Trustee chair's message

June 2019

A message from The Rotary Foundation Trustees

As thousands of Rotarians around the world board flights to Hamburg for the Rotary International Convention in just a few days, someone in line might see one of our pins or a Rotary tag on our luggage and ask, “Are you a Rotarian?”

After we answer with an enthusiastic “yes,” there’s much more to say about how we, as people of action, are making the world a better place — through our connections within clubs and through the transformative power of The Rotary Foundation.

We can talk about how Rotary implements projects that will help communities long after we’re all gone. We can describe how clubs in one country pool funds with those from another to make communities healthier, more prosperous, and better educated. We can share how our clubs partnered with global health leaders to bring the scourge of polio to its knees. And we can proudly note that much of the good that Rotary does now and will do in the future is because of the Foundation and its promise to transform gifts into projects that change lives.

As we gather in Hamburg to mark another successful Rotary year, we have much to celebrate. At publication time, we had approved 1,078 global grant applications, with total funding of $76.5 million.

Last July, we launched the community assessment component as a requirement for all global grant or vocational training team applications as part of our commitment to sustainability. That approach also informs why we established the Rotary Disaster Response Fund and Grant this year, which allows distribution of grants up to $25,000 for worldwide Rotarian disaster response.

We also saw the Rotary Peace Centers significantly grow and increase their impact. From among record numbers of applicants in 2019, around 100 Peace Fellows will be chosen, and once they graduate, they will join more than 1,200 others in applying their conflict resolution skills to global problems.

And as of this writing, we are extraordinarily close to meeting this year’s fundraising goal, but we still need your help to surpass it.

We are committed to strengthening and growing the Foundation for the future. As we look forward to a new Rotary year and opportunities to make an even greater impact in communities worldwide, we would like to thank our chair, Brenda M. Cressey, for her leadership during the past two months. Should you have questions about the Foundation’s recent leadership transition, we invite you to find more information at

There are countless ways the Foundation fuels our ability to be proud Rotary members. In turn, there is so much we can do to help it grow. End your Rotary year on a high note: Visit We thank you for your generosity and for all you do in Rotary.

May 2019

Many good fundraising ideas come from you, Rotarians in the field. Over the years, I can think of a couple that have caught on. They both began in the creative minds of committed, dedicated Rotarians who saw a need to raise awareness of The Rotary Foundation and took action.

One is the Paul Harris Society. In 1999, Rotarian Wayne Cusick from District 5340 in California had the idea of creating a special group of individuals who would contribute $1,000 to the Foundation on an annual basis. That first year, 55 members signed up. The number doubled the next year. Today some 119 districts have a Paul Harris Society program with a membership in excess of 22,000. For more information, go to

Another is the White Hat Society. While attending a Rotary institute in 2004, Ed Mullen and Bill Bryce from District 5870 in Texas challenged each other to contribute $5,000 and recruit another Rotarian to do the same. They raised $75,000 in one day. Today, there are some 450 members in 38 districts in five countries. Contributions have exceeded $5 million. Various giving levels are available, and each one is eligible for special White Hat Society recognition. Membership does not require an annual contribution. Visit to find out how you can join.

I would like to share with you one more opportunity that is of special importance to me. It is the preservation of the longtime home of Paul and Jean Harris. Rotarians involved in the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation have acquired the property and are renovating it. The project has been spearheaded by RI Director Robert C. Knuepfer Jr., a member of the Rotary Club of Chicago, so that this piece of Rotary history is preserved. Learn more about this worthy project by visiting

Please consider joining me in becoming a member of the Paul Harris Society or the White Hat Society, and in supporting the Paul and Jean Harris Home Foundation.

April 2019

As we begin the last quarter of the Rotary year, our thoughts turn to ensuring a strong finish. I hope that your goal has been to make your club stronger than it was at the beginning of the year. All clubs depend on members to do their part so the club doesn't just survive, but thrive.

But for that to happen, each member must contribute to that success every day of the year. It is important that we identify potential new members and sponsor them, that we reach out to former members and invite them back. Above all, whether they are new members or returning members, we must mentor and engage them to make them strong members of our club. We must roll up our sleeves and work on club projects, district projects, and global projects, because nothing creates fellowship more than working together with other members of your club.

