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In 1917, RI President Arch C. Klumph proposed that an endowment be set up “for the purpose of doing good in the world.” In 1928, when the endowment fund had grown to more than US$5,000, it was renamed The Rotary Foundation, and it became a distinct entity within Rotary International. Five Trustees, including Klumph, were appointed to “hold, invest, manage, and administer all of its property . . . as a single trust, for the furtherance of the purposes of RI.”
Two years later, the Foundation made its first grant of $500 to the International Society for Crippled Children. The organization, created by Rotarian Edgar F. “Daddy” Allen, later grew into the Easter Seals.
Do your friends and co-workers know that you're a Rotarian? Do you tell acquaintances about your club's good works in the community or internationally?
Did you know that talking about your involvement in Rotary could significantly enhance the organization's image and boost public awareness? It’s up to every Rotarian to tell the world what Rotary is and does.
According to a public image survey commissioned by Rotary International in 2010, people are much more likely to know about Rotary and perceive it positively as a charitable organization if they personally know a Rotarian. The finding is just one of many that could shape how clubs and districts promote Rotary in their communities.
RI commissioned the survey of 1,000 individuals in each of six countries -- Argentina, Australia, Germany, Japan, South Africa, and the United States -- to gauge the general public's awareness and perception of the organization. The results are consistent with those of a similar survey conducted in 2006: While respondents had heard of Rotary, they did not know much about what it does.
Building familiarity is not easy, says Pauline Leung, Rotary public image general coordinator. "Sometimes Rotarians are doing too many things and can get people confused about Rotary. We must have consistency when promoting the image of Rotary. Rotarians should receive training so they can clearly express our position, our vision, our values, and our areas of focus."
High awareness, low familiarity
The survey showed that awareness of Rotary varies from country to country, and culture to culture. Of the six countries surveyed, Australia had the highest proportion of respondents who said they were aware of Rotary (95 percent), while Germany had the lowest (34 percent).
But awareness of Rotary doesn't necessarily translate into familiarity with what it does. While almost everyone in Australia indicated an awareness of Rotary, only 35 percent of respondents said they had some familiarity with the organization. In South Africa, where 80 percent of respondents indicated they were aware of Rotary, only 23 percent said they had some familiarity with what it does.
The survey report concluded that public image efforts will need to be tailored to each country. It also noted that boosting awareness alone will not be enough to get the public to readily associate Rotary with good works, or to generate greater community involvement.
The survey further concluded that demographics play a significant role in whether people have heard of Rotary. The survey included a cross section of each country's population by age, gender, income level, and education level. In Japan, 67 percent of respondents age 40 or older said they had heard of Rotary, compared to only 38 percent of those younger than 40. In Argentina, 63 percent of the highest income bracket had heard of Rotary, while only 20 percent of the lowest income bracket had. The report concluded that clubs may need to gain a better understanding of what would increase interest among younger professionals.
Public perception and giving
The public’s view of Rotarians differs somewhat from how Rotarians see themselves. More than 65 percent of respondents viewed Rotarians as charitable, respected, and caring. But only 26 percent selected the attribute women to describe Rotary, while more than 50 percent associated the organization with men. In other questions, more respondents said they associated club membership with men than with women. The survey concluded that Rotary is still being seen as a male-dominated organization. Work needs to be directed toward communicating opportunities for women to join.
Interest in contributing time or money to a Rotary club varied by nation. Interest was highest in South Africa, at 49 percent, and lowest in Japan, at 10 percent. The survey report concluded that because interest in contributing money varies by nation, Rotarians need to tailor marketing efforts to reflect local club initiatives.
The public’s interest in joining a Rotary club is low. Among the countries surveyed, an average of only 16 percent of respondents said they would be likely to join a local Rotary club. More than 59 percent said they would be unlikely to join. In the United States, women were half as likely as men to report interest in joining.
