Posted by Pete Leenhouts on Nov 29, 2019

What Do Rotarians Do? Rotarians take action to address some of the world’s toughest challenges. We fund grants to accomplish that change. Rotary grants respond to community needs, bring Rotary service project ideas to life, and enable Rotarians to accomplish the needed sustainable change.

Rotarians work together to solve complicated problems by combining our individual expertise and effort, and by using the money we donate to our Foundation, to accomplish change around the world.  We fund 70 million dollars in grants each year around the world, from small local grants to large, complicated ones focused on resolving some of the world’s most intractable problems.   


Rotary grants are focused on six areas to build international relationships, improve lives, and create a better world to support our peace efforts and end polio forever. Those six areas include working towards peace and conflict resolution, fighting disease; improving clean water, providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene; saving mothers and children; supporting education; and growing local economies.   


Very broadly speaking, there are two types of grants: local grants (called “district community grants” by Rotarians) which are usually employed to target local challenges, and global grants, which are used to support large international activities within the six areas of focus with sustainable, measurable outcomes targeted at what the supported community has determined it needs. 


It is worth pointing out that time and again, it is the initiative of a single Rotarian that develops the idea for a grant. The importance of that individual initiative cannot be understated. 


Global grants are sustainable endeavors that align with one of Rotary’s areas of focus. They are designed in cooperation with the supported community to address a real need. Such grants can fund a vast array of humanitarian projects, scholarships for graduate-level academic studies, and Vocational Training Teams, which are groups of professionals who travel abroad either to teach local professionals about their field or to learn more about it themselves.  Here are a few examples: 

  • Our Rotary Club, led by member John Barrett, worked with a club in Texas, and another in Honduras, supported by a global grant and several partner organizations, to dig fresh water wells in rural Honduras and facilitate the construction of water storage and distribution systems for 25 rural villages. The multi-year project was completed in mid-2018.  

  • After working at a hospital in South Africa during medical school, German-born Sven Jungmann realized he wanted to make an impact on a larger scale, specifically through connecting medicine and technology. Rotary has helped him on his way, first through eight weeks working with a Rotary-sponsored nongovernmental organization in Kenya, then with a Rotary global grant scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in public policy. Jungmann now works full time as a doctor in Berlin and is part of several projects dealing with the intersection of medicine and computer innovation. He was named one of Germany’s 100 smartest innovators of 2017 by Handelsblatt, a leading German business publication, for his work in health care digitization.

  • District 5500 (Arizona) worked with a Rotary Club in Kiwatule, Uganda to improve prenatal diagnostic capabilities in rural communities and provide better nutrition for expectant mothers. A combination global grant provided humanitarian supplies for Uganda’s Rotary Family Health Days and a vocational training team for health care workers at the health camps. The Vocational Training Team trained 23 nurses, midwives, and other health care practitioners to use ultrasound scanning devices to diagnose abnormalities in pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions. 


The Rotary Foundation funds over 70 million dollars spread across nearly 1,300 such grants during an average year. 


The criteria used by The Rotary Foundation to evaluate, fund and monitor global grants are quite stringent. This is to ensure the funds donated by individual Rotarians are used in the most effective manner possible.


To be approved, an application must describe in detail how the proposal aligns with one of the Rotary Areas of Focus, the measurable goals of the project, how the project, scholarship, or vocational training team Is sustainable for long-term success after the global grant funds have been spent and the Rotarians involved in the project have gone home, how the project responds to real community needs; actively involves Rotarians and community members; and meets the additional eligibility requirements required by The Rotary Foundation. 


The Foundation also supports the Cadre of Technical Advisors, who are experts in many different fields and who can be employed to support global grant development by Rotary Clubs.  


The Rotary Annual Report is an excellent summary of what Rotarians are accomplishing through their activity, funded by global grants, to make the world a better place.   


Learn even more about global grants funded by The Rotary Foundation here: 




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