Monthly Archives: January 2019

Economic Incentives and District Grant Rules

I recent spoke to Renee Reiling, Regional Grants Officer at Rotary HQ in Evanston. I was curious about the RI requirements for District grants. For those of you who don’t know, when Rotarians give to the Annual Program Fund (APF) of the Rotary Foundation, after three years one-half of the funds return to their district in the form of District Designated Funds or DDF. This ongoing flow of money back to Rotary districts is known as the SHARE program. Districts can then elect up to 50% of the DDF to be used for district grants, and the other half is used for global grants. (Yes….this is a description of that unintelligible flow chart about the SHARE program that you’ve seen in training a million times and still don’t understand.)

The District grant program is huge. Last year 503 districts elected for district grants in a total amount of $28.5 million. The average block grant (districts receive the funds in one check and then administer the money at the local level) was $56,667. Each district gives TRF a summary of the projects they want to fund when they apply for their block grant.

Nowadays one of the problems that Rotary has is that while Foundation giving to the Annual Program Fund seems to be holding up, the demand to use our funds for humanitarian projects seems to be falling. This is, to my mind, a terrible state of affairs. It makes you wonder why Rotarians are contributing to APF in the first place. Perhaps Rotarians give to the APF because; 1) They do as they are told, 2) They don’t know they are giving because the contribution is buried in their dues invoice, 3) They love Rotary’s humanitarian projects but don’t understand that the majority of their donation is for projects that originate in their own district, 4) They give to APF because they want to apply for a grant, and or 5) A combination of (3) and (4) above.

Since district grants are NOT administered by Rotary International, but instead are administered by each Rotary district according to rules set by each district foundation team, it leads to a blizzard of different approaches to what clubs must do to apply for and receive a district grant. Today lets at least clear up what the Rotary Foundation says are the requirements for district grants. Here’s a slide on the subject from a PowerPoint that Renee just emailed to me. (It’s a pretty good slide deck so if you don’t recognize this slide get in touch with your Regional Foundation rep.)

Thank you Renee Reiling, Regional Grants Officer, Regional Grants

The slide speaks for itself (which unfortunately for all concerned never stopped me before.) Note that District’s DO NOT have to require that district grants fall into one of the six areas of focus required for global grants. They DO NOT have to require that clubs in the District partner with each other in order to be eligible. They DO NOT have to require that district grants be sustainable, or measurable. This is all massively different from TRF’s approach to global grants. And finally, districts can conjure up whatever kind of scholarships they want for whatever grade levels they choose.

When Rotary districts add these restrictions regarding partnerships, area of focus, sustainability, and measurability to their grant eligibility requirements, I suspect that they are trying to be good stewards of their SHARE funds, and as a Major Donor to TRF I appreciate the thought. After all, one of the best things about being a donor to TRF is the high quality rating the Foundation gets from Charity Navigator. No one wants to fund thoughtless and ineffective projects. In addition to these self-imposed criteria, districts also impose cash matching criteria and TRF giving criteria to the list of hurdles clubs must meet to be eligible for a grant.

But district leaders should know that in making it more difficult to apply for and receive a district grant, they are reducing the incentives for Rotary clubs to give to the Annual Program Fund. They are adding to the problem of Rotary clubs not applying for district grants. They are adding to the frustration of Rotary clubs that want to fund a local humanitarian project but can’t get their grant approved by the district grant committee, and they are adding to the complexity of local district grant committees who have to decide if a backpack project is, in fact, sustainable, measurable, etc, etc.

This frustration can be compounded because many clubs (often for good reasons) have had difficulties being approved for global grants over the years. I’ve had many discussions with Rotary club leaders who can cite grievances with the district grant committee that go back to when our district was a pilot for the Future Visions program. Needless to say, this has a direct impact on the demand to use SHARE funds for district grants as well as global grants. And it has a negative impact, whether it is deserved or not, on the enthusiasm for Rotarians in those clubs to give to the Annual Program Fund.

This is pure economics folks. Rotary districts need to balance simplicity, fairness, good stewardship of district grant funds, and excellent education about the the good works of the Rotary Foundation, with crystal clear information about how the SHARE program works in each district. District leaders need to structure their district grant criteria so that clubs have a solid economic incentive, in addition to a philanthropic incentive, to give to TRF. If the choice is to make it harder, or easier, to be eligible for a district grant, I would suggest we come down on the side of making it easier. If we do, don’t be surprised to see a measurable and significant increase in giving to TRF’s Annual Program Fund.

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Ten Possible Rotary New Year’s Resolutions

Is it too late to talk about New Year’s resolutions? I mean it’s January 8th as I write this, so we’ve kind of already skipped into the new calendar year. Yes, I know we are halfway through the Rotary fiscal year but if you think of New Year’s resolutions on July 1 you really do need to get a life. For me, New Year’s resolutions are fraught with peril because I’m too old to be reminded that I can’t keep the commitments that I make to myself. (I’m much better at keeping commitments to others…I hope.) And I’ve reached the point where I simply avoid anything having to do with forward-looking statements about health and exercise. I may or may not eat better this year, and the same goes for working out. That’s all I have to say on those subjects.

