Trustee chair's message
Trustee Chair 2015-16
When I joined Rotary many years ago, the fireside chat was a popular, simple, and effective method of communication among Rotarians. One Rotarian would invite a small number of fellow members to his home (this was before the admission of women in 1987) to talk about the value of Rotary in their lives. The evening would provide fellowship and increase knowledge about Rotary programs, including The Rotary Foundation. In some parts of the world, particularly Down Under, they were called poolside chats, but the concept was the same.
As the 111th anniversary of Rotary on 23 February approaches, I hope you will take the opportunity to spend the evening with some of your Rotary friends, men and women, to talk about Rotary, particularly the Foundation as it prepares for its centennial year in 2016-17. The anniversary falls on a Tuesday this year, and as Tuesday nights are normally not heavily booked for social activities, there are many ways to celebrate.
In today's world, our chats about Rotary may be held online through social media avenues or in person in homes, restaurants, or pubs. I encourage Rotarians around the world to commemorate both the birthday of Rotary and the 100th anniversary of The Rotary Foundation by inviting some Rotary friends to join together in fellowship and service for conversations about the organization. Just as Rotary grew out of the idea of one individual, Paul Harris, the idea of Rotary chats can be revived by individual Rotarians and clubs in a variety of ways.
Who will step forward to try the idea in their respective clubs this year? If it is you, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me about your chat. By whatever name and method, our chats on 23 February about Rotary's founding and the Foundation's centennial will be good for our Rotary clubs!
"Cowboy Logic," as sung by Michael Martin Murphey, has been one of my favorite songs for many years because of its happy music and thoughtful lyrics. It has relevance to Rotary because of its emphasis on honesty and hard work, but I did not fully appreciate its application to our organization until I read Cowboy Ethics by Jim Owen.
Jim was aware that the unwritten Code of the West was a powerful and positive force shaping the ethical behavior of cowboys in the Western states of the USA, and he distilled the code into 10 guiding principles. They are succinctly and aptly stated, and they align closely with The Four-Way Test, one of the hallmarks of Rotary.
Three of the principles are particularly applicable to the PolioPlus program. In the 30 years since the program was launched, Rotarians have remained steadfastly committed to the goal of polio eradication, even though it has taken much longer and been more expensive than anyone originally imagined. But we stuck with it, and now the goal of ending polio is clearly in sight. Along the way, we have fulfilled three of the principles of the Code of the West: "Do what has to be done," "When you make a promise, keep it," and "Always finish what you start"!
Two other principles have special relevance for The Rotary Foundation as a whole: "Take pride in your work" and "Ride for the brand." Through their support of Foundation programs, from the first ambassadorial scholarships in 1948 to newer initiatives such as the Rotary Peace Centers and the Future Vision plan, Rotarians have truly made the world a better place. And because Rotarians have "ridden for the brand" through their creative work and generous contributions, these programs have been highly successful, enhancing members' ability to take pride in their work. Therefore, I do not need to ask Rotarians for their loyalty to the Foundation. Instead, I want to thank them for their amazing loyalty!
Presidential conferences have become popular meetings for Rotarians from around the world, but the conference programs vary from year to year with each president. President Ravi has planned five unique conferences during this Rotary year, each inspired by one of the areas of focus established by The Rotary Foundation as part of its Future Vision plan:
- Peace and conflict prevention and resolution: 15-16 January in Ontario, Calif. - peaceconference2016.org
- Disease prevention and treatment: 19-20 February in Cannes, France- rotary-conference-cannes2016.org
- Community and economic development: 27 February in Cape Town, South Africa - rotarycapetown2016.com
- Literacy and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) in schools: 11-13 March in Kolkata, India - rotaryteach.org/presidentialconference
- WASH in Schools: 18-19 March in Pasay City, Philippines - 2016RotaryPresidentialConferenceManila.org
President Ravi and I will attend all five of the conferences, which are co-sponsored by Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation, and we hope that Rotarians will take an active interest in supporting them, particularly the ones closest to their homes. These events offer opportunities to explore the issues alongside Rotary's leaders and outside experts in the various areas of focus, as we spotlight practical approaches for Rotarians to become involved in new and effective projects.
If you find any of the conferences to be of interest, which I hope you will, please consider attending one of them, or perhaps sending a representative from your club. The presidential conferences are excellent supplements to the Rotary conventions, and they are further proof that Rotary is truly Doing Good in the World all around the globe!
It is well-established that The Rotary Foundation is the focus of attention in the month of November, and we try our best to publicize our Foundation programs and to raise money to fund the programs during the entire month! But why November?
The idea started in May 1956 when the RI Board designated the week of 15 November as Rotary Foundation Week. The designation was firmly in place by 1961 when I was a Rotary scholar in South Africa, and most of the southern African clubs featured programs about the Foundation that week. I also observed the same focus when I returned home and joined the Rotary club in my hometown of Unionville, Mo.
Many of our clubs at that time scheduled low-cost meals at their meetings during Rotary Foundation Week and donated the savings to the Foundation. It was a good way to produce Foundation funds at a time when most contributions were still made by clubs, not by individual Rotarians. But why did the RI Board select the week of 15 November in 1956 and then expand it in 1982 to the whole month of November, starting in 1983-84?
My speculation is that the initial decision in 1956 was based on the realization that many clubs in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly the large clubs, were not fully active during their summer months of June, July, and August. Therefore, it was best to wait and give time for the clubs to educate their members each year about the Foundation. And since the Foundation contributions were coming from the clubs, it gave the clubs time to raise the money, but still send it to the Foundation in the first half of the Rotary year for investment purposes. It was a win-win situation for both the clubs and the Foundation!
