Using social media to boost fundraising efforts

By Simone Collins, Rotary Club of Freshwater Bay, Western Australia, and Charter Chair of the Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship

Social media is no longer a new technology – the first social media sites launched in 2000, and a number of those original sites are still around. Facebook was launched in 2004, LinkedIn in 2003, and Twitter has been around since 2006. Social media is now as vital a communication tool as a cell phone.

The power of social media is in the sheer number of users who contribute and consume information daily through these networks. Facebook currently boasts 1.3 billion active users, most of which log in daily. *Half of 18 to 34-year-olds check Facebook first thing in the morning, and 28% of those do so before even getting out of bed!

Rapid Response

Murphys Creek, Queensland, Australia. Photo courtesy of Rotary District 9830

Murphys Creek, Queensland, Australia. Photo courtesy of Rotary District 9830

In January 2011, we had terrible flooding which affected most of the state of Queensland in Australia. Rotaractors tweeted and used their Facebook statuses to spread news that any donations made through Rotary District 9830, in the state of Tasmania, would be matched dollar for dollar through the local state government, up to a maximum of $250,000. I saw the buzz on Facebook and helped spread the news through my own accounts, including my business Twitter accounts and through the Rotary Facebook pages that I administer. I shared this announcement at my Wednesday club meeting that week, along with news that ShelterBox already had personnel on the ground assessing impacted communities, information I had learned by following ShelterBox Australia’s Facebook page. While at a district function that Friday evening, I heard a fellow club member repeat the same information to a Rotarian in another club, who asked how I had heard the news so quickly.

With the help of the Rotary family and beyond, District 9830 raised AUS$911,000, double the combined total raised by three other service clubs in Tasmania. That speaks volumes about the benefit of using social media to rapidly spread information about how to help at a time when people are eager to lend a hand. Raised funds were used to build a replacement community centre at Murphys Creek in the Lockyer Valley.

Fundraising Events

Swimerathon 2014. Photo courtesy of Balasubramaniam Sokalimgam

Swimerathon 2014. Photo courtesy of Balasubramaniam Sokalimgam

The Rotary Global Swimarathon, coordinated by the Rotary Club of Grantham, UK, is another online fundraising success story. On 23 February 2012, as a result of reaching out to clubs via Facebook and Twitter, along with regular promotion, we saw 5,244 swimmers from 104 clubs in 23 countries set a new world record for the most number of simultaneous swimmers, raising over US$100,000 for polio eradication in the process.

Again, the organizers used multiple channels to engage the community: Rotarian Paul Wilson from the sponsoring club made heavy use of his personal Facebook account to reach out to Rotarians and clubs. He also used his club’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, along with a website and blog, dedicated to the Swimarathon to provide regular updates and communications with stakeholders. It has now become an annual event, with more and more clubs coming on board every year. In 2013, participation rose to 6103 swimmers from 186 clubs in 36 countries, with a total of US$111,081 raised funds. This year a total of $116,700 were raised with the support of 210 clubs.

As easy as it is to reach out via social media, it is important to strike a balance between getting your message out to as many people as possible and spamming them with too many updates . People will tune you out if you are too aggressive with your promotions. Instead, take time to build engaging relationships within your channels first.

If you would like assistance using social media to boost your fundraising activities, please don’t hesitate to contact the Rotarians on Social Networks Fellowship. With over 2,000 members across the globe, there are plenty of volunteers happy to assist with ideas and practical support on how to make use of the various channels available to you.


How will you Light Up Rotary this year?

By Jesse Allerton, Rotary Programs staff

Light Up RotaryRI President Gary C.K. Huang is encouraging all Rotary members to Light Up Rotary in 2014-15 “by sharing our service, strengthening our clubs, and letting our light shine in our communities.”

Hosting a Rotary Day is a great way for clubs to put the President’s theme into action. It’s simple: hold a fun, informal event in your community to introduce the general public to Rotary and drive interest in membership and other opportunities for engagement. You can refer to the Rotary Days brochure for ideas on how to structure and promote a Rotary Day event and find more tips in this article from the July edition of Rotary Leader.

Remember to share photos, videos, and stories of your event with the Rotary community and beyond. Here are just a few ways you can publicize your impact:

  • Post photos of your event on Instagram using the hashtag #RotaryDay
  • Tweet promotional information and updates, also using the hashtag #RotaryDay
  • Post a video of your Rotary Day on YouTube and email a link and description to Videos may be featured in Rotary media and one outstanding video will receive a special award plaque from the President.
  • Share your story with Rotary staff for possible inclusion in a blog, newsletter, or The Rotarian magazine. Contact us at
  • Visit the President’s web page to view a calendar of upcoming Rotary Day events or add your event to the calendar.

