Why Rotary International Has Provided Four Billion In Grants To Date:
Interview with Rotary Club President Martin Mongiello

Be sure to link up with Rotarians as we have 46,000 clubs on earth, 1.4 million members, handed out $160 million per year recently, are 100 out of 100 ranked on CharityNavigator, and have a four-star ranking.

Martin Mongiello

Martin Mongiello

Martin Mongiello holds two Master’s degrees because he views himself as a real “Learn it All.” As a polymath, Marti has been to the North Pole, was a nuclear submariner for over 20 years, became a White House Chef and Manager of the Camp David Resort and Conference Center, rode white Arabian horses in the desert as well as camels and served in the jungle of the DMZ in Korea to the sands of Arabia in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He makes over ten kinds of creme brulee and does an awesome Bill Clinton accent. As the President of the Rotary Club of Global Impact, having lived in Europe and Asia for over five years helps global deals work and jump hurdles few may be experienced enough with. Marti has a Rolodex from the White House to Buckingham Place and beyond that just won’t quit bringing integrity to the workplace, ethics, and fairness. As the Chairperson of the Board for the United States Presidential Service Center – he guides their global investment portfolio as part of a $1.6 billion dollar program with Kiva.



Read the Interview Transcript

Hugh Ballou: Greetings, this is Hugh Ballou. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. We have had 304 amazing guests over those years doing this. We have never had a guest like we have today. I have said that before, but today, I don’t think I have ever interviewed a presidential executive chef before. We might slip in some things about food, but we are going to talk about- Hmm, Marty, what are we going to be talking about today? Please introduce yourself.

Martin Mongiello: Hi, I’m Marty Mongiello. We are going to talk about providing some actual help to reach all five generations in the work force now. Never have had this before in the Earth’s history: five generations of people in the work force. It’s been pretty dodgy. People are trying to figure out how to reach and satisfy all five generations. Hopefully going to provide some real help today and some real, actual techniques.

Hugh: Marty, never known anybody who worked in the White House as a chef. But we should talk about the title of this show, which is how Rotary has raised a bunch of money for charities. You want to talk about the title and why it’s important to the topic today?

Martin: It is. You have to remarket what you’re doing. When you have a success at your church, donation center, Goodwill, community center, food bank, any kind of nonprofit you’re running, operating, managing, coordinating, doesn’t matter what spectrum of industry it’s even. Even the cars for heroes and building homes for heroes. Doesn’t matter what the nonprofit. It’s very important in marketing, branding, publicity, promotion that you advertise that to the market. We call that remarketing, sending that out to everybody and remarketing an accomplishment that was achieved. That is super important. Rotary does a great job of that.

I’m going to start off right away with saying Rotary, for the past two years, has handed out over $160 million. That is in grant money, so it’s free. Never needs to be paid back. That’s pretty cool, don’t you think?

Hugh: It’s purposeful. There are several Rotary initiatives. One is water. They are eliminating polio worldwide. There are meaningful initiatives, but there is also the integrity of the use of funds. There is a real strong protocol. It has to go to a Rotary. There is an end-to-end accountability to that. Guess what? 100% of your money goes to that project. There are no administrative fees. People who give know it’s going to go to the source.

Martin: Right. Rotary has pretty good stats. If you look us up on Charity Navigator, you will be very thrilled to see we have a score of 100/100. People often ask me that, that skeptical 2% of donors who are looking at possibly donating. We are four-star listed. You can’t get any higher. Depending on which of our programs you enter into, because we have DAFs (Donor Advisory Funds)- On a DAF, you are allowed to take 1%. In our district, District 7680 in Charlotte, North Carolina, we don’t take the 1%. The IRS would allow to take 1% as a fee on a DAF. Many people are involved in DAFs.