Similar findings came from focus groups that RI conducted between 2008 and 2010. The 40 groups included non-Rotarians in cities where Rotary had been experiencing membership declines. Read more about the results in the October/November 2010 issue of The Membership Minute, or download the full report.
“Because each Rotary club is independent in deciding what services they want to be involved in, this can cause mixed impressions in the communities on what we do,” Leung says. “These surveys underscore the importance of having a consistent message.”
The 1.2 million Rotary club members worldwide are the organization's greatest strength. Here are a few resources that clubs and districts can use to promote Rotary:
- Find tips for creating a signature activity.
- Learn how to apply for a PR grant to enhance Rotary's image.
- Find your Rotary public image coordinator.
- Learn how to plan an End Polio Now lighting.
- Browse best practices for member recruitment and retention.
- Download Be a Vibrant Club: Your Club Leadership Plan (PDF) to discover ways to make your club more dynamic and increase its diversity.
- Download the Membership Development Resource Guide (PDF) and Club Assessment Tools (PDF).
- Get a catalog of membership development resources (PDF).
- Learn tips for finding and keeping members.
By Megan Ferringer and Arnold R. Grahl
Rotary International News – 22 August 2011
R otarians have teamed up with nongovernmental organizations in Belgium to bring clean drinking water and improved sanitation to thousands of families in the poorest districts of Toamasina, Madagascar.
The Rotary clubs of Brussel-Cantersteen, Belgium, and Tamatave, Madagascar, launched the project in 2009 with help from a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant. Lack of access to clean drinking water and poor hygiene have contributed to a high mortality rate in Toamasina, says Luc Daems, president of the Tamatave Water Project.
The effort is nearing completion, with the planned installation of more than 200 latrines for local families and schools, as well as drinking fountains to provide clean water for 2,000 people.
Over the past 10 years, the Foundation has awarded more than US$36 million in grants for projects supporting clean water and sanitation. Individual Rotary clubs have contributed at least another $50 million.
During World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden , 21-27 August, experts from around the globe will meet to exchange ideas and develop solutions to the most urgent water-related issues. This year's program explores challenges to water and sanitation in an increasingly urbanized world.
Ron Denham, chair of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group, says Rotary has played a key role in addressing world water needs, and that a growing number of nonprofits are embracing its emphasis on sustainability.
"The core of every successful project is agreement with the community on its needs, especially the needs of women. It is invariably women whose lives are drastically affected by improvements," says Denham.
Many Rotary club and district projects include training in the technical knowledge needed to maintain equipment, and in the business skills necessary to manage a water system, such as collecting fees for operations and repairs.
In 2009, Rotary International and USAID launched the International H2O Collaboration to implement long-term water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and the Philippines. Entering its third year, the collaboration is funding hygiene training and bio-sand water filters in the Dominican Republic; mechanized water systems, wells, rainwater collection vessels, and hygiene education benefiting over 85,000 people in more than 110 villages in Ghana; and a project to improve sewage collection and treatment that will help more than 150,000 people in the Philippines.
Other Rotary club and district water projects include:
- Toilets, showers, and baby-washing facilities provided for residents of Kibera, an impoverished community near Nairobi, Kenya, by clubs in the United States and Kenya with a Foundation grant. The grant also brought safe drinking water to about 300,000 people.
- A project to help stamp out guinea worm in Ghana, undertaken by Rotary clubs in Ghana and supported by clubs in 13 countries, including Canada, Switzerland, and the United States, in partnership with the Carter Center. The clubs have also been active in providing water to remote communities.
- Rainwater harvesting systems to serve 120,000 people and their livestock in Rajasthan, a state in northern India. Through another project, in the Indian state of Maharashtra, crop yields have tripled as a result of rainwater harvesting.
- The installation of household water systems in the South Rift Valley in Kenya, enabling girls to focus on going to school and women to undertake economic activities rather than fetching water.
Order Rotary’s Areas of Focus Guide to learn more about what you can do to improve water and sanitation.