How will you Light Up Rotary?

Rotary Days aren’t the only way to let our light shine! From planning adult literacy classes to installing water filters to hosting vocational training programs, our members are rolling up their sleeves and launching humanitarian projects to improve their communities all around the world.

How will your club Light Up Rotary in the coming year? Share your plans using the comment feature below.


ShelterBox and Rotary work together to assist flood-hit communities in the Balkans

By Melissa Martins Casagrande, ShelterBox staff, and Ellina Kushnir, Rotary Programs staff

Following May flooding and landslides in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the Balkan region’s worst natural disasters in recent decades, ShelterBox response teams, with the support of Rotary club members, local fire departments and government agencies, have been providing vital aid to the most vulnerable in communities in both countries.

In addition to sending response teams, ShelterBox supplied mosquito nets to Bosnia where disease was spreading due to high water levels, mosquitoes, and heat. Nine Serbian municipalities most impacted by the disaster have received tents, water filters and carriers, mosquito nets, solar lamps, groundsheets and blankets.

Watch ShelterBox response team member Giles Walker’s video below as he provides a glimpse into local relief operations and talks with Rotary members who have been invaluable to ShelterBox’s disaster relief work in the region.

Rotary Family Health Days showcase the power of Rotary and the impact of partnerships

By John Wahlund, Area of Focus Manager for Maternal and Child Health & Disease Prevention and Treatment

The fourth annual Rotary Family Health Days (RFHDs) took place throughout sub-Saharan Africa in April 2014, providing comprehensive health care services to the most vulnerable and underserved populations in South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Lesotho, and Swaziland. RFHDs were conceived, developed and are continually managed by the Rotarian Action Group for Family Health and AIDS Prevention (RFHA).

As Rotary’s Area of Focus Manager for Disease Prevention and Treatment, and Maternal and Child Health, I have had the privilege and responsibility to establish strong working relationships with RFHA’s CEO Marion Bunch and her colleagues. This path led to my participation in the kickoff of the 2014 RFHDs in South Africa this past April. Having been involved in many PolioPlus National Immunization Days in years past, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was once again humbled and overwhelmed witnessing the sheer scale of Rotarian volunteer passion and effort to deliver health care services to the most needy of their communities.

The opening ceremony in Port Elizabeth, South Africa showcased the power of Rotary and impact of partnerships that RFHA has strategically crafted over these several years. There together on the podium and in the audience, supported by stunning South African high school choral presentations, were Rotarians from multiple districts joined by the highest level representatives of the South Africa Department of Health, the US Embassy, the National US Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) office, The South Africa Broadcasting System, the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and representatives from multiple NGOs and all tiers of government.

Children line up to receive health services at a Rotary Family Health Days event in South Africa.

Children line up to receive health services at a Rotary Family Health Days event in South Africa.

This goes far beyond the normal pomp and circumstance of many such events. I joined activities in Cape Town for the next few days, a city with one of the world’s highest rates of TB and HIV/AIDS. Over the next several days, thousands of Rotarians and partners rolled up their sleeves to work together, resulting in the provision of disease prevention and treatment services to over 66,500 folks in need.

The power of these partnerships, which included the South Africa Department of Health taking full responsibility for follow up on referrals, is what makes RFHDs such an excellent model for high impact, measurable and sustainable interventions.

As Rotary continues to explore models for projects that provide large, measurable impacts and are sustainable, we have in our ‘front yard’ a living, evolving masterpiece. Thanks to the thousands of volunteers for their efforts, and many personal thanks to those who took me into their lives and homes.

Read a summary of outcomes from the 2014 Rotary Family Health Days

Ethical dilemma: what would you do?

Your club is planning to construct a new community playground. You are not on the project planning committee, but you’ve been actively fundraising on behalf of your club: your friends, family, and business associates have all donated generously to your club’s service project fund. At your next club meeting, the project planning committee announces that the construction contract for the playground will be awarded to a company owned by a relative of your club president. There are many construction companies in your community, but no competitive bids were solicited. Your club president personally vouches for the company and assures everyone that they do better work than the competition. The bid price sounds reasonable, but you don’t know enough about construction to be sure if this is a good deal.

What would you do? Share using the comment feature below.

Service project in Nepal leads to greater good

By Divya Wodon and Naina Wodon, Interact Club of Washington International School, and Quentin Wodon, Rotary Club of Washington, Washington D.C., USA, TRF Cadre of Technical Advisors, and authors of Membership in Service Clubs: Rotary’s Experience.