If you are looking at endowment through Rotary Foundation with our main headquarters in Chicago, you have different things. If you just want to donate, openly, I just did well over $1,000 recently for Ukraine. I did designate mine in Rotary Foundation to the Ukraine. I realized that on a lot of those, Rotary is taking a small amount for administrative fees. It’s hard to get 100/100. People like our stats. 117 years old. First female president in the history of the Earth for Rotary International, Jennifer Jones out of Canada this year.

They like our stats. They like our numbers. They like hearing about them. They go digging around with a forensic CPA, and the person will come back two days later and say, “Yeah, boss, everything about them, and through the legal department, it really does add up for Rotary International.” They’re a great foundation to donate to. That’s good, too.

Hugh: As a small charity, most of our 501(c)3s are small. We don’t have a lot of money to do all of that auditing and the stuff Rotary has done flawlessly. You and I both share the hat of president of our local Rotary club. I am teetering on the balance of excited and fearful for the new year. There is an amazing amount of stuff that goes on because there are people stepping up. As president, Rotary tells you there are things you’re required to do. In our organizations, we are namby pamby about telling people to step up their game and do things. I don’t know about your Rotary, but I am asking people to step up and belong to a committee and be active. We are all struggling.

You said there are five generations. Churches, synagogues, community charities, Rotaries, civic clubs, we are all struggling with how to embrace this generation. We have some energy in Lynchburg for the students. They become active, and we will cultivate that. People say it’s the future of Rotary. Yes, it’s also the present. What is the challenge that we’re all facing in being able to communicate with all of those generations?

Martin: It is tough. You have the silent generation, which is from the beginning of the 1900s all the way up to my daughter, who is 11 now. Our daughter is part of the alpha generation. Looking at their data and what they’re interested in is the key to how you’re going to possibly do marketing. It shouldn’t be any surprise.

Organized religion for the millennial generation, it is really down, Hugh. All forms of organized religion is down in the 30s. 32-34%. When you look at that for the baby boomer or the silent, it’s super high. It’s in the 70s, like 76-78%. We have different values. The nice thing about today’s snot nosed punk is often how they are affectionately referred to. “Let me tell you something about these punks.” People get going really negatively, “what I did during World War I and II” and on and on and on. They can get negative if you let the conversation run off like a crazed horse.

You have to realize some of the great things of today’s young generation. They love hard work. It’s an amazing thing about them. Gaining from the benefits of hard work and applying yourself to things. That is why you will often see them work 110-120 hours per week, 18 hours per day on these web-based projects, video games, things like that. People ask me, “That’s gotta be illegal, Marty.” Not if you own the company. If you are the designer and you own the company, 18×7 is 126. 126-hour workweek from bed to desk, from desk to bed, from bed to desk. They are very hard working. Figuring out what each one is interested in by pulling up the studies is how you begin to gauge your marketing plan.

Hugh: I’m not sure that we have different values. What I’m seeing is we have different ways of approaching our work ethic. We have different styles. We’re in the South. Technically, we have our own language, our own vocabulary. Sometimes we have our own diet and mannerisms. We think of places like California as another country. We have our own distinctive culture. Other people wonder about us. Can we read? We have misperceptions about different cultures when we each bring different gifts to the table. My wife and I were talking about things over time. We realized that we married the person we married, but we each have grown. We are not the same person.

Martin: And changed.

Hugh: That could apply to organizations, couldn’t it?

Martin: That’s right. You’re not the same little kid you were when you were 14, 18, or 20. Neither is your wife. You’re right.

First of all, when people hear that, they provide an excuse mechanism for them to realize that it’s not actually just me. The pastor here at this Methodist church in the middle of Virginia. It’s not just me. Or change the word “Methodist” to “Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic.” Change it to whatever you want to change it to.

Let’s talk about Scouts. It doesn’t matter what word we put in. Volunteer firefighters. The firehouse is looking for people. It doesn’t matter anymore. We are not the same people. Many folks have never ever heard that for the first time in Earth’s history, with almost seven billion humans walking erect, five generations are in the work force simultaneously. When they find out about this, it provides some relief. Oh, this is why things are the way they are. It’s a bit dodgy. This has never happened before. Like you said, people change. So does the world.

If we look at World War II, and after the war, we had 142 million humans. We were very homogenous. All the predominant skin color were the same. Simple, congruent way of looking at life and religion and church and state and the government. It was pretty normalized of what we could call and pretty standard. You knew what to expect. Today, they’re like, “What’s happening? What’s going on with the wildfires and the heat?” What is happening is at least in the United States, we are at about 370 million humans. The American Dream has come true. Everything we designed for America to welcome people to come in, well, it’s been happening. Another 50, 100, 150 million humans. You know what? Not surprisingly, they are not all the same language, skin color, heritage, the way they eat, their customs, the songs they sing.

For many people, it’s very off-putting. What happened to 1948 with when Glenn Miller was playing? What is going on? It is very off-putting. Getting your hands around it as a leader in nonprofit management and leadership, it can be tough to try to figure out. What are we actually gonna do? Things are getting serious.

Hugh: We don’t need to work on diversity because diversity is right outside our door. What we need to work on is inclusion. How do we communicate? Are there some tools, strategies, systems, thought patterns? How do we reach out and embrace all of these gifts from all these different cultures?

Martin: I can’t honestly pretend with two Master’s degrees that I have all the answers, and I’m as smart as I pretend to be. I’m not. I need to be trained and taught like anyone else.

You mentioned diversity and inclusion. Rotary has done a great job. So has Scouting. I’m a Scout master. I’m a Merit Badge counselor. So is my wife. They have a great DEI program. How to start to come to grips with this, work with it, manage it. I tell people this is not anything. Honestly, DEI. “It’s a new acronym they have, DEI. Everywhere I go, at work, at the factory, we have DEI.” All right, bro, calm down. Begin to calm down. It’s not really anything we haven’t been doing since this country was formed in the 1600s. Welcoming other people from other countries, like Francis Marion, the French Huguenot living down in Charleston. They practice different religions. They speak different languages, like French, but they can learn English. We have been doing this for 250 years. We are pretty good at it. We are the largest economy in the world. We are actually pretty good. We have great training.

The secret there, Hugh, is the E. D, E, I. When they said diversity, equity, and inclusion, I thought that equity was equality. “Treating people equally.” “No, Marty, that’s not right.” How do you explain that equity thing? Let me just explain it with a simple street sense manner. Equity is meeting people as they are, as they come in, with what their needs are. It’s not necessarily equality. Equality for everybody, that’s the oldest thing in the world. Equity is meeting their needs the way they best would receive them, to be treated inclusively, and to represent a huge, diverse church or nonprofit, Rotary, scouting, sport club, bike club, anything you’re doing in nonprofit management. The E is the secret.

Hugh: It is. You’re spot on. E and I go together. We have diversity. What we have to do is there is an option for everybody. The golden rule doesn’t work here. You don’t treat people like you want to be treated. You treat people like they want to be treated. That’s what people want. They want to be heard. Guess what? Even old institutions like Rotary are morphing into we can embrace all of humankind, and everybody is included. In relating to them, fundraising, attendance, programs, what are some of the tools that leaders have at their disposal today to be able to use?

Martin: I would recommend trying to find an awesome DEI platform to graduate from. I’ve graduated from the Scouting platform and the Rotary platform. Find a platform on a cell phone or laptop that is easy to go through.

In Scouting, it’s a bit rough because of their massive lawsuits that we have suffered through. I have been in Scouting since 1976. I was raised as a traditional Catholic in the Catholic Church. There are lots of nonprofits where these freaks of human nature have come in, taken advantage of beautiful nonprofit management, and destroyed and ripped them apart with their own private deviant behavior, whether it’s pedophilia or whatever they’re in to. I think the world is pretty familiar with it at this point. We are sick and tired of people coming into our clubs, our churches, our nonprofits, and doing things that nobody appreciates, agrees with, or likes.

