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10 October 2020: Major Donor EventThe Rotary insignia for major donors, etc

Today I “attended” an online Major Donor and Bequest Society Event organised by the Rotary Foundation for those in Europe. It was part of a Rotary Institute taking place in Amsterdam on the theme of “Rotary without Borders”. The proceedings were mainly in English.

Major Donors are those who have made lifetime donations to Foundation of $10,000+. Bequest Society members have pledged to leave Foundation a bequest of $10,000+. In both cases there are different levels of membership depending on the amount given or pledged.

The Event was also for members of the Arch Klump and Legacy Societies. Arch Klump Society members have given at least $250,000 and Legacy Society members pledged at least $1,000,000. Again there are

different levels. To reach the highest level in the Arch Klump Society you have to give at least $10,000,000. (Arch Klump founded the Rotary Foundation.)

The chairman told us that worldwide there are currently more than 37,000 Major Donors and over 1,700 Arch Klump Society members. We weren’t given figures for the Bequest and Legacy Societies. 225 people logged in for the Event.

It started with a message from the Rotary International President, Holger Knaack, speaking live from Amsterdam. He thanked everyone for the contributions they had made to Foundation but pointed out that there is a continuing need for further funding. The Foundation has set itself a target of reaching $2.025 Billion by 2025.

This was followed by a recorded video message from the Foundation Chair, Ravi Ravindran from Sri Lanka. He thanked people for their support and spoke about the work the Foundation is doing worldwide. Most projects are to benefit those in Africa and Asia.

He also mentioned a “Million Dollar Evening” fund-raising event he had attended in South America. At the end of the evening it was announced that $16,000,000 had been raised. An anonymous donor then matched that, doubling the figure to $32,000,000.

The main part of our Event was the recognition of new Major Donors and Society members and those who had reached an additional level of membership. This was done by European area, each area being delineated on a very broadly linguistic basis, which meant French-speaking Belgium was included with France and the Flemish-speaking part with the Netherlands and Scandinavia. Our area consisted of Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands.

Each area was introduced by a short video from Ravi Ravindran, in which he paid tribute to the work being done with or for the Foundation in that area. He mentioned that, despite being a small country, Belgium was a strong supporter of the Foundation.

When it came to our area, Ravi said he was glad to see our contributions to the Foundation because at one time he felt that here “gaining a Paul Harris Fellowship was seen like gaining a Victoria Cross”. I know that in other countries, including the US, donating $1,000 will get you a PHF. I suspect Ravi may have misunderstood the way we go about it here.

The main Foundation person(s) in each area then read the names of the new Donors and Society members and those advancing in level. As each name was given their photograph was displayed. Well, in most cases; for one or two there was no photograph and a few wanted to remain anonymous and were acknowledged as “A Generous Donor”.

After the names were read, we were shown a video of the projects Rotarians in the area had been involved in. Some were to do with female education. A number were to bring clean water to parts of Africa, including one project in western Kenya that has been running for nine years and so far raised $1,000,000.

Most of the projects shown were at Club or District level. One exception was an Italian national project, which provided Covid-related equipment for 28 hospitals in Italy. Each hospital was given two “thermal gates” to measure the temperatures of those passing through, two individual isolation cubicles and an airtight stretcher for the safe transportation of Covid patients.

Attending the Event gave me an insight into the work of the Rotary Foundation and made me glad that one of the few benefits of the Covid crisis is that we’ve learned how to hold international events online.