Trustee chair's message

Paul A. Netzel

Trustee Chair 2017-18

June 2018

It’s hard to believe that the first year of Our Foundation’s second century of service – and my term as chair of The Rotary Foundation – is coming to a close.

It has been an amazing experience to see Rotary and Our Foundation in action as I’ve traveled the world. It has been inspiring to see the passion and dedication of Rotarians, the energy and creativity of Rotaractors, and the diversity of projects and forms of service. I’ve seen Rotary: Making a Difference in the lives of countless people in need, because Rotarians are People of Action!

These experiences have reaffirmed my belief in Rotary’s future and the vital role Our Foundation can and must continue to play – especially as we approach our post-polio era.

As Rotarians, we have big challenges and bold opportunities ahead:

  • We must achieve our goal of eradicating polio! Please contribute to the polio campaign – whether through a direct donation, by fundraising, or by telling the polio story using your preferred media platform.
  • We must expand the conversation and determine what corporate project or projects we will undertake next. Think bold!
  • We must work to engage the 50 percent of the world’s population that is under the age of 30. Surveys consistently show that these young people want to make a difference and to volunteer. We need to continue developing proactive strategies to engage millennials and Gen Z-ers.
  • Women account for 50 percent of the world’s population. They are proving to be the backbone of many clubs. We need to expand their reach and welcome their leadership at every level of our organization.
  • More Rotarians and clubs need to connect more closely to the Foundation to understand how it can help achieve our goals.

This Rotary year, I invited you to share your ideas with me. Many did – about how to raise more funds, to simplify the grant process, to better engage youth, to build peace, to enhance our membership experience through The Rotary Foundation. You expressed your passion for a future in which Our Foundation will have a greater impact than ever in its second century. This is because you are our greatest strength.

Thank you for the honor of sharing this journey with you.

May 2018

Fifty percent of the world's population is under age 30. So it is important that we ask: What do young people want? Of course, every generation must ask this question. But it is also an important question for Rotary today, because our clubs must evolve if we are to best serve communities that, themselves, are evolving and changing all the time.

The World Economic Forum's recent Global Shapers Survey of more than 30,000 people under 30 from 186 countries offers some useful insights.

A majority of the respondents view climate change and conflict as the most critical issues we face. They also value a "start-up ecosystem and entrepreneurship" as vital to youth empowerment. However, they are less optimistic about having their voices heard. Over half the survey respondents do not think "young people's views" are considered before important decisions are made in their countries. (Some good news: During my travels to several dozen countries this year, many Rotaractors shared that they believe their voices are being heard by Rotary leaders!)

It is clear that young people want to make a difference on the issues that matter to our world and their communities. Above all, they want to see results when they commit to a project. A good example is the father-and-son team of Tulsi and Anil Maharjan, members of the Rotary Club of Branchburg Township, New Jersey. With the help of grants from Our Foundation, Tulsi and Anil are implementing microcredit, scholarship, and homebuilding projects in Nepal to help survivors of the 2015 earthquake.

Thanks to changes made at the 2016 Council on Legislation, clubs now have flexibility to operate as they think best. This means a broader selection of club models in terms of how meetings take place.

By embracing this flexibility, we can create more examples like Anil – a former e-club member who joined his father's Rotary club. Further, I urge you to personally encourage Rotaractors to take advantage of the option now available to join a Rotary club while they are still members of Rotaract. And help them learn how Our Foundation can help them achieve their dreams of doing good in the world!

By taking action today, we can pave the way for more than 200,000 of Rotary's future leaders to leave their own legacy of making a real difference for generations to come.

April 2018

The new grant model comes up frequently during my visits with Rotarians throughout the world. It is always disappointing to learn that a club or district lacks interest in participating in global grants.

What are the reasons I hear most often? Global grants are too complicated. They take too much work, require too much money. Or the available pool of DDFs (District Designated Funds) may not be large enough to meet the demand.

Yet the numbers tell a story that can be perceived as positive. During 2016-17 – The Rotary Foundation's centennial year – 1,260 global grants were awarded, an 8 percent increase over the previous year. And the figures for the first half of this Rotary year are running ahead of last year.