If, however, you are looking for some Rotary New Year’s resolutions, I am happy to oblige you with a list of ten for you to consider. I have carefully thought through each of these suggestions and think they pass the test of being doable. Meaning that you could consider any of the following for this year and actually have half a chance of actually doing it. So here you go….a list of ten Rotary resolutions you could commit to doing during the 2019 calendar year that is guaranteed to make you feel better about Rotary, not to mention feel better about yourself.

Ask someone you know to visit your club

Yes, you’ve been meaning to do this for year’s now. How hard could it be? I’m not talking about cold-calling a stranger. Just casually mention to a colleague, friend, or family member, that you would be honored if they joined you for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or Happy Hour, next week for your Rotary meeting. What’s the worst that can happen? Hysterical laughter? Rage that you had the temerity to ask? Your friend has some kind of psychotic breakdown while considering your invitation? You can do this! Twelve months to ask one person. Geez…talk about setting the bar incredibly low.

Recruit a new member for your club

This is a much higher standard for a Rotary New Year’s resolution because if you don’t play your cards right, you might have to invite more than one colleague, friend, or family member to visit your club. This commits you to continue asking until someone says “yes, I would love to join this Rotary club.” I know from writing about this last year that we add 13% – 14% of new members to Rotary every year. So someone out there is asking people to join Rotary. You could be one of them during 2019!

Volunteer for a club project

It is sometimes annoying when your club members interrupt a perfectly good meal or great conversation with your Rotary buddies by asking for volunteers for local community projects. Even though you decided long ago that you’ve done enough hands-on volunteer work for a lifetime, this year resolve to spend a little time helping others by doing something other than writing a check. You and I both know that this one will feel really good if you choose it for your 2019 resolution. If you haven’t volunteered in a long time, have medical staff standing by in case your enthusiastic endorsement of a club service project causes someone to go into shock.

Get on the club’s leadership team

Why not resolve to join your club’s leadership team if you haven’t already done so (and even if you have). Go ahead and volunteer to be a committee chair, or God forbid, get in the queue to be club president. Taking a leadership role in your club starting in July will give you a whole different perspective on Rotary, not to mention your Rotary club. And for the first time you will enjoy feeling the pure adulation, encouragement, enthusiasm, friendship, collegiality, and hero worship that your club members save for those who choose to be club leaders.

Join one of your club’s committees

OK. If becoming a club leader is too big of a stretch as you ponder 2019, why not just hop on someone else’s committee and try it out? Your good ideas and general wisdom about life and your community will be welcomed by all concerned. And you will find that being on the fundraising committee, the membership committee, the club service committee, or “other” committee, just might be more fun than bitching about the job that others are doing on your behalf.

Give more than $100 to the Rotary Foundation

I know you’ve heard that Rotary clubs can win awards if everyone in the club gives $100 each year to the Rotary Foundation. But really….isn’t it time to raise your game? Why not resolve to give….wait for it….$200 to the Rotary Foundation this year? You could give $100 to the Annual Fund and $100 to Polio Plus, or all $200 to either. You may or may not be able to take a charitable deduction for your gift if you use the new humongous standard deduction, but you will feel really good about this gift regardless of the tax benefit.

Join the Paul Harris Society

You might as well resolve to stop drinking soda, go to the gym four times a week, and stop eating fast food. But if you are considering a resolution to change your support for the Rotary Foundation this year, why not go absolutely crazy and join the Paul Harris Society? A contribution of only $84 per month gets you into this amazing group.

Read Rotarian Magazine

It comes every month and it looks really good on the coffee table. You mean to read it, you really do. But first you have to check out the newsfeed on your smart phone, the local sports in the daily paper, and watch an hour or two of CNN or Fox News (but not both for heavens sake.) So another day goes by and you haven’t read it and soon you will receive next month’s issue so what is the point of reading the one that’s been sitting around for several weeks? You can do this! Repeat after me…”I resolve to read the Rotarian Magazine each and every month this year.” See? Not so hard.

Go to your District Conference

You’ve never gone to one before and no one you know is planning on going this year. So what? Resolve to go to your District Conference this year and get a taste of the scale and grandeur of Rotary. Who are all of these people? What do they do in their Rotary clubs? What are they excited about? What good ideas can you borrow/steal for your club? Go ahead. Eat a little hotel food, bring your spouse, and connect to a world of Rotary a little bigger than just your Rotary club. Who knows…you might even find yourself going to a Rotary International Annual Convention. This year it’s in Hamburg, Germany. I’m betting you’ve never been there.

Give your club President a compliment

This is a layup, but why not resolve to do it at some point in the next six months (if you want your compliment to apply to this year’s club President)? You would be amazed at how appreciated your comment will be, regardless of what your compliment is about. It turns out that being a club President isn’t always easy, and a kind word from you about just about anything is sure to make the day of the person who volunteered to lead your club this year. Not sure how to give a compliment to a Rotary club leader? Try this: “Hey (fill in the first name of your club President), I just wanted to tell you that I think you are doing an amazingly good job this year. Thanks for everything you do.” NOTE: Have tissues handy as they may break into tears.

Have a safe, happy, and prosperous 2019 everyone! And thank you for reading the Ready, Fire, Aim Rotary blog. It’s much appreciated!

For more on Rotary New Year’s Resolutions, check out the Ready, Fire, Aim Jan 1, 2014 post, Rotary New Year’s Resolution – Have More Fun.