Neil and fellow Rotarians with the ambulance given to Setiganga Community Hospital, Nepal

Neil and fellow Rotarians with the ambulance given to Setiganga Community Hospital, Nepal

In 2009, after several years of planning, Neil Young from the Rotary Club of Towsontowne, Maryland, USA, traveled to Nepal with a group of Rotarians on the occasion of donating an ambulance to the Setiganga Community Hospital which serves over 100,000 people in the foothills of the Annapurna Range. The donation was made possible through fundraising by several clubs (Towsontowne, Hunt Valley, and Downtown Towson in the USA and Damauli in Nepal) as well as matching funds from the district and The Rotary Foundation. The project started when Prem Mahat, also a Rotarian from the Rotary Club of Towsontowne who had grown up in the Setiganga Community, suggested building a bridge for the community. Although the Rotarian team was initially going to help build this bridge, they realized when doing more research that the Setiganga Community first needed an ambulance.

While the ambulance has done a lot of good for the community, the project led to something none of the team members could have anticipated. Lauren, a Rotarian doctor who had joined the team to work with two other pediatric surgeons to care for children in the Nepalese community, arrived a few weeks early to hike the beautiful Annapurna Range. Towards the end of her hike, Lauren saw a little girl sleeping on rags in a run-down hostel. Lauren approached the owner of the hostel and asked him about the girl. The owner told her that the girl’s mother had not been able to afford to keep her and had sold her to serve as a kitchen aid. But as the girl was not of much use, the owner intended to get rid of her. Lauren immediately offered some money to take the girl with her. She brought her down to Kathmandu were she found a boarding school that accepted the girl.

The message of this story is to never underestimate where a service project can lead. Prem’s initial idea of a bridge led to the donation of an ambulance under Neil’s leadership, but it also led to this girl being saved by Lauren from a life of hardship. The ambulance project has served many lives and also transformed the life of that girl. As for Neil’s advice to Rotarians: learn how to work as a team in Rotary because together you can make a much larger difference.

Rotary’s Fellowships: Saving our History, Serving the World

By Jesse Davis, Rotary Grants staff

Rotary FellowshipsWith June coming to a close, we hope you enjoyed our selection of unique stories from different Rotary Fellowships about the service activities they undertake, enhanced by their member’s shared interests and expertise.

As we have seen throughout the month, service comes in a variety of formats. In some cases it is filtered through a shared vocation, as evidenced by the Yachting and Flying Fellowships, while other times it is closely aligned with Rotary’s Areas of Focus, as the case with the International Fellowship of Rotarian Doctor’s program, CALMED.

Mayford painting of Comely Bank, the home of Paul and Jean Harris.

Mayford painting of Comely Bank, the home of Paul and Jean Harris.

While Rotary channels our commitment to service at home and abroad through its Guiding Principles, there is still room for interpretation, and to that effect, some Rotary Fellowships approach service initiatives by preserving and promoting the legacy and history of our organization. The Rotary Heritage and History Fellowshipand the Rotary Global History Fellowship serve Rotary by helping save, share, and above all promote the significant legacies, artifacts and history. From the smallest details about a Rotary club to the some of RI’s most important historical sites, these two Fellowships help to ensure that Rotary’s legacy is not forgotten.

On the one hand, the Rotary Heritage and History Fellowship works to advocate and promote the important history of Rotary International by focusing on physical artifacts and  significant sites. Besides playing a role in preserving the important Room 711 of the Unity Building in Chicago (which was recently reassembled and opened to visitors at  the RI World Headquarters),  the Fellowship has been instrumental in trying to save Comely Bank, the home of Paul and Jean Harris.

Rotarian Dick Galitz, president of the 711 Club, explores the rededicated Room 711 on the first floor of RI World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA. Alyce Henson/Rotary International

Rotarian Dick Galitz, president of the 711 Club, explores the rededicated Room 711 on the first floor of RI World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA. Alyce Henson/Rotary International

While similar in orientation, the Rotary Global History Fellowship focuses on accumulating, preserving, and most importantly sharing the complete history, values, and philosophy of the Rotary movement. Their website(s) now maintain thousands of articles, essays, speeches and other information that date back to the organization’s founding, and they actively encourage members to contribute, maintain and complete the histories of the organization as a shared responsibility.

Regardless of how Rotary Fellowships approach service under their respective domains, they are foremost about engaging member’s passions, interests and vocations – energy that can translate into impactful, sustainable service initiatives.

See Also:

Rotary Global History Fellowship:
Rotary Heritage and History Fellowship:
Paul Harris Home:
2014-Rotary Fellowship Month Service Stories: