In the over 25 years that I have spent in Rotary in two diametrically opposite parts of the world, this is a question that often gets asked by both Rotarians as well as non-members. At a fundamental level of ‘why give’, I would like to recall two of my most favourite quotes that have guided me personally : Warren Buffett said “If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.” And Mother Teresa’s most famous words, “Give, but give until it hurts.”
I am not sure if most of us are in the 1%, but there is no question that the spirit of what Buffet said is applicable to every one of us – we are fortunate to be where we are and we owe it to the less fortunate ones. To add to this, I remember distinctly what one of the Past R I Presidents said “Do not look at your Foundation Contribution as an expense. Look at it as an investment – and give even when it is hard for you to set aside some money. The universe has magical ways to provide you return on your investment several times over, both in monetary and other ways.” And I must confess that this has been 200% true in my case. During my initial years in Rotary, I was of the strong belief that Charity begins at Home, and I decided to wait till things got better on my cashflow front to contribute to TRF. Once I heard the above, I started with small amounts, and my own financial situation improved by leaps and bounds. So, the universe does have its ways.
The next dimension of this is ‘Why TRF?’ And my attempt in this piece is to address this as well. TRF is ranked among the best charities in the world – Association of Fund Raising Professionals accorded the “Outstanding Foundation” to TRF in 2017; Global Giving gave TRF the “Leader” status in 2020 for unparalleled contribution in working with other not-for-profit organizations to benefit humanity, CNBC ranked it among the “10 charities that are changing the world”., and to cap it all, TRF has been rated by Charity Navigator (https://www.charitynavigator.org) who rate Not-For-Profit organizations world over in terms of their financial ability, impact on community and transparency of deployment as the highest rating of 4 Star for 13 consecutive years – and TRF scored 100 on a 100-point scale in every single instance!!
Our contributions provide the funds for matching grants. Rotarians should know that 50% of whatever they donate comes back to our District on a 1:1 basis, and the other 50% comes back to our district and other districts around the world as grants from TRF through Global Grants. What we contribute has an impact in a school in Uganda or a hospital in the Honduras – such is the power of our giving through TRF. Just to offer another perspective, at Rotary Club of Madras East, we have executed Global Grant projects worth over Rs 14 crores and US $ 2 Million over the years and have benefitted directly from such grants from the TRF. And, therefore, it is even more incumbent as members of RCME that we do our bit to the Foundation.
The last aspect really is what Rotarians add to the Dollars that are being contributed. Most of us probably know that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed significantly to the PolioPlus initiative of Rotary which has all but eradicated the dreaded disease from the face of the earth – just the second disease after Small Pox to be thus eradicated when it happens in the last two remaining countries. But do we know that they have actually contributed $ 885 Million out of the $ 1.9 Billion plus (as on Jan 2019) that Rotary has so far deployed on this initiative? When asked as to why he chose The Rotary Foundation to earmark such a large amount, Bill said ‘Rotary is the only charity organization in the world that adds to a donor’s contribution and a $ 1 donated by someone becomes $ 1.50!’ TRF, as a foundation, incurs less than 8% of the money raised on administrative costs, of which more than 50% is spent on fund raising, and only under 4% on other costs. Astounding, you will agree! And in the same year, 2019, the documented number of volunteer hours of work that Rotarians had put in was 47 Million Hours and that translated to a whopping $ 850 Million in terms of what those efforts would be valued at.
Lastly, all such contributions come with recognitions and there are so many of the recognition categories that is better articulated in a separate piece. But as a ready reckoner, you may visit https://www.rotary.org/en/donate/recognition .
So, dear RCME members, it is time to open our hearts and purses and do our bit for this wonderful organization that we are privileged to be part of – please reach out to Rtn Sudarsan our Fund Raising Chair or Rtn Balaraman, Director -TRF, and make your pledges. ‘Give, but give till it hurts!’.
Rtn Balaraman Jayaraman