We must also support The Rotary Foundation. Doing good in the world doesn't just happen. In addition to having the people to carry out projects, we must also have the funds to make them viable. That's where each of us comes in. We, our partners, and our beneficiaries are the sources for those funds. I hope each member will make our Foundation a charity of choice so we can continue to change lives and improve the world. For the cost of just two "crafted" lattes a month, one can become a $100-per-year contributor to the Foundation. That is a small amount to pay for all the good our Foundation does.

And giving to our Foundation has never been easier. You can make your contribution securely and conveniently anytime at I plan to go online this month and make another contribution. I challenge each of you to do the same.

March 2019

The last quarter of the Rotary year is approaching, and it's time to check our progress. In January a year ago, we set a series of fundraising goals, and this June, we will give ourselves a report card. What will it be?

As Rotary Foundation trustee chair, I am looking forward to telling you at the Rotary International Convention what we all most want to hear: that we not only met our goals, but exceeded them.

That's because each of those goals corresponds directly to progress in each of our six areas of focus.

In 2017-18, we approved 1,300 global grants. Those grants funded large, international projects with measurable, sustainable outcomes. Some were to keep newborn babies alive. Some were to bring clean drinking water and sanitary toilets to communities. And some went to economic development in poor areas. But every dollar had an impact — the kind of impact that lasts.

But there's something else just as important: making sure we can continue doing this long into the future.

That's where our goal for the Endowment comes in. Our Rotary Endowment is our promise to tomorrow — that our service to humanity will continue, that we will never give up.

Our goal for the Endowment this year is $26.5 million in direct gifts, with an additional goal of $35 million in commitments. But that's not all we're aiming for. We also have a long-term goal: reaching $2.025 billion in 2025.

Bringing the Endowment to that level will ensure that the World Fund has annual income to fund Foundation programs year in and year out. This money will go in perpetuity to the programs you have determined to support through your gift to the Endowment. If each of us supports our Endowment, we can truly make Our Legacy, Rotary's Promise.

Together, we can make our Foundation even stronger, so that we can do even more good in the world.

February 2019

Every second of every day, Rotarians are doing good in the world through The Rotary Foundation. They are planning, funding, implementing, and completing projects, both locally and globally. It is a source of great pride for us all.

To me, this is one of the unique features of Rotary membership. You can get as involved as you choose. You can participate in a project from beginning to end, or you can join in anywhere in the process. But it all starts with you and me making a gift to our Foundation so that funds are available.

For many of us, a district grant offers the quickest and most convenient way to participate in grant activity, because it usually involves a local project. A district grant project is a good way to showcase Rotary, to get publicity, to involve prospective members as well as the beneficiaries, and to add value to your own community.

Global grants offer us a way to participate in international projects in one or more of our six areas of focus. As we develop a project idea, we conduct a needs assessment to determine what is needed in the community, the resources required and how they can be accessed, and how to carry out the project collaboratively with Rotarians, partners, and others in the field. We make sure that our project includes Rotarian involvement, benefits the greatest number of people, and can be maintained by the local residents once it is completed to ensure a long-term effect for the community. We all take comfort in knowing that these steps have been meticulously followed.

And, because of this proper stewardship and accountability, we all continue to contribute our time, talents, and treasure. You see, it is our Foundation. We are proud of it, and it is truly making a difference in our world!

January 2019

I would be willing to bet that most Rotarians remember the person who sponsored them into their Rotary club. It's a person we will never forget and to whom we will always be grateful for sharing with us such a life-changing opportunity. Having said that, I'm not really sure most of us can pinpoint exactly when our Foundation became so important to us. It's not quite as simple as someone inviting you to a meeting. But I have to think there was some seminal event, project, or happening — whether in your club or district, or internationally — that turned on that light for you.

Since 1905, Rotary clubs have provided the outlet that allows Rotarians to be people of action in their communities. Our local clubs are where we live, work, and make lifelong friends, and where and how we have the most direct, visible impact on the place we call home. I firmly believe that when most Rotarians hear "Rotary International," they think of their Rotary club.

On the other hand, when Rotarians hear "The Rotary Foundation," they think of the myriad humanitarian and educational projects and programs that have made the Foundation the premier foundation in our world today. It is truly the magic that brings Rotary to life for them, makes their community the world, and allows them to be global people of action.

As we begin the new calendar year and think about the many things we would like to get done, many of us make New Year's resolutions. I hope one of yours is greater involvement and participation in our Rotary Foundation. Let's each make our Foundation our charity of choice. If we do that, we can make this Rotary year the very best in our incredible history. Please join me and make Rotary's legacy your promise!

