When the head of a group of nearly 200 Australian chief executives wanted to make contact with Rotary at the end of last year he sent an all-person email "Are you, or anyone you know, a member of Rotary?"
The response was overwhelming; no one was a member or had links to anyone who could make an introduction.
John Karagounis, Managing Director and owner of The CEO Circle, was hoping to explore the possibility of a partnership with Rotary to disburse funds raised by The CEO Circle for charitable purposes.
“I was surprised,” he says. “I thought a number of our members would be active in Rotary.  Is it because CEOs are already aligned to other causes or charities, and are already time poor?  Or are they not aware of the excellent work Rotary does in the community?"
Following a particularly lively discussion in one of The CEO Circle groups chaired by Rob Hines, it was decided that members of The CEO Circle should explore   reaching out to their connections to raise funds for charity, and to become more involved at a community level. The first initiative was a corporate golf day and auction at Riversdale in March 2014. With the assistance of donations of goods and services by member companies of The CEO Circle, the day raised over $30,000.
The funds were raised with two specific projects in mind, an orphanage in South Africa and an Indigenous project in Fitzroy Crossing, WA.  Meetings with lawyers clarified that insurance and liability issues were problematic, and The CEO Circle also lacked infrastructure and templates for efficiently spending the money. Hence it was suggested that a partnership with Rotary might benefit both parties.
A chance meeting between Hines and an old colleague, our club’s George Mackey, provided a solution.   Hines soon joined the club and now The CEO Circle has an exclusive Victorian relationship with it. Planning is under way for both an International and Indigenous project in 2015 to use some of those funds raised at the golf day.
Karagounis and Hines agree that Rotary’s insurance, tight financial controls and charity know-how make it an ideal partner. Hines likes Rotary’s ability to keep overheads down, and the well-established templates and coordination for projects, such as through Rotary Australian World Community Services (RAWCS).
An initial donation of $10,000 has been provided by The CEO Circle for the RCCMS Fitzroy Crossing women’s shelter and men’s shed projects, and a further $5000 for school renovations in Laos. Further funding is possible. 
The CEO Circle has confirmed a 2015 golf day and auction for March 20 at Riversdale and hopes to raise a similar amount.  Given the strength of The CEO Circle in Sydney, planning is underway for a similar event there later in 2015.
Hines says, “When I retired from full-time work as Managing Director of Racing Victoria Ltd in 2012, I moved from a member of The CEO Circle to the Chairman of a group. We had many discussions about the opportunity for our members to become involved directly in a hands-on way with community activities. Once that direction was agreed, it was an obvious step to activate some fund raising activity which has exceeded our expectations. Now we have the opportunity to take a number of chief executives to Fitzroy Crossing to provide first hand support to the indigenous community there."
Karagounis says he and Hines have complete trust that funds channelled through Rotary will be fully accounted for and will make a difference on the ground. “I’m thrilled with Rob’s initiative with Central Melbourne-Sunrise and the wonderful work it does,” Karagounis says.
The power of The CEO Circle lies in its influential member base, resources and extended networks. Golf provides an ideal fund raising activity for this group as that is the number one leisure activity amongst senior executives.
About The CEO Circle.
The CEO Circle marks its twentieth anniversary this year. Rob Hines is Chairman of one of the eight Melbourne groups, each of which has about fifteen or so members.  Membership is by invitation only and is limited to chief executives and senior business leaders only, from a diverse range of industries. There are also groups in Sydney and Brisbane.
Members   are top-drawer executives.  Each pays a substantial annual fee to belong, which is usually funded by their company.   Karagounis says, “The CEO Circle offers an intimate forum where business leaders can discuss ideas, share experiences, and exchange advice with their peers, in a spirit of openness, and in a space where confidentiality is guaranteed.”
CEO Circle meetings are held six times per year for half a day.  If members can’t attend their own group meeting for any reason, they are free to attend any other Circle around the country, as long as there are no conflicts of interest.  Exclusive CEO Circle events are also held throughout the year featuring presentations from global thought leaders.