Posted on Nov 23, 2021
When people ask what The Rotary Foundation is, one response is that it is the heart of Rotary.
Many of us may have heard before that Rotary has an intelligent heart. The Foundation combines our emotional response of compassion with pragmatic action. With both heart and brains, you can change the world.
So, what does the Foundation mean to you? November is Rotary Foundation Month, but do you really know our Foundation?

First, it truly is Our Foundation.
The Rotary Foundation is Rotary's charity whose money transforms lives with service projects which eradicate polio, promote peace and improve developing communities.
The Rotary Foundation doesn’t belong to the foundation trustees, nor to the RI Board of Directors, nor to the RI president. It belongs to each member of the Rotary family around the world.

And it’s there for all of us to change the world. We save mothers and children because we have compassion, and we know how to plan. We provide clean water and sanitation where they’re needed to those who need them, because we build strategies based on a community’s needs. We combine support for peace, education, and economic stability for at-risk communities with an ability to manage big projects.

So when a member asks "What's in it for me?" when referring to Our Foundation, another way to contextualize the questions is: If I give money to The Rotary Foundation (TRF), what will it be used for, and how will I and others benefit from it?

First of all, let’s explore and clarify a myth about giving.
Over the years, some club and district leaders have claimed that individuals were not allowed to make financial contributions to the Foundation. They were adamant that donations could only be given by clubs.

Worryingly, this has not been a singular timeframe or occasion on which this view expressed - it seems to pop up ever so often and among all groups.

Whilst many Rotarians do contribute via their clubs, it is certainly not the case that individuals cannot contribute directly. In fact, the contrary is true.

Individuals are encouraged to make financial contributions directly to Our Foundation - ideally via TRF itself, where applicable, where credit is given to the member and the member’s club as well.

However, currently not enough Rotarians around the world or in District 7030 donate money directly to TRF which can be identified as personal contributions.

So why do people give money to TRF?
Over the past couple of years, discussions and surveys with many Rotarians, and some non-Rotarians, on what motivates giving to TRF have taken place.

Although the awarding of a pin, plus a mention at a district or national event is, for some, a nice way of being recognized, because it also gives them an opportunity to encourage others to give, this is not necessarily a motivator for everyone.

The overwhelming response from most persons surveyed is that their contributing to TRF is not for the recognition, but to give others who are less fortunate an opportunity which can be leveraged by the support of our own charity.

What other charity gives you the opportunity to state what the money will be spent on?
With the seven areas of focus, it is highly unlikely you couldn’t find a cause which you aren’t passionate about.
Over the past four years, TRF has given in excess of 500 grants with contributions from the World Fund of around US $10 million.

Even when the world was so severely restricted by the impact of COVID-19, these grants continued, in addition to delivering around US $870,000 in district grants.

Put another way, more than $10 million worth of projects have benefitted from a financial contribution from the Foundation.

Of key note to all members should be that the total amount donated to the annual fund each Rotary year, will come back as District Designated Funds – or Rotary funds managed by the district - in three years’ time and that this money can be worth a lot to a District and the its member clubs...especially when more is given to TRF.

It is clear that if donations amount to less than the outgoings, then the funding model is unsustainable which would not be able to financially support projects in the way which we have traditionally been used to.

Last October, Rotary magazine published an article when a number of current donors told us why they gave financial support to TRF. This obviously struck a chord with readers since this resulted in donations or pledges to TRF in excess of US $5 million.

But why did they do it?

One Rotarian explained: "As Rotarians we have a moral duty to lead by example and use what we have to be of help to others. That sentiment is deep rooted in our Rotary values and service above self-principles. Our contributions to the Foundation will provide an income stream to support the immeasurably valuable work of current and future generations of Rotarians. The knowledge that we’re helping others is both empowering and fulfilling."
Giving to the Foundation is therefore smart, because in doing so, you multiply the value of that gift. How many other foundations can you think of that identify the projects, fund them, and run them on the ground themselves? Ours is the only one I know. And we get it all done at such a relatively low administrative cost. This is one reason Charity Navigator consistently gives the Foundation a four-star rating.
So reverting back to the original question ‘What’s in it for me?’ - everyone’s reasons for giving are motivated by different things. But, by giving to TRF, you know that your donations are being used to continue the work which you, as a Rotarian, so clearly value.
Many of us ask the question: How much should I be giving to the Foundation?
Each year, make a gift of what you can afford to give. For some, that is around US $25 or US $100, and for others, more. What’s most important is that you give something, because each generous gift helps us meet the increased demand we’re seeing from members for global grants and our other programs.

In 2021, Rotary wants to raise US $50 million for PolioPlus, which will be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for a total of $150 million. If every Rotary club contributed just US $1,500, we would surpass this goal.
We will get there if we set our hearts — and minds — to it. But remember, it’s not about the money; it’s what the money can do.

There’s a saying that goes, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

The Foundation is that stone, so let us turn ripples into great waves with it, using our hearts and our minds.

If you want to know more about The Rotary Foundation and/or how you can make a personal donation, visit or contact the District 7030 Foundation Chair