Your ongoing feedback and suggestions have helped make a difference. Numerous upgrades have been made to the global grant online application process. The time it takes to process global grants has been significantly reduced. In 2016-17, the average was 129 business days from the time a grant application was submitted to the first payment. The average was 107 business days for 2017-18 as of 1 February.

If your club has not participated in a global grant, I urge you to take another look at the resources now available. Start by looking at the newly redesigned Rotary Grant Center at Explore the comprehensive resources linked in the right-hand column.

Our Foundation's outstanding grants staff wants to help, drawing on its expertise and TRF's collective experience. Establish a relationship with the staff contact for your project district. The Rotary Support Center can provide contact information within one business day (

The Rotary Foundation's Cadre of Technical Advisers is a group of volunteer Rotarians who also provide technical expertise and advice to Rotarians planning and carrying out Rotary projects. If you would like to receive guidance on project planning early in the process, contact

A critical role of the Trustees is to listen. Rotary members have spoken. Together we are a powerful force of volunteers who identify needs and respond with generosity, creativity, and passion. Rotary grants provide us with a unique opportunity to bring ideas to reality and to make a lasting impact, whether locally or globally.

March 2018

Questions, questions, questions. Two topics I am frequently asked about during my visits with Rotarians around the world relate to Rotary's website and our Foundation's grants. Quite likely you have had these questions and more, about things such as donor contributions, point transfers, club and district reports, club invoices, and club officer changes, to name a few. If you don't know where to find the answer, Rotary's Support Center is the place to start.

The Rotary Support Center is an easily accessible first point of contact for Rotarians, donors, staff, and others to help answer questions in English, French, and Spanish. Business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday. You can reach the Support Center toll-free at 1-866-976-8279 (1-866-9ROTARY). Email inquiries to will be responded to within one business day.

The Support Center averages 3,500 calls per month. This includes about 1,500 callers who want to be directed to a specific person or Rotary department, allowing easier access within our complex organization. On average, 7,000 emails are responded to each month.

With only an eight-year history, the Rotary Support Center has been certified as a Center of Excellence by Benchmark Portal, the industry leader in contact center benchmarking. The Center of Excellence recognition is one of the most prestigious awards in the customer service and support industry. This distinction requires that a center be both efficient and effective, providing service that is of superior quality with lower overall costs compared with other centers in the service industry.

The Rotary Support Center team also includes a Visitor Services and Tour Program coordinator to schedule tours and large group meetings for those who want to visit Rotary headquarters. Rotary has a surprising number of visitors each year. Are you planning a visit to the Chicago area? You can request a tour by sending an email to Perhaps our paths will cross at One Rotary Center!

I am confident you will agree with the 96 percent quality score the center has received from satisfied customers.

February 2018

On 23 February, Rotarians will celebrate World Peace and Understanding Day – the 113th anniversary of Rotary's founding.

Peace has been at the core of our organization from its earliest days. We established the Fourth Object of Rotary in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1921. We were in London when the seeds were sown for what became UNESCO after World War II. In Havana in 1940, we adopted a resolution calling for "freedom, justice, truth, sanctity of the pledged word, and respect for human rights," which became the framework for the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

We were active in the formation of the United Nations. In 1945, almost 50 Rotarians served as delegates, consultants, and advisers at the San Francisco Conference when the UN charter was written. Today, almost 73 years later, Rotary maintains the highest consultative status with the United Nations of any nongovernmental organization. A number of our Rotary Peace Fellows work in UN agencies. Rotary's representatives to the UN also host a Rotary Day every November to celebrate our partnership for peace.

Today we also have a new partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace, which was founded in Australia by tech entrepreneur Steve Killelea. The institute emphasizes what is called Positive Peace, based on eight "pillars": a well-functioning government, a sound business environment, equitable distribution of resources, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbors, free flow of information, high levels of human capital, and low levels of corruption.

Between now and June, we have the opportunity to participate in Rotary President Ian H.S. Riseley's Presidential Peacebuilding Conferences in six cities across the world. Take a look online at We will continue to explore how the eight Pillars of Peace align with our areas of focus.

