In the early 1870s, a genius toiled in his laboratory, driven by a vision to improve life through technology. After many failed attempts, by 1880 Thomas Edison had perfected a new light bulb that could be produced on a mass scale.
When someone pointed out to him that he had tried and failed 10,000 times before succeeding, he responded that he had merely found 10,000 ways it wouldn’t work!
Just like Edison, The Rotary Foundation is driven by a vision for a better world. And we, too, remain determined and creative in the face of setbacks.
Earlier this year, our vital polio immunization activities had to be temporarily paused to ensure that the polio eradication program did not contribute to the COVID-19 pandemic. And so we adapted: The polio-fighting infrastructure that Rotary helped build was enlisted to assist in the response to COVID-19 in many vulnerable countries, as we had done before during outbreaks of Ebola, yellow fever, and avian flu.
Thankfully, we resumed polio immunization activities in July, having first taken all precautions to protect frontline workers and communities.
During these challenging days, our business — reaching out to people in distress — is not business as usual. The way we prepare and deliver projects and the methodology we use need to change. And the way we communicate what we do also must change.
The success of our global grants model is unmistakable. At its introduction in 2013-14, the Foundation awarded 868 grants worth over $47 million. By 2019-20, the number of approved grants had risen to 1,350, worth over $100 million. While the number of grants shot up by more than 50 percent, and funding by 123 percent, corresponding Annual Fund contributions showed only a 5 percent increase, and that’s troubling.
To reach those who need us, to spread the love that our Foundation brings, we will need to rise to this challenge and work together to meet our funding needs.
Mother Teresa once said that if we want a message of love to be heard, it has to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.
The Rotary Foundation offers the best opportunity I know for us to invest in a better future for communities around the world. Your generosity today and throughout this year is the oil that keeps our grants burning bright, reaching the ones who need us most.
Trustee Chair 2020-21