful in our fundraisers when we can look potential donors in the eye and can say with confidence that we are providing value to people in need, especially as we Rotarians can then multiply the impact of the donations through our organization or through collaboration with others to the benefit of the recipients.
We found it to be important to plan our fundraisers in detail, advertise them through all means possible, starting with word-of-mouth to printed materials, local radio, TV, press, and social media.
Most importantly, we are all aware of the support needed to make fundraisers successful and are ready to contribute as necessary.  A performance review after the event helps to make the next event even more successful.  
 Do you have any innovative plans for Rotary related publicity during your presidency?
As discussed above, we have a strong publicity teams which utilizes all advertisement tools. In addition, we have posters describing what Rotary International, The Rotary Foundation, and the Sturbridge Rotary are all about. We take these materials to all events and have handouts readily available. This helps in receiving donations and starting discussions about becoming a member of the organization.
As president, what’s your biggest concern for the coming year?
We traditionally have a large number of service projects, which we want to continue, and we have additional projects in the planning process. I am most concerned about our members getting burned out and I, therefore, want to make sure that we maintain a healthy balance between our service duties and our fellowship events.
 What’s the best book you’ve read in the past three years?
Die Vierzig Tage des Musa Dagh (The Forty Days of Musa Dagh,) by Austrian author Franz Werfel.
What’s your favorite quotation?
“To understand is to stand under, which is to look up to, which is a good way to understand.”  Corita Kent
 What’s your favorite restaurant in your community?
Fins ‘n Tales in Southbridge. 
What one thing would you most recommend as a “must see,” a “hidden treasure,” for visitors to your community?
Quinebaug Valley Council for the Arts and Humanities – The Arts Center in Southbridge. It is a “hidden treasure,” serving 25 towns in the area, providing art exhibitions (ranging from impressive local to well-known area artists in all mediums), classes. It is also the home of the Gateway Players, the Southbridge Historical Society, and the Southbridge Garden Club. Please visit www.qvcah.com for more information.
Otto Prohaska, president of Sturbridge Rotary, may be reached at otto@ottoconsulting.com. To learn more about Sturbridge Rotary, click here.