The Rotary Foundation is the cornerstone for Rotary service and programs. It is a trust fund that is administered by 13 trustees who are appointed by the RI Board of Directors.
It was initiated at the 1917 International Convention to provide a means of funding Rotary programs on a continuing basis. After a slow start due to two world wars and the depression, contributions really took off in 1947 with the death of Paul Harris. Memorial gifts poured in to honor the founder of Rotary. From that time on, the Foundation has been achieving its noble objective of furthering “understanding and friendly relations between peoples of different nations and providing support for the underprivileged of the world.” The Foundation is now receiving more than $60 million a year for educational and humanitarian work around the world.
The crowning achievement of the Foundation to date has been the Polio Plus program. The goal of the program is to eliminate polio from the world. Due to the scope of the project and the addition of immunization of children for childhood diseases, under the sponsorship of the United Nations, the deadline has been extended as three (3) countries Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan (an all time low) still have recorded cases. To date RI has contributed over one billion dollars and is presently working to match a $385 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, hundreds of thousands of man-hours by volunteers to provide vaccinations and monitor the program. Polio has been eliminated in the western hemisphere and most areas of the world except for parts of the world involved in conflicts which have prevented inoculations.
The Three Funds of Funding the Rotary Foundation
The Annual Fund
The Rotary Foundation is financed primarily by voluntary contributions from Rotarians, Rotary Clubs, and other individuals, corporations or charitable trust funds. Each year’s annual donations are placed in a trust for investment and then spent the third year. The income pays all operating costs of the Foundation so 100% of a contribution is utilized for programs. The Foundation is a 501 C-3 organization for purposes of Income tax to U.S. investors or foreign investors where applicable by the laws of their country. When a Rotarian or a Club makes a $1,000 donation to the foundation in the name of an individual, the individual is designated as a Paul Harris Fellow. The fellowship may be in the Rotarian’s name or may be designated to honor some other individual (living or dead) such as:
- Another Rotarian
- Family members including spouses and children
- As a memorial to a relative or friend
- Community leaders
Contributions may be by lump sum, or more commonly by accumulation of contributions over a period of up to ten years as a sustaining member for $100 per year. The goal of Rotary is for every member to be a sustaining member. If a member needs to make a choice between the Tyler Rotary Foundation and The Rotary Foundation, being a sustaining member of the Rotary Foundation should take priority.
There are several levels of donor recognition:
There are several levels of donor recognition:
- Every Rotarian Every Year (EREY)
Make an annual contribution to Annual Fund of any amount
- Foundation Sustaining Member: $100
Make an annual contribution to Annual Fund of $100 or more
- Paul Harris Fellow: $1,000 Cumulative
Has made a cumulative contribution to Annual Fund or PolioPlus of $1,000
- Multiple Paul Harris Fellow: $2,000+ in multiples of $1,000
- Major Donors: $10,000+
- Arch Klumph Society
Has made a cumulative contributions to Foundation Funds totaling $250,000 or more.
Four primary ways to become a Paul Harris Fellow:
- Become a Foundation Sustaining Member by contributing $100 to the foundation and continuing to give in increments of at least $100 until you have contributed $1,000. The foundation has pledge cards available for this program
- You contribute $1,000 as a lump sum or as an amount necessary to bring your accumulated contributions to $1,000.
- Your club or an individual contributes $1,000 in your name to honor you.
- You utilize matching points from your club or District to complete your fellowship.
The Endowment Fund
The endowment fund was started to provide a steady income to the foundation. The initial goal of $200 million was surpassed six years ahead of schedule. The next target is US $1 Billion by 2025.
The fund is funded by either direct donations or the legacies provided through the Benefactor Bequest Society programs. Benefactors plan to leave $2,000 or more of their estate to the Endowment Fund. Members of the Bequest Society recognize individuals who have made commitments in their estate plans totaling $10,000 or more.
Unique Features of the Rotary Foundation
The foundation is unique to charitable foundations for a number of reasons including:
- 100% of the contributions are spent on programs of the Foundation and not on administrative expenses. The money received in a Rotary year is invested and programmed for expenditure at the end of the third year. Thus, the income pays all administrative expenses.
- Rotarians or their direct linear family members are not eligible to receive a financial benefit from the Foundation as it is a non-profit charitable organization. Thus, the only benefit to Rotarians and their families is the knowledge and satisfaction that their contributions are used to serve others.