A good DEI program, whether it’s through Scouting, Rotary, or Hewlett Packard, anything you can graduate from, that would be fantastic.

Hugh: Ways that you reach out to your local Rotary club and engage people. We talk about in any of our institutions what we do. We skip over the part about why it’s important. The fundamental principle in Rotary is service above self. We exist to do service projects for others, and we pay money to do that because that’s our calling. How do we explain the importance of doing that? Philanthropy is not considered part of leadership, and it should be. That’s who we are as Rotarians, as charity leaders. How do we bridge the gap and tell people why it’s important to step up and participate with us?

Martin: I think it’s a great to have folks that want to come in and gather to help on any project. We always say there is time, talent, and treasure. Respecting those three things in our district, district 7680, I was taught that by our previous governor, Nico Iannelli, and our current governor, Kam Chandan. Time, talent, treasure, the three T’s.

Some people have a lot of time to give. As a leader in nonprofit management, you can’t let them make fun of the other two categories. Some of them with talent, they can’t really come to a lot of events. “Yeah, you weren’t there for the trash pickup in the Shenandoah Valley. We drove all the way out there with the buses. You also didn’t come to the wine event at the vineyard. You weren’t there for the Crayola Festival.” You can’t let these different groups go.

The people with the talent are building the website. They are running the 20-page newsletter every month. You barely ever see them, but they have great talents. This is what is respecting and growing an organization.

Some people have the time during this season in their life, whatever that season is. The children are out of the house. They have a lot of time on their hands. They took a buyout from their corporation, where they received $110,000. They are just deciding now they want to do 20 hours at a local gardening shop, despite the fact that they were a Master’s-holding vice president for many years. They have a lot of time. I mentioned the people with a lot of talent.

Some people just have treasure. They are a check writer. “I have a small inheritance, but I don’t want it blabbed all over the club. I could do $10,000 for this big initiative.” “Oh my gosh, you can do the $10k? We never even see you at events.” “I know, Hugh, but you’re not the type of club that ridicules people. The last club I belonged to, that’s what they did. You had to be there. They made fun of you. I was actually thrown out. I could have done $10k for them.” Oh my gosh, wow.

Time, talent, and treasure. As a leader, you cannot let any one of the three groups make fun of another. Even the person that we celebrate that has the Paul Hammer’s Fellow and the ruby or the diamond, or maybe they belong to the Arch Klumph Society and have donated $14.8 million. It’s not a time or an excuse to make fun of others because I gave $14 million. All three groups, respect them all. Realize that you might have a talent who disappears and vaporizes and suddenly shows up because they have more time and are at every event.

Hugh: Love it. The general principles I am hearing are we are respecting the individual, which is one of the transformational leadership principles I teach. It’s about the vision, where we are going. It’s about honoring the person. Too many leaders crawl over people getting to the objective, which is the most important thing. No, it’s what happens on the way with the people. We forget that picture. We want to complain about the other generations. Why isn’t life like it used to be? What I’m hearing you say is get on board.

Martin: I know. I grew up with black and white television and hanging your TV in the basement, playing with the UHF dial. My dad brought home a computing machine in 1979. It hooked up to the Philco TV. It was a wooden TV. We went back behind it with the screwdriver. We disconnected the antenna on the roof. The Texas Instruments TI-994A computer with a cartridge, it plugged into the back of the TV. The TV was your monitor. They didn’t have monitors. They didn’t sell them yet. That didn’t exist.

I have been through all of this. I remember Buck Rogers in black and white. I remember Buck Rogers when it went into brand new color. I watched The Waltons, my favorite show, religiously. I think it was every Thursday night or Sunday night. Walt Disney and the Wide World of Sports, all that stuff.

Honestly, in reaching people, it’s very important to reach them through these many different mediums. People learn off their cell phone. They learn off their tablet. They learn off their laptop or desktop. Some people get very angry. “So many things!” It’s okay. We will just get someone to do this kind of work, where it doesn’t grate their nerves and make them angry at all. We watch TV and movies on our Xbox.

