Rotarians have raised and invested $4.1 billion in the last 100 years

Your year (2018–19) as Governors will be the second year of the second century of The Rotary Foundation and the opportunities we have before us are amazing because what we have been able to accomplish in 100 years of our existence,” said TRF Trustee Chair Paul Netzel, addressing a plenary session of GETS at the Kuala Lumpur Zone Institute on the topic “Ushering in a new century”.

From left: TRF Trustee-elect Gulam Vahanvaty, TRF Trustee Chair Paul Netzel, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta, RI Directors C Basker and John Matthews.
From left: TRF Trustee-elect Gulam Vahanvaty, TRF Trustee Chair Paul Netzel, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta, RI Directors C Basker and John Matthews.

Unveiling some spectacular figures, he said during the last 100 years of its existence, Rotarians have raised, given and invested $4.1 billion. “Just imagine what an incredible amount this is… it is unbelievable. In 2016–17 our Centennial year, when Kalyan Banerjee was the TRF Trustee Chair, we raised $304 million, a record number, and all of you (from India) were a critical part of it. If we now look at $300 million a year as the minimum threshold, over the next 100 years, just imagine what we can do.”

Google Earth look

Saying what he was doing was akin to a Google Earth look at Rotary and TRF, Netzel said that this batch of DGEs, when their term begins in July 2018, would also have to take such a view in their districts.

During the TRF Centennial, he added, Banerjee had introduced the concept of a comprehensive fundraising goal, and this year he had set that goal at $360 million. The proposed goal for 2018–19 would be disclosed at the International Assembly in San Diego by the incoming Trustee Chair Ron Burton. “A comprehensive fund raising goal is important because it is more than the annual fund and polio put together. For years we just talked about these two, which are both important, but in recent years we have become more sophisticated.”

We have a programme to build The Rotary Foundation Endowment 2025 by 2025. The goal is raising $2 billion and $25 million by the year 2025!

Other areas are becoming important too and at the beginning of each year these are identified, a strategy developed to raise funds and the goals achieved.

Looking at the big picture, the Trustees have also adopted another goal and developed a programme — building The Rotary Foundation Endowment 2025 by 2025. “This means we have a goal to raise $2 billion and $25 million by the year 2025. And when that happens, we want to have a minimum of $1 billion cash to be invested at that point of time with another $1 billion $25 million in what we call legacy commitments.”

Present status

Giving a status report, Netzel said on October 31, TRF had an endowment fund of $1.1 billion; “one third of that is in what we call gifts and commitments, fulfilled pledges, payments, cash in the bank and invested — $420 million dollars. The other two thirds of the money is in what we call legacy commitments — State gifts, commitments, life insurance policies and donors who have made a commitment payable at some future date. So technically, we are almost half way to our goal of $2025 million by 2025.”


The Trustee Chair said that when this money is eventually raised and invested, it will produce an estimated minimum returns of $100 million every year in perpetuity to be used in the work of TRF.

Isn’t this what Rotary is all about; “turning dreams into reality. As we usher in a new century, as governors, directors, trustees, club presidents… we all need to have dreams, and our job as Rotary leaders is to turn dreams into reality,” he said.

Netzel added that he had visited India a number of times and “I never leave without feeling the energy, the excitement and the possibilities that you are constantly looking at and addressing all the time. You are so blessed to live in an area of the world where the needs of the people are among the greatest. And with the leadership that your senior leaders, such as Director C Basker provide, you more than rise to the occasion to address the challenges in your country, utilising the opportunities that you have.”


On the coming years and where TRF was headed, Netzel said in the last 100 years many lessons had been learnt and these were being dissected while planning the way forward. And the DGEs would have to do the same in their districts and clubs. One lesson learnt in Evanston during the last five years, and articulated too, was that “Rotary is one organisation. I have heard many different definitions of what ‘One Rotary’ means. I believe it represents three basic elements – clubs, RI and the Foundation.”

Another lesson learnt over 30 years and through polio is that partnerships are important to serve the community. “And you are the glue that connects all these little pieces. You represent Rotary on the ground through the clubs, and with both RI and TRF. This is what makes your role so important.”

During the last 100 years of its existence, Rotarians have raised, given and invested $4.1 billion. Just imagine what an incredible amount this is… it is unbelievable.
TRF Trustee Chair Paul Netzel

In the coming years two important themes were peace and partnerships. Peace was crucial if Rotarians and the rest of the world were to address critical issues and eliminate illiteracy, disease and bring in economic development over the long term in the world. “So we want to reposition the concept that all our six areas of focus are elements that lead to positive peacebuilding, and hence the Rotary Peace Centres programme was launched in 2002, through seven Universities and six centres.”

“We have 1,052 Rotary peace alumni out in the field in 100 countries and perhaps it is time to identify them. We have a future planning committee, led by Past President K R Ravindran, at work for the last 12–15 months looking at what we’ve learnt through the Rotary Peace Programme since 2002, and we’ll have a report coming to the Trustees in January at San Diego.”

He was certain this committee would propose some exciting new things that would hit the ground during their year as DGs. “We want to see the big picture on what we want to be by 2030 and are looking to evolve some exciting partnerships.”

Netzel added that Indian Rotarians held a position of pride in the fight to eliminate polio from the world. Except for two countries… only 16 cases of polio had been reported; 11 from Afghanistan and five from Pakistan, the world was polio free. “Just imagine; we were having 1,000 cases of polio a day in 1988; 350,000 a year, and have had only 16 this year. We are on the cusp of seeing the last case of polio and there is a strong probability that your batch of governors will be the first in the world to have no reported cases of polio. Think of that. Polio goes back 5th or 6th century BC… it goes back that far.”

But to have a year with no reported cases brings its own responsibility as it will take another three years from there to get the world certified polio free. But the task is not over till then. “I know many of you in India, after eliminating polio, have moved on to other things. And that is human nature and how we Rotarians are. We are entrepreneurial; give us a job and we’ll get that done and we’ll move on to new things. But the task is not done till 36 months of no new cases, so let’s stay focused with the same level of energy and emphasis to ensure that 400 million children are immunised in the 60-odd countries that need help.”

Banerjee’s leadership

Later at a session on the Foundation, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta recalled how during the TRF Centennial year, when Kalyan Banerjee was Trustee Chair, “we had a number of discussions on what our goal should be for the year and Kalyan (Banerjee) finally said: ‘Well, this is my comprehensive goal — $300 million. And everybody was taken aback but then we realised that we are talking comprehensive goals and we are talking about the Centennial year. Another one will come only after 100 years, so we need to have a special goal.”

Gupta said while last year $300 million was considered “a special goal, look at the beauty of it, after we achieved $304 million, Trustee Chair Paul (Netzel) has set the goal for this year at $360. And nobody raised any questions. That proves that once you raise the bar high, you keep raising it higher and higher. Thank you Kalyan (Banerjee) for your great leadership.”

Next big project?

Next, added Gupta, came a very interesting discussion between the Trustee Chair, Past President and TRF Trustee K R Ravindran and RI President Ian Riseley on what would be Rotary’s next major project. “The conclusion was very clear that the Rotary world is not ready for a project that will take another 30 years and cost us billions of dollars. But at the same time we all have to keep looking. Where would Rotary be if we didn’t have a polio eradication project and its success story behind us? Could we raise the kind of money we are raising? The answer is no. So you need a project… the process is already on, it could be a project of scale from our six focus areas; it could be regional, continental, what it is going to be is anybody’s guess. But whatever we decide will be measurable and achievable.”

KL Institute Chairman R Theenachandran welcomed the gathering and Secretary Deepak Shikarpur gave a vote of thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Message Us