We also are joining with the University of Chicago to host Pathways to Peace, a series of talks featuring leading scholars, practitioners, Rotary Peace Fellows, and thinkers in the field of peace and conflict prevention and resolution. Watch the first one, which was held in September, at

Together with our partners, we will work to establish ourselves as global thinkers and leaders to advance understanding, goodwill, and international peace.

Let us work together on this journey.

January 2018

We are at the halfway point of this Rotary year. There is plenty to look forward to in 2018 as we complete the first year of The Rotary Foundation's second century of service. By working in partnership with our Foundation, Rotarians are making a difference in ways we could never have imagined when we began.

First, our signature polio eradication initiative continues to bring us closer to the historic day of a polio-free world. Following our tremendous World Polio Day event in Seattle, and the thousands of local events hosted by Rotary members around the world, we are keeping up the momentum to reach this year's polio fundraising goal of $50 million (including District Designated Fund contributions). We are already closing in on that target thanks, in part, to the efforts of Rotarians and friends who participated in the recent Miles to End Polio bike ride to raise funds for the cause.

Second, our Foundation's comprehensive fundraising target of $360 million this year will empower you and other Rotarians to continue helping people all over the world.

In addition, the Building TRF Endowment: 2025 by 2025 initiative is progressing well. Our goal is to build an endowment of $2.025 billion by 2025 to ensure the long-term financial stability of the Foundation and provide essential resources well into the future.

Another emphasis relates to our work in peacebuilding and the Rotary Peace Centers program. Applications for Rotary Peace Fellowships become available this month. Be on the lookout for great candidates and support our Peace Fellow alumni in the field by inviting them to work with you as advisers on your projects.

Between February and June, RI President Ian H.S. Riseley is convening six Presidential Peacebuilding Conferences, which will showcase the connections between our work in each area of focus and sustainable peace. You are invited to attend!

Of course, the biggest event of the Rotary year will be the 2018 Rotary International Convention in Toronto from 23 to 27 June. We will celebrate not only the highlights of this Rotary year, but also the 50th anniversary of Rotaract.

In the new year, let us continue to show that we are People of Action! And let the world take notice: We Rotarians are Making a Difference.

December 2017

This month my focus is on the purpose and power of partnerships.

We have a history of partnerships at all levels of Rotary. We partner member to member, club to club, district to district, all finding support from the wide variety of The Rotary Foundation's programs, projects, and grants. How powerful this continues to be!

But only in the last several decades have we paid much attention to the idea of partnering with organizations outside of Rotary. Most would agree this change led to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has accomplished so much through each partner sharing its expertise and working together with a common purpose. This public-private partnership for global health is on the verge of eradicating an infectious disease affecting humans for only the second time in history.

Simply put, partners agree to cooperate in advancing mutual goals. In so doing, they accomplish much more than one entity can alone. We now understand that to maximize our impact, Rotary must establish innovative partnerships, not just at all levels within our organization, but outside of Rotary as well.

Our second major partnership initiative has been the Rotary Peace Centers program. In little over a decade, our peace centers have trained more than 1,100 individuals. Through this program, Rotary Peace Fellows develop the skills they need to serve as leaders and catalysts for peace and conflict resolution both in their communities and around the globe.

Thanks to the ongoing work of the Joint Committee on Partnerships, which includes RI directors and Foundation trustees, the number of Rotary partnerships continues to grow. The Partnerships page at (go to About Rotary, then choose Partners) has a tremendous amount of information. Please take a few minutes and explore the page. Make sure to scroll all the way down to learn more about the partners and – most important – how your club or district can get involved.

As we head toward 2018 and consider which New Year's resolutions we will make, dream big about the service opportunities waiting for us with our dedicated partners.

Make 2018 the year to take advantage of all that Rotary offers and see how much more productive and effective we can be using the power of partnerships.

Best wishes to you for a very happy new year.

November 2017

A few months ago, I raised the question, "What do the Trustees do, anyway?" I reflected that a critical role of ours is to listen. This month, Rotary Foundation Month, I can happily report that you speak volumes – and that you are heard.

The late RI President-elect Sam F. Owori said he saw in Rotarians "an incredible passion to make a difference" and wanted to "harness that enthusiasm and pride so that every project becomes the engine of peace and prosperity."

