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Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

What is Rotary? I’ll tell you this: no funny hats

Yesterday, I posted an article for Forbes about Rotary International, the global organization that sponsors local service clubs all around the world.

For the article, I connected with dozens of Rotarians from around the world who have been volunteering time and donating money to causes they believe in.

It was amazing to see the power of the organization. Rotary International has been leading the fight to exterminate polio around the world. When they started the effort in 1988 there were 125 countries where polio was still a threat; today there are three.

But the work of Rotary at the club level was the focus of my article. It was inspiring to see how this organization with millions of members around the world has the ability to identify a person who needs to have his car repaired and can’t pay for it–and then to pay for it–while at the same time having the organizational wherewithal to donate $1.5 million to build a new food bank. 

Rotarians from my Salt Lake Club work in the Wasatch Community Gardens to provide fresh food for low income families.

It is clear that each club has its own culture and priorities, but over and over again I heard the Rotary motto repeated: “Service above Self.” This particular value is universal among Rotarians.

It appears to me that the current generation of professionals–those we call Gen X and Gen Y or Millennials are more focused on social good than any prior generation. They would love what Rotary is doing, but few are even aware.

While the average age at my club, the Salt Lake Rotary club, appears to be north of 65, there are some younger people involved. Not enough, however. If ever there were a natural home for people who believe in doing good regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or any other potential identifier, Rotary is that place.

Rotarians don’t wear funny hats–not that there is anything wrong with that. They don’t take secret oaths or use special symbols. They do openly pledge to treat others fairly and honestly and to build friendships with others in and out of Rotary. They also sing patriotic songs and, in America, recite the pledge of allegiance. 

While the Rotarians I know are deeply patriotic, they are not in the least xenophobic. Instead, they are globally minded citizens of the world whose passion to serve is fueled by a genuine hope for peace.

If you know a Rotarian, count yourself lucky. Ask her if you can join her at the next meeting. If you don’t know one, just show up at the next meeting. They’ll be excited to have you!

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