Regardless of whether my speculation has merit, Rotary Foundation Month has been, and will continue to be, a critical factor in the success of our Foundation. It is the month that our clubs and districts continue the tradition of educating our Rotarians about the amazing quality of our Foundation programs and seeking the needed contributions to make the world a better place.
Our Foundation is a premier organization, and it owes its success to the support of Rotarians, many of whom have gained their appreciation of Foundation programs during the traditional emphasis on such programs in November. The importance of Rotary Foundation Month should not be discounted, and I hope that all of our clubs will feature the Foundation during the month of November. It is a significant and productive tradition, and I encourage all Rotarians to take the time to attend their club and district Foundation events this month. Embrace the tradition! Celebrate the Foundation!
The 2016-17 Rotary year will be the centennial year for The Rotary Foundation, which started at the 1917 Rotary convention in Atlanta. This issue of The Rotarian magazine is filled with information about the exciting 2016 convention to be held in Seoul, 28 May-1 June – and part of the excitement is due to the kickoff activities for the Foundation's centennial celebration.
The Foundation has a Centennial Celebration Committee, which is chaired by Past Trustee Stephanie Urchick, and the committee has comprehensive plans for a full year of celebratory events, which will culminate in a giant celebration at the 2017 Rotary convention in Atlanta. The Foundation trustees, Rotary International directors, and Rotary staff members are all committed to a successful recognition of the Foundation's anniversary because of the Foundation's significant role in helping our clubs and districts to conduct service projects around the world. The Rotary Foundation clearly has been a tremendous force for Doing Good in the World!
And as we contemplate our high-level plans for the centennial, we once more pause to recognize and appreciate that the totality of what happens in our clubs and districts is far bigger and longer-lasting than what happens in Evanston and at the conventions. As a result, the true success of the centennial celebration will depend on the quality and quantity of the celebratory events in our clubs and districts. The big question is whether our Rotarians around the globe will embrace the Foundation's centennial and undertake their own centennial projects and celebrations. So please do your part to stimulate the interest and involvement of your club.
The Rotary Foundation has been highly successful in assisting our clubs and districts to promote international understanding, goodwill, and peace in the world – and therefore, it is appropriate that all of our clubs and districts should participate in the centennial celebration. As usual in Rotary, there is no prescribed way in which the clubs and districts should join the celebration, and I hope our clubs and districts will be as creative in their celebratory activities as they have been in their myriad humanitarian projects throughout the years. This is the right time for all of us to express our appreciation for The Rotary Foundation!
Rotary and its partners have developed an endgame for the final eradication of polio, and the plan is working successfully. No one can predict the last case of wild poliovirus, but if our progress is sustained, it may come before the end of this Rotary year. What a victory that will be for Rotary and its partners – and for the children of the world!
Rotary also has a plan to publicize and gain recognition for its vital role in the eradication of polio. Rotary started its first immunization campaign against polio in 1979, when there were still 500,000 cases of paralytic polio every year. Its success led Rotary to launch PolioPlus in 1985, with the goal of immunizing all the world's children against polio. It raised US$247 million for that purpose in the first three years, and it then joined forces with the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF in 1988 to eradicate polio. When the partnership was formed, a truly epic battle was joined, and Rotary was the catalyst.
Now we are in the final days of this heroic effort, and it is important for Rotary that the entire world is made aware of its contributions as a major partner in the eradication battle. Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation will do everything they can to publicize Rotary's role, but that is only one piece of the puzzle. Every Rotary club needs to learn the history of the PolioPlus campaign and publicize the news in their local communities. We need the active involvement of every Rotary club in the world to spread the news around the globe.
Download the marketing tools available at endpolio.org, and read Rotary and the Gift of a Polio-Free World, now available at shop.rotary.org. Share information about Rotary's role in the fight to end this disease with your social networks online and offline.
World Polio Day is observed every year on 24 October, and it is critical that every Rotary club schedule an event on or around 24 October this year to spread the word in their local communities about Rotary's role in the campaign to eradicate polio. Use the live-streamed updates from endpolio.org as a key element of the program. This is a great time to start our local publicity efforts for World Polio Day 2015. We are so close to our goal – don't let us down! Your club needs to start spreading the outstanding news about PolioPlus!
The Rotary Foundation has traditionally used a few annual goals to guide its planning for the next Rotary year. However, there is a more comprehensive plan in place for the current Rotary year. At their October 2014 meeting, the Trustees utilized the spirit of the RI strategic plan by approving four priorities to stay in place for the next three years:
1. End polio, now and forever.
2. Strengthen Rotarians' knowledge, engagement, and financial support of The Rotary Foundation.
3. Increase the quality and impact of Rotary's humanitarian service effort through Foundation grants and the six areas of focus.
4. Enhance the image and awareness of the Foundation's record of achievements, particularly the success of PolioPlus and its 100-year record of doing good in the world.
In addition to the agreed four priorities for the next three years, the Trustees also approved four measurable goals for each of the priorities. Therefore, we now have 16 measurable goals to guide our efforts. The goals can be changed each year as progress is made on achievement of the priorities, but for the current year our course is set – and for the first time, it is measurable!
I will be sharing some of the goals with you in future editions, but it is worth noting that the advent of measurable goals for the Foundation came at a propitious time. RI President K.R. Ravindran is a proponent of key performance indicators (KPIs) for the work of Rotarians in leadership positions, and the new measurable goals made it much easier to develop some KPIs for our regional Rotary Foundation coordinators and endowment/major gift advisers. The KPIs are still an experiment, and they will need refinement and development, but they are a step in the right direction as we try to take a longer look ahead each year!