Hugh: There is more than one right answer. There is more than one right way to do things. As leaders, if we are going to tell people how we want them to do it, we might as well do it ourselves. One of the things I’m taking away from this is we want to empower people to a common purpose. That is serving others and serving the organization. Real leaders don’t tell people not to answer questions. You guide people to seek their own answers.

Martin: It’s crazy. We encourage people not to come to our Rotary meetings. We tell them to ditch them and play hooky. You can watch it later on in the week. It’ll be up on YouTube. Feel free to watch it later, so you don’t have to be at the meeting. They’re like, “How are we having a meeting when you’re telling people not to come to the meeting?” It’s called a brand-new learning technology, asynchronous video meetings. We do a lot of work on WhatsApp and pass decisions and voting and all types of quorum. It’s very easy to do. If you would just try it, you would find how liberating it is. We don’t all have to go to an ivory tower to have a task master with a small black state whip walking up and down the aisle, staring at 250 people. This is all old world thinking of the early 1900s of how corporations are to be run.

Hugh: Yes, sir. It’s a new era. Marty, we’re almost at the end of our time slot. What’s it like being a White House chef?

Martin: It’s pretty awesome. You’re pretty excited about everything you do going into work every day. The most amazing thing is a lot of our security protocols for anti-poisoning, anti-bribery, those always seem to be the coolest things, meeting the CIA handler. Learning about more things that could potentially affect the entire state dinner, or the president going out to eat at a restaurant. Those are the really touchy things that you have to try to understand.

You’re not just here to be the chef. You’re in the military. I was in the military, retired military. You actually have to be aware of all of these other items. The civilian chef in the White House, they can take their chef’s coat and go home at night at 7pm. They are done for the evening. You are probably going to stay until 1 or 2am. We are turning you into a bartender at 8pm. You have other jobs to do.

Hugh: I love it. Why did you say yes to being a Rotary president?

Martin: I honestly have been watching Rotary for a long time. I loved all of the things that Rotary did. I did not know all that they were about though. The more I found out, the more I was impressed with the amount of money, the 1.4 million members, the 46,000 clubs across the Earth, the $160 million per year.

Taking the fact that we have taken polio down to 15 cases in world history. The fact that Bill Gates gave up trying to cure polio himself and said, “Look, this is a waste of time. I want to shut down all these offices and laboratories. I’m going to take the $100 million per year we’re doing on polio and give it to Rotary because they actually do the job better.” When Bill Gates says he wants to take $100 million out of a project that was a life goal for him and give it to Rotary and says out loud on television, “because they do a better job than I do,” to somebody like me, that’s pretty impressive. You know what? I want to be involved with that. I’m a leader. I have been taught to be an excellent manager. How can I give of myself for at least a year or two to this wonderful organization?

Hugh: I will say to people I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I’m glad I did because it’s really learning how to serve. This is a three-year commitment. Actually, you’re two stages before that when you are in the queue. There is a president-elect, where you are active and going to training all the time. Then you’re president. Then you’re past president. It is a good model for any board of directors. When you become president, you have been in the queue, so you know what is going on, so you can actually do things.

Marty, what’s ringing in my presence is being inclusive of all of God’s people. We all come to the table as creations of God with our various skills and talents. What thought do you want to leave people with as we end this energized interview?

Martin: I would just say be very careful about matching gift programs from sushi restaurants. They are very fishy.

Hugh: Oh geez. We should have given that the title of this interview.

Martin: Also, Hugh, a farmer is outstanding in his field. A couple of food jokes. You get a chef on Zoom. It’s your first chef ever on Zoom, and he has all these food jokes.

Hugh: Okay, and the yolk’s on you. Marty, I don’t think we’ve ever had an interview as crazy as this. It takes one to know one. Thank you for sharing your time and energy, and wonderful, crazy ideas that actually work. Blessings to you and your day.

Martin: Thank you so much, Hugh. Take care.

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