From your letters, reports, and wonderful stories, we know you share Sam's vision of a world where Rotarians unite and take action to create sustainable change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves. Last year we saw an increase in the number of global and district grants initiated and another record high in Rotary Peace Fellowship applications. We also saw increased totals in overall giving, reflecting your passion for what we do as "People of Action." A special thanks to Rotary's club and district leaders for providing continuity in all our endeavors.

Recognition as the World's Outstanding Foundation by the Association of Fundraising Professionals at its international convention affirms the work you are helping make possible. AFP's committee of judges cited Rotary's comprehensive campaign to eradicate polio as a major factor in the Foundation's selection.

To Benefactors, Bequest Society members, and all levels of Major Donors, thank you! You are building financial stability for the future. Our Endowment Fund continues to grow because of your belief in the Foundation and its continually evolving programs. We are well underway with our "Building TRF Endowment: 2025 by 2025" initiative – to achieve $2.025 billion in gifts and commitments by 2025.

As one Rotarian to another, from my heart to yours, please accept my personal thanks for your unflagging work and many accomplishments over the years. One of the genuine privileges of serving in a key leadership role in Rotary is being able to continue learning from Rotarian friends as passionate and committed as you.

Let us celebrate Rotary Foundation Month together!

October 2017

What do we mean when we talk about peace?

In 1921, the fourth object of Rotary was established: "The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service."

In Rotary today, we see peace not as an abstract concept but as a living, dynamic expression of human development, integral to our humanitarian mission.

Much of our work for peacebuilding depends on the ability of Rotary members to execute three important activities: forming transformative partnerships, raising funds to support our many hundreds of projects, and recruiting and supporting Rotary Peace Fellows in their work.

This year The Rotary Foundation formed a strategic partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace, one of the leading organizations in identifying and measuring the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.

Through this partnership, Rotary will work with the institute to create an online learning portal for Rotarians and peace fellows to build on their current expertise, apply new methods, and mobilize communities to address the issues underlying conflicts. Our goal is to foster community-based projects in peace and conflict resolution that are practical and impactful.

Rotary has also launched a Rotary Peace Centers Major Gifts Initiative to raise funds for new partnerships while continuing to garner contributions to educate and support our peace fellows and more.

President Ian H.S. Riseley's six peacebuilding conferences – taking place globally from February to June – will explore the relationship among peace, Rotary's areas of focus, and environmental sustainability. Our history proves that you don't need to be a diplomat to make peace.

When you mentor a student struggling to graduate, you are a peacebuilder.

When you launch any project to support economic development in your community, you are building conditions for sustainable peace and conflict management.

When you support and collaborate with a Rotary Peace Fellow, you are advancing peace.

Today's complex conflicts require more creative community-based initiatives. Together we can really make a difference.

September 2017

"Countdown to history" is a phrase I especially like. Those three words express not just how momentous Rotary's polio endeavor is – something achieved only once before in the human experience – but also that the finish line is within sight.

Rotary and our strategic partners are united behind eradicating polio. Our 2016 Council on Legislation voted to reaffirm polio eradication as a goal "of the highest order." At the recent 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva, global health leaders reiterated their commitment to polio eradication. News coverage of our efforts pops up everywhere. Projects continue worldwide – such as District 6930's annual World's Greatest Meal – that focus on Rotarians' primary responsibilities of fundraising, advocacy, and volunteer recruitment.

Just think: The next case of polio could be the last case. But we must be careful, because that "last case" will not be the end of our task. In fact, that's when the job gets even harder. The World Health Organization will require at least three years with zero cases reported before certifying the world polio free.

During that time, intensive vaccination and observation operations will need to continue. On the vaccination side, children will continue to receive the polio vaccine. On the surveillance side, watching for signs of resurgence is vitally important. As the number of cases and patients with visible symptoms drops, this observation grows increasingly more expensive.

