Top: Past RI President Luis Giay, chair of the Future Vision committee, highlights the advantages of The Rotary Foundation's new grant model during the International Assembly 18 January. Rotary International/Alyce Henson Bottom: RI General Secretary John Hewko talks about the need for continuity, strategic planning, and sustainability. Rotary International/Monika Lozinska

This year’s International Assembly is focusing considerable resources on training incoming Rotary leaders in The Rotary Foundation’s new grant model, to pave the way for the worldwide launch of Future Vision in July.

The effort is designed to benefit all Rotarians by sending the governors-elect and district Rotary Foundation chairs-elect back to their districts with a wealth of knowledge about the grant model.

“The Future Vision plan provides us with an opportunity to be a truly cutting-edge organization, on the same level as many other successful philanthropic organizations, like the [Bill & Melinda] Gates Foundation,” Past RI President and Future Vision Committee Chair Luis Vicente Giay told the incoming leaders. “To ensure the future of Rotary, we need a Foundation that is strong, vigorous, organized, agile, competent, international, and ready to meet the challenges and demands that society, Rotarians, and clubs present to us.”

Giay highlighted several advantages of the new grant model, including streamlining the system into three grant types that fund a variety of activities with fewer requirements. Placing district grants into the hands of a new district committee structure will give Rotary clubs and districts greater flexibility in meeting community needs both locally and internationally, he said.

And by linking global grants to Rotary’s six areas of focus, the Foundation will be able to ensure that projects have a greater impact, as well as sustainability – an impact on the benefiting community that continues long after grant funds are expended.

The Future Vision plan has benefited from Rotary’s leadership in the effort to eradicate polio, which has relied on a strategic partnership with other organizations. Reflecting that lesson, packaged grants allow Rotarians to take part in predesigned projects funded entirely by Rotary’s World Fund and its strategic partners.

“As Rotarians, we can use our new Foundation to do greater good in the world,” Giay said. “I am confident you all will succeed.”

Sharpening our brand

In another assembly speech, the incoming leaders heard Past RI President William B. Boyd talk about the initiative to strengthen Rotary’s brand. He said that extensive research conducted by Rotary’s consultants, Siegel+Gale, had found a perception gap between the way Rotarians and non-Rotarians view the organization, which the brand initiative is designed to address.

“For non-Rotarians, that communication is very important, because they need to know who we are and what we do, and what differentiates us from other organizations. Then we can ask them to join us,” Boyd said, noting that the initiative is not about reinventing or creating a new brand but about bringing the existing one into sharper focus. "What is a brand? It's simply and clearly who we are, what we do, and why it matters."

He asked the incoming leaders to spread the message about Rotary’s brand and to reach out to non-Rotarians to explain what the organization does both locally and globally.

Foundation goals

Rotary Foundation Chair-elect Dong Kurn Lee laid out the Foundation’s goals for 2013-14, including completing the job of eradicating polio, launching the Future Vision grant model, engaging Rotarians in innovative projects, creating partnerships, and building ownership and pride in the Foundation.

“In Rotary, every job is valuable, every job is important,” Lee said. “But in the year ahead, all of you here today will have a special role to play in determining Rotary’s success — and not just in 2013-14 but in all the years to follow. It is a tremendous responsibility, and I know that you will rise to this challenge.”

Support from RI

RI General Secretary John Hewko focused on the need for continuity, strategic planning, and sustainability in his address to the assembly 16 January.

“Every Rotarian, and every Rotary leader, is a link in a chain. Our success can’t ever be measured by our own strength,” Hewko said. “It will be measured by how well we link what was done before us to what can be done after us.”

He encouraged the district governors-elect to use Rotary Club Central, an online tool rolled out in July to help districts and clubs better understand and capture their past achievements and plan strategically for several years. Rotarians can find the tool by logging on to Member Access.

Hewko said sustainability, at its core, means that the work Rotarians do now will have a continued impact, without continued investment. “A helping hand that meets a need in the short term is never as efficient a use of our resources as an investment that will continue to meet that need over time,” he said. 

To help promote Rotary and ensure its future, he asked the governors-elect to make use of the Internet and social media. The Rotary Grants microsite was launched this month, and Hewko noted that a redesigned RI website is in the works.