Trustee chair's message

Ron D. Burton

Trustee Chair 2018-19

September 2018

I was a district governor in 1987-88, the year that Charles C. Keller was the RI president. As district governor, I attended the 1988 Rotary International Convention in Philadelphia. There, I heard that there were an estimated 350,000 cases of polio in 125 countries. But I also heard some exciting news: We had surpassed our goal of raising $120 million for the eradication of polio. We had raised $219,350,449 (and later, after the accounting was done, that figure was revised to $247 million). What a celebration we had. We proved to ourselves and the world the strength of Rotary and that we could take on a global health challenge.

In the ensuing 30 years, we, along with our partners – the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – have raised even more funds, organized National Immunization Days, and advocated with world governments. Our goal has always been to keep our promise to give children a polio-free world, and in 2017, there were only 22 cases.

We've done incredible work, but we know the job isn't over. Once we reduce the number of cases to zero and no viruses are detected in the environment, we must wait for WHO to certify the world officially polio free. That requires at least a three-year period without a single detection of the wild poliovirus in a person or the environment. During that three years, we will still have to vaccinate children and ensure through surveillance that the virus never regains a foothold.

Rotarians have always been on the front lines of this effort – we still are. So, what can you do? Tell everyone you know about Rotary and polio. Make a donation. Update your club and explore how together you could participate directly in the fight.

On 24 October, we'll celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's formation at our sixth annual World Polio Day event, in Philadelphia, the city where it all started. Host a World Polio Day fundraiser or watch party, and tell us about it at For more inspiration, check out

I need your help. I'm depending on you to help us keep our promise.

August 2018

Without The Rotary Foundation's Endowment Fund, our efforts would be for naught. The endowment is the backbone of Rotary's efforts around the world, providing access to the time, talent, and resources needed to make a difference. Our goal of building the Endowment Fund to $2.025 billion by 2025 and this year's fundraising goal of $380 million are surely some of the most important tasks at hand for our organization.

Your financial support has made possible every single thing that Rotary has done over the years. But what's equally essential – and might sometimes be in danger of being overlooked – is your participation.

Without you, Rotary is nothing. The Foundation needs your presence, your input, and your creative mind just as much as it needs your generous financial backing. Your Rotary club needs you to be there at meetings – not to warm a chair, but to engage, to inspire.

I shared last month how my relationship with Rotary changed when I went from being a tepid (at best) seat-warmer to a committee chair who was engaged and focused. You don't need to wait for someone to ask you to chair a committee or be a club officer to begin to transform your Rotary journey. There's a place in Rotary for all of you to step up and become people of action.

Be engaged. Working with your club on service projects that qualify for District Designated Funds is one way to participate and use your voice to make a real difference. If your club has no service projects that interest you, work on getting some new ones underway. Carry out community assessments to find out how we can best use our resources to create positive change.

This month, I invite you to transform the way you think about your involvement with Rotary. Consider every meeting a chance to discover new channels for your energy and to brainstorm with like-minded Rotarians about how you can work together for a better world.

July 2018

About a year and a half after I joined my Rotary club, I terminated my membership because I missed four consecutive meetings. That was the rule at the time. I’ll freely admit – I didn’t care much for the food or the weekly meetings. I didn’t think they were the best use of my time. But the real issue was that I wasn’t engaged. I had no role, I had no reason to be a member, and I didn’t need to go to a luncheon meeting every week that appeared to offer me absolutely nothing. 

But then my incoming club president asked me to chair the club’s Rotary Foundation committee for the next Rotary year. That was a turning point for me, and the rest is history. I want you all to think about engaging those members who have their doubts about Rotary. In 2018-19, I need your help. I want you to join me in focusing on our four core goals for the Foundation.

First, the No. 1 priority of our entire organization (and this won’t be a surprise) is ending polio. We must fulfill our promise of a polio-free world to every child.

Second, we must increase the sustainability of our service efforts within the six areas of focus. This means conducting thorough needs assessments. It means working with communities to see what they really need and get them to buy in – to own the project and measure it over time.

Our third priority is to encourage districts to use all their District Designated Funds. Whether through district grants, global grants, or PolioPlus, there are many ways to form transformative partnerships and put these funds to work.

Finally, we choose to build our Rotary Foundation Endowment to $2.025 billion by 2025. Our comprehensive fundraising goal for the year is $380 million. These funds will allow us to continue the life-changing programs that Rotary members undertake every day. But we each need to think about our Rotary legacy. The Endowment is our future.

So please join me, and let’s make this a legacy-building year for Rotary. Your legacy, Rotary’s promise.