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Increase our impact

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Rotarians are known for getting results. Our collective efforts can change lives for generations.

According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, Rotary members contribute nearly 47 million volunteer hours a year, worth an estimated $850 million, to communities around the globe. How do we continue not only to make a difference but also to prove what we’re capable of achieving? By being data-driven, and improving the ways we define, measure, and analyze our efforts.

Moving forward, we will increase our impact by evaluating the results of our work and learning from our successes and setbacks.

Making a difference

Rotarians are known for getting results. Our collective efforts can change lives for generations — like our work to protect billions of children against polio. Because of our partnership in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and the fundraising and advocacy efforts of countless members, nearly 19 million people are walking today who otherwise would have been paralyzed, and 1.5 million people are alive who otherwise would have died.

In August 2019, Nigeria, the last polio-endemic country in Africa, marked three years without a single case of polio caused by the wild poliovirus, thanks to the tireless work of Rotary members, health workers, partners, and governments. As the last polio-endemic country in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) African Region, this milestone paved the way for the entire African region to be certified as wild polio-free in August 2020. Nigeria’s wild polio-free declaration and removal from the list of endemic countries is an incredible public health achievement for Nigeria and all countries in the region, and a huge step forward on the road to global polio eradication.

Our achievements extend beyond the effort to end polio. The polio eradication infrastructure has provided critical support to the COVID-19 response in many vulnerable countries and has played a continual role in other health efforts, such as providing additional medical treatments and vaccines, bed nets to prevent malaria, access to clean water, and even soap for hand washing.

Fighting disease is just one of our areas of focus. Rotarians and Rotaractors also support education, grow local economies, save mothers and children, promote peace, and provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene.

In the stacks, a patron reads a book titled Transforming Rwanda, one of the library's 19,000 volumes and 30,000 digital titles.

Rotary has long supported activities that sustain the environment, providing $18 million in global grants over the last five years through our existing areas of focus. Recognizing the increased interest in environmental conservation among our members, The Rotary Foundation Trustees and Rotary International Board of Directors unanimously approved adding a new area of focus: protecting the environment.

More than a library

After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the Rotary Club of Kigali-Virunga looked for ways to support peace and reconciliation, stability and security, and economic growth in the country. Club members believed that literacy and access to information would be key to these goals. So, in 2000, they decided to build Rwanda’s first public library.

At the time, books were hard to obtain in the country, and access to technology — and to new ideas — was limited. It took more than a decade, but with support from Rotary Foundation grants, private donations, and government contributions, the Kigali Public Library opened its doors in 2012. It’s now a major institution in the bustling capital, with 19,000 volumes housed on three floors, plus 30,000 digital titles.

Students have a place to do homework. Children can play while their parents visit the internet cafe. Groups can hold their meetings in conference rooms. It’s a free and peaceful place, open to all. It’s also a reminder of how far Rwanda has come.

Sustainable tourism

Until the late 20th century, Mollejones, Costa Rica, was a coffee and sugarcane town. When commodity prices began to plummet, half of its population left to find new ways to make a living. That’s when the idea for community-based tourism took root among local entrepreneurs. But they needed help.

The Rotary Club of Cartago, Costa Rica, partnered with the Rotary Club of Denton, Texas, USA, on a global grant project to help women launch a tourism cooperative. The group attracts visitors to the area to experience its rain forests, waterfalls, and cultural traditions. Operators also work with other local entrepreneurs to showcase the community’s heritage through farm tours and cooking classes.

Laura Vargas Calderón shows visitors how to make a traditional Costa Rican bread roll.

To house tour groups and provide meeting space, Texas Rotarians and Interactors worked alongside Costa Rican Rotarians, partners, and local volunteers to build an “ecolodge,” complete with high-speed Wi-Fi.

Many of the women involved in the cooperative were single mothers who were eager to become successful entrepreneurs. They received business training, including lessons in bookkeeping, pricing, and marketing, through grant-funded workshops.

The project has benefited the entire community by bringing jobs to the area and creating a more stable economy.  

Bringing transformative service projects to life

In 2019-20, The Rotary Foundation awarded over $300 million in grants for the first time in its history. Grants totaling $307 million advanced the Foundation’s strategic goals and allowed Rotarians to do good like never before.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to communities around the world. Where help was needed, Rotary responded. By 30 June, the Foundation had awarded nearly $8 million for COVID-19-related projects through disaster response grants, thanks to generous funding from the Trustees and Board of Directors. The Foundation also awarded over $14 million through global grants to support COVID-19 response.

The Foundation offers grants that help Rotary members increase their impact through service, scholarships, and training.

  • Through global grants, clubs partner with one another on international projects that can make a large, sustainable impact. The Rotary Clubs of Machala Moderno, Ecuador, and Chicago, Illinois, USA, worked together on a global grant project to restore a ravaged watershed in the foothills of the Andes. Through consultations with local leaders and residents, the Rotarians learned how the land, water, and community interact, and designed a project that has improved the area’s water quality and supply.
  • When a smaller, short-term solution can produce effective results for a community, the project can be funded with a district grant. The Rotary Club of Jeffreys Bay, South Africa, used a district grant to install a jungle gym at a local mother-and-baby clinic.
  • Rotary’s disaster response grants provide urgent funding to help communities recover from a natural disaster. After a deadly earthquake struck, Albanian clubs used the funds it received from a disaster response grant to deliver humanitarian food and hygiene packages to displaced families.
  • Rotary’s PolioPlus grants fund polio eradication activities in polio-endemic and at-risk countries. Additionally, PolioPlus Partners grants support urgent polio projects submitted by Rotary members.
  • 300.00 million

    in grants for the first time in history (USD)

  • 151.80 million

    total funding for PolioPlus grants* (USD)

(*PolioPlus Partners grants)