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Rotary and the coronavirus impact: Frequently Asked Questions



As people of action, Rotary members want to find ways to respond to COVID-19, and to help people affected by it. The Rotary Foundation offers several options that Rotarians can use to help care for and protect people in their own communities and others around the world.

Q: Can I apply for a disaster response grant for COVID-19 related projects?

A: Yes. Rotary’s disaster response grants provide a fast and effective way to respond to local events. The Rotary Foundation recently added COVID-19 projects to its list of eligible activities for these grants. Each district can apply for one grant (of up to $25,000) to address COVID-19, depending on the availability of funds. Disaster response grants are funded by the Rotary Disaster Response Fund to help districts around the world respond to disasters.

Q: Can districts use contingency funds from an open district grant or repurposed previously planned activities as a COVID-19 response?

A: Yes. As districts prepare to submit new district grant applications for 2020-21, we encourage you to designate funds for COVID-19 responses. As districts prepare to submit new district grant applications for 2020-21, we encourage you to designate funds for COVID-19 responses. 

Q: What if my district already has expenses related to COVID-19 activities?

A: As a one-time exception, the Foundation will allow expenses related to COVID-19 that were incurred since 15 March 2020 to be reimbursed through 2020-21 district grants.

Q: How can I support the Disaster Response Fund without applying for a grant?

A: The Disaster Response Fund accepts online contributions and DDF. Districts may designate that their DDF contributions to the Disaster Response Fund be used exclusively for COVID-19 grant activities. Cash contributions will be used for general disaster response, including response to COVID-19.

Q: Can I use a Rotary Foundation global grant to fund COVID-19 related projects?

A: Yes. Global grants remain an excellent way to make a transformative impact in a community. If medical equipment is needed in order to respond effectively to COVID-19, global grants can help pay for these items. The Foundation is waiving the 30 percent foreign financing requirement for any new global grant that addresses COVID-19. Note that these grants still require both a host and international partner.

For additional information, contact your regional grants officer.



Q: How does the COVID-19 pandemic impact Rotary’s fight to end polio?

A: In our work to end polio, the program sees the devastating impact that communicable diseases have. With this in mind, we are fully committed to supporting national health systems by engaging our expertise and assets to help mitigate and contain the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside continuing concerted efforts to eradicate polio.

Using the vast infrastructure developed to identify the poliovirus and deliver vaccination campaigns, the polio eradication program is pitching in to protect the vulnerable from COVID-19, especially in polio-endemic countries. From Pakistan to Nigeria, the program is drawing on years of experience fighting outbreaks to support governments as they respond to the new virus. Learn more.


Rotary International Convention

Q: Is the 2020 Rotary International Convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, canceled?

A: Unfortunately, yes. We regret to announce that the Rotary International Convention, scheduled for 6-10 June 2020 in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, has been canceled due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. This decision is necessary to protect the health of everyone involved. Learn more.


Other major Rotary events

Q: Have other Rotary events been canceled?

A: Unfortunately, yes. To protect the health of all involved, Rotary canceled the presidential conferences scheduled for 28 March at UNESCO in Paris, France, and 9 May at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, Italy. People who registered will receive an email from the organizers with additional information and details about refunds.


Club and district meetings

Q: Should my club or district continue to hold meetings?

A: Rotary International recommends that districts and Rotary and Rotaract clubs meet virtually, cancel, or postpone meetings. Closely examine your personal circumstances, including any health issues, when you consider travel and participation in events.

Learn from other clubs about hosting virtual club meetings in the Learning Center.


Rotary leadership, committees, RI secretariat

Q: Will the RI Board of Directors and The Rotary Foundation Trustees meet during this pandemic?

A: Yes, the RI Board and the Foundation Trustees meetings will take place remotely via webinar rather than in-person.

Q: Did the RI Board take any action in response to COVID-19?

A: Yes. The RI Board, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, agreed to general principles at their April meeting. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The health and safety of all participants in Rotary programs, meetings, and events is of paramount importance.
  • No in-person meeting or event shall be mandatory for any Rotary participant who may feel uncomfortable attending because of the pandemic.
  • All conveners and organizers of Rotary meetings are strongly encouraged to consider all health concerns in deciding whether to hold in-person meetings.
  • All RI Board meetings shall be conducted virtually (and not in-person) for the remainder of calendar year 2020
  • All RI committee meetings shall be conducted virtually (and not in-person) for the remainder of calendar year 2020
  • 2020 Rotary Institute conveners are authorized to decide whether to conduct their institutes and governor-elect and governor-nominee training in-person or virtually
  • Rl shall not fund the expenses of any president’s representative to a district conference for the 2020–21 Rotary year. If a district requests a president’s representative, the president may appoint one from the same region of the world in which the district is located, at no cost to RI.
  • Governors are strongly encouraged to use virtual meetings for club visits that occur during calendar year 2020.
  • Regional leaders are strongly encouraged to use virtual meetings for training seminars and other events during calendar year 2020Yes, the RI Board.