This is why Rotary has increased its commitment to fighting polio to $50 million per year and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has extended its 2-for-1 match of Rotary donations for another three years. To achieve this goal, we need you more than ever. If Rotarians hit the fundraising goal each year, the total will be $450 million. At the convention in Atlanta, nations from around the world and key donors pledged more than $1 billion to energize the global fight to end this paralyzing disease, including Rotary's $50 million per year. Now we all have the important job of making good on those pledges.

All of this is why I ask you to contribute something to the polio campaign – whether it is a direct donation, fundraising in your community, or telling the polio story using the multiple platforms of today's media. Also, be an advocate by writing your government officials to ensure that they fulfill their pledges and maintain commitment, and reaching out to corporate leaders asking for their continued support of polio eradication. Write to me at to share what you are doing or your ideas for keeping polio at the top of our agenda. We need you as never before in our "countdown to history."

This World Polio Day, get involved by hosting a viewing party, concert, or polio walk or ride. Find out more at

August 2017

What does the chair of The Rotary Foundation Trustees do, anyway? What do the Trustees do? These questions are often asked of me in different ways. The Board of Trustees manages the business of the Foundation, the charitable arm of our organization that transforms your gifts into sustainable outcomes that change lives – both close to home and around the world.

One thing we do is listen. We listen to you, the members. Your voice comes to us through many different channels and connections with feedback, ideas, concerns, and recommendations.

We listen to our Rotary Foundation committees. We listen to our regional coordinators and advisers, to the district Foundation committee chairs, and to our district governors. We listen to our associate Rotary foundations which provide local tax benefits in seven countries.

We listen to our colleagues on the Board of Directors, to our trusted Rotary staff, to our incredible PolioPlus committees and our polio partners, to our Rotarian Action Groups and to the Cadre of Technical Advisers. We listen to feedback from our six Rotary Peace Centers.

Rotarians are the backbone of the Foundation, so it's important to listen to you.

For example, listening to Rotarians' ideas at the 2016 Council on Legislation (COL) led to several significant reforms to enhance the membership experience. These reforms offer clubs more flexibility. For example, an exciting rules change allows a service project to count as a meeting. Importantly, Rotaractors can now become members of Rotary clubs while they are still in Rotaract.

How do these changes benefit The Rotary Foundation? The strength of the Foundation starts with our members, and we believe the new club flexibility options will attract and keep more members. What needs to be accomplished for Rotary to remain relevant today and for the generations to come? This is where the COL's three-year cycle is your opportunity to bring forward ideas to continue the evolution of Rotary. The deadline for submitting proposed enactments for the 2019 COL is 31 December.

You are our greatest strength. Let me hear from you. I can be reached at

July 2017

The Foundation and the power of an idea

It seems like yesterday that I was 26 and a brand-new member of Rotary. When I missed my third meeting and failed to do a makeup, my sponsor sat me down and for the first time really explained the values of Rotary. I took his words to heart and haven't missed a makeup since. Now, 49 years later, almost to the day – as a proud member of the Rotary Club of Los Angeles (LA5) – I am honored and humbled to serve as chair of the Trustees of The Rotary Foundation this year.

The Foundation started with a simple idea: to do good in the world. One hundred years later, we know the story of what happened – as we have learned during this year's celebration of the Foundation's centennial.

During those years, Rotarians have raised and invested more than $4.1 billion in thousands of programs, projects, and scholarships. In short, the Foundation is a living history of the power of one idea. A Rotarian shares an idea with his or her club, and – with the help of grant money from the Foundation – amazing things happen.

This is an exciting time to be a Rotarian. It's the first year of The Rotary Foundation's second century, and we are on the verge of participating in one of the most amazing accomplishments in human history: the eradication of polio. Thirty-two years ago, PolioPlus began and served as a catalyst that engaged Rotarians and partners worldwide. Today polio is on track to become the second disease eradicated in human history. CNBC, a leading global media outlet, recently ranked The Rotary Foundation third on its list of the "Top 10 Charities Changing the World."

In the coming months I look forward to discussing our Foundation goals for the next year and beyond. Share your thoughts with me at Ask yourself, "What can I do to help tackle an issue that's near and dear to me?" How will you engage the Foundation to help you? Remember, all it takes is one person with an idea – along with a great organization – and those timeless Rotary values I learned way back when. It seems like yesterday.