By Quentin Wodon, Rotary Club of Washington Global, USA
How do we measure the magnitude of the investments made by Rotary clubs in the battle against COVID-19? This is not an easy question to answer, but in my Rotary and professional life, I often deal with assessing impacts. So the question intrigues me.
Back in June of 2020, Rotary International released a statement that it had allocated $20 million in grants to fight the pandemic. (Read how Rotary is encouraging clubs to cooperate with local governments and health organizations on the rollout of COVID vaccines). But we all know that that amount is just the tip of the iceberg.
A few years ago, I estimated that there were close to 4,000 local foundations at the level of Rotary clubs and districts just in the United States alone. At the time, the assets of The Rotary Foundation were just above one billion dollar. Local Rotary foundations filing forms 990 with the Internal Revenue Service had close to $775 million in assets. This did not include assets owned by 1,854 local Rotary foundations that did not file a form 990 because they have gross annual income/receipts of less than $50,000.
It is likely that annual charitable donations by local Rotary foundations in the U.S. exceed those of The Rotary Foundation simply because they distribute a larger share of the funds they raise the same year. And many club and district foundations focused their charitable work on the pandemic in the last year. Hence the total funding provided by the Rotary community was undoubtably much higher than $20 million.
A few examples
I can share a few examples anecdotally of what Rotary clubs in my area of Maryland and Washington, D.C., have been doing:
- The Rotary Club of Metro Bethesda provided $53,000 to support three local nonprofits on the frontlines.
- The Rotary Club of Columbia Town Center donated nearly $60,000 worth of personal protective equipment to local senior care facilities, nine of which are in Howard County.
- The Rotary Club of South Frederick County aimed to give $60,000 to meet the county’s needs.
- The Rotary Club of Annapolis organized its yearly crab fest as a drive through. It typically raises each year $45,000 to $65,000 depending on the weather for nonprofits around Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, again in the past year with some focus on COVID-19 responses.
- The Rotary Club of Baltimore launched a $30,000 initiative to help feed first responders during the crisis.
- As for the Rotary Club of College Park, it mobilized hundreds of volunteers to distribute meals.
It would be interesting to know what the total amount donated by Rotary organizations and Rotarians globally to fight COVID-19 has been so far, as well as how many volunteer hours have been committed by members in their community’s response toward the pandemic. I would not recommend sending a survey to all Rotarians, or even to all clubs, as we already receive enough surveys, and there is no need to run such “censuses” where everybody is asked to respond. Rather, at the level of a country or internationally, sampling methods could be employed.
The big picture
But the more important take away is this: Rotary has been contributing in a big way to the fight against COVID-19. And we all have a role to play in communicating the good that we are doing. Apart from statistically measuring what we are doing, we should share our stories. Rotary leadership is encouraging clubs to share your efforts on Rotary Showcase. And you can promote what you are doing through your local media.
We belong to a great organization. Let’s continue to roll up our sleeves and help the world turn the corner on this pandemic. And let’s invite others to join us.