Q: Is the Rotary International secretariat taking precautions?

A: Yes. All Rotary committees and events scheduled to take place at Rotary International headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA, have been canceled through 31 May. If feasible, committees may choose to hold virtual meetings.

All RI staff travel, both international and domestic, has also been canceled through 31 May. RI staff at Evanston headquarters and all of Rotary’s global offices are practicing social distancing by working from home until least 31 May.


Rotary Youth Exchange

Q: Are Rotary Youth Exchanges still taking place?

A: Contact your partner districts to confirm specific precautions related to COVID-19 where students are being hosted. All districts, as well as students and their parents, should consult travel advisories and guidelines issued by their embassies or consular offices, international public health agencies like the World Health Organization, and local health authorities for the latest and most relevant information.

Q: What if my district is scheduled to host a youth exchange student?

A: Districts should strongly consider ending exchanges and returning students home if it is safe and possible to do so.  

In some situations, returning a student home may present a greater risk. Determine how international travel conditions or requirements (medical screenings, preauthorization, etc.), strict quarantine measures, or the situation in a student’s host and home country may impact each student’s return depending on their specific circumstances. However, it is also important to consider how this rapidly changing situation may progress and present new challenges in the future, including the possibility that students may be prevented from returning home for an indefinite period of time.

Districts must communicate regularly with parents or /legal guardians and consult with local embassies, consulates, and public health authorities to make informed decisions that prioritize safety, minimize risk, and consider the impact of each decision related to a student’s exchange. In any event, parents or legal guardians may choose to remove their child from the program at any time.

Also, consider whether student trips or local activities planned for the future could expose participants to an increased risk or to challenges returning home and cancel or postpone all nonessential travel.


Rotary Peace Fellowships and other programs

Q: How are Rotary Peace Fellowships impacted by the pandemic? 

A: Countries listed as Level 3 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been added to Rotary’s travel ban list, and all nonessential travel to, from, or through those countries is restricted for Rotary staff and fellows. Use discretion if you plan to travel to or through Level 2 countries. Fellows currently in a country experiencing the spread of COVID-19 are advised to follow the recommendations of your host university and the country’s national health agencies. 

For first-year fellows preparing for your applied field experience, we recommend you consider options in your study country and have an alternate plan in place in case travel is restricted further. Beyond health and safety concerns, we do not want fellows to be subject to quarantines or have challenges returning to the country where you study because of your field experience travel. You can contact your staff specialist with specific questions about how Rotary’s policy may affect your field experience planning.

Q: What should I know about Interact and Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) during this time? 

A: Consider whether planned events, trips, or local activities could expose young people to an increased risk, and consider canceling or postponing nonessential travel or large gatherings. 

Follow the guidance of schools for any closures or delayed start times that may affect school-based program participants. Discuss how they can stay engaged and safe until school resumes. Talk with parents or guardians about their child’s health and safety and what Rotary clubs and districts are doing to minimize the exposure and impact for participants in Rotary activities and events. 

Q: What should I know about other types of Rotary exchanges?

A: Participants in Rotary Friendship Exchanges, and Rotary Action Groups and their affiliated chapters should follow recommendations from the World Health Organization and the host region’s national, regional, or local health authorities when considering whether to cancel or postpone events, meetings, or activities.

Districts organizing international programs such as Rotary Friendship Exchanges and New Generations Service Exchanges could expose participants to an increased risk. Organizers should follow the guidelines set by the World Health Organization and the national, regional, or local health authorities of participating districts when considering whether to cancel or postpone planned trips or activities.


Rotary-funded travel

Q: What do I need to know about my Rotary-funded travel?

A: Any Rotary-funded travel, including grant recipients, Rotary Youth Exchange participants, and Rotary Peace Fellows, have been canceled through 31 May. Direct additional questions about Rotary-funded travel to your appropriate program officer.

Take Action Now

Donate to the Disaster Response Fund

Your gift helps Rotary clubs provide disaster recovery and support rebuilding efforts, including projects related to COVID-19.

Interested in a Disaster Response Grant?

To help respond to the global COVID-19 crisis, the Rotary Foundation is offering several options that Rotary members can use to help care for and protect people in their own communities and others around the world.