December 2018

For many of us, December is a time of reflection about the year that is about to end. We think about the things we resolved to do and compare that with what we actually got done. Many times we surprise ourselves when we realize we achieved even more than we had hoped. We also start thinking about the new year and, with the best of intentions, commit ourselves to even greater accomplishments.

It is a time when our thoughts turn to the things that are important to us — and nothing is as important as family. We are grateful for those we love and for those who love us. For Rotarians, that encompasses a large number of people around the world, because our concept of family includes not only our immediate relatives but also those many friends we have made over the years sharing Rotary. Each of us is much like a stone thrown into a pond, creating many ripples. When our ripples intersect with the ripples of our family and friends, we truly have an impact on our world.

We also think about the organizations that are important to us and that exist because of our generosity as well as the generosity of others. We voluntarily support these organizations and generously contribute our time, talent, and treasure to further their work and make our world a better place for all. And through this work, our family gets even larger.

Our family and our impact continue to grow each year through our commitment to and support of our Rotary Foundation. Working together creates a synergy that allows one person to truly make a difference. And when we all work together and commit ourselves to a cause, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. In that process we are bound together and become an even more close-knit family.

So at this special time of year, as you reflect on your family and the good things in your life, think about your Rotary legacy. Now is the time to make your lasting commitment so that the important work of our Foundation will continue in perpetuity.

November 2018

Every year we celebrate November as Rotary Foundation Month. How fortunate we are to have a world-class Foundation that allows us to do so much good in the world. We should all take pride in the fact that something good happens every second of every day because of Rotarians and our Rotary Foundation.

Remember how excited we were at the 2017 Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, where we celebrated the Foundation's first 100 years? The fundraising goal for that year was $300 million, and, as you recall, we raised $304 million to exceed that goal. It was a landmark year for the Foundation.

In the 2017-18 Rotary year, as the Foundation entered its second century of service, we had an even more ambitious fundraising goal of $360 million. At the convention in Toronto in June, outgoing Trustee Chair Paul A. Netzel told attendees that we once again had a landmark year for our Foundation, setting a one-year fundraising record of $373 million.

This year our fundraising goal totals $380 million. Our goal for polio is $50 million, which will be turned into $150 million through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation matching grant. Add to that a $137 million goal for the Annual Fund, $61.5 million for the Endowment Fund, and $31.5 million for global grant cash and other outright gifts, and our many programs will be fully funded and Rotarians will be completely equipped and empowered to continue making real change.

Now, it's up to you and me. We have the chance to forge a path of ever-increasing relevance and influence — to choose the direction and tempo of the Foundation's second century.

I'm challenging you to increase your involvement in our Foundation — by doing, by giving, and by inspiring. Together we can make tomorrow even brighter than today. We can make every month Rotary Foundation Month. So, Be the Inspiration, build your Rotary legacy, and let's make this yet another landmark year in our history.

October 2018

Since its inception in 1905, Rotary has been a champion for peace. The 1914 Rotary Convention adopted a resolution that our organization "lend its influence to the maintenance of peace among nations of the world." Then, the 1921 convention incorporated into Rotary's Constitution the goal to aid in the advancement of international peace and goodwill through fellowship in the Rotary ideal of service. In 1945, Rotary played a key role in forming the United Nations when almost 50 Rotarians served as delegates, advisers, or consultants at the UN charter conference in San Francisco.

Today, one of our six areas of focus is promoting peace. Every Rotary service project, whether funded with a district grant or a global grant, has an impact on peace. It could be a peace project, a water and sanitation project, a basic education and literacy project, an economic and community development project, or a project in one of our human health-related areas – maternal and child health or disease prevention and treatment. It really doesn't matter. The ultimate outcome makes a positive contribution to our world by improving the quality of life for those affected, and that improvement is an element of peace.

Additionally, each year we select up to 100 professionals from around the world to be Rotary Peace Fellows who receive fellowships to study at one of our six peace centers, earning either a master's degree or a professional development certificate in areas such as human rights, international politics, public health, and development. To date, 1,100-plus people have participated in the program, and we are beginning to see positive results.

As we look to the future, The Rotary Foundation Trustees are discussing how we can improve this program as well as all of our peace efforts so that we can achieve the maximum possible positive impact. If you would like to help, you can contribute to the Rotary Peace Centers Major Gifts Initiative and help support the next generation of peacebuilders.

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.