How Grants Work

Magic of Rotary
Magic of Rotary

As Global Travelers, an important part of our mission is “We serve the world.” We don’t all have the opportunity to provide “hands-on service” in remote corners of the world every year, but we can all make a financial contribution to leverage the Magic of Rotary and help Rotarians everywhere make a difference.

As members of Global Travelers, we have two options for our Rotary contributions:

  • Our club’s foundation, which we call GTF (Global Travelers Foundation)
  • The Rotary Foundation (TRF), which is the non-profit arm of Rotary International that supports our world-wide philanthropic work

The goal of this article is to describe these two different options for your contributions and why they are both important for funding grants.

Buckets for contributions
Colombia global grant smaller

Let’s start with the example of our club’s recent global grant for water purification in Colombia. As you can see from the image, this is a large grant totaling $94,800. (That’s what makes it a “global” grant. More about that later.)

The first line item — $10,000 — represents funds from local clubs, including $1,000 from our club’s Global Travelers Foundation (GTF). The other clubs (called collaborating clubs) contributed funds from their own foundations. Essentially, GTF enables us to provide seed money for a grant.

Ultimately, all the other funding for this grant (beyond the $10,000 seed money from our club and our partner collaborating clubs) comes from contributions to The Rotary Foundation (TRF). Some of it comes directly from TRF and some of it comes via District 5950.

How do we get from the $10,000 “seed money” contributed by GTF and our partner clubs to $94,800? That’s where the Magic of Rotary comes in.

The image on the right depicts the life cycle of funds contributed to The Rotary Foundation (TRF). From the beginning, TRF made the decision to let all donated funds “age” for three years. The earnings during those years provide the operating funds for TRF. After 3 years, the donated funds are split between the World Fund and the Rotary Districts. The amount returned to each District is proportional to what we as District members contributed to TRF 3 years ago.

Our District 5950 has chosen to split the funds we receive from TRF evenly between global grants and district grants. (More about the grant types later.)

In the example of our Colombia grant above, District 5950 provided a 3:1 match for the $10,000 contributed by clubs in our District. That’s $30,000. And because this was a global grant, TRF matched 80% of what the District contributed (.8:1 match). That’s another $24,000.

Melanie DeLuca, our project lead, also leveraged several “special promotions” available from our District and TRF to bring the total to $94,800. A pretty amazing job of leveraging the initial $1,000 from our Global Travelers Foundation! A great example of the Magic of Rotary.

(If you’d like to learn more about the Colombia water project, you can view the meeting recording here.)

TRF explained smaller
Types of Grants smaller

We’ve used the example of our grant for water purification in Colombia. It is a Global Grant because of its size and scope (over $30,000). Global Grants must be approved by both the District and TRF.

At the District level, there are two types of grants: Local and Small International. As the name suggests, Local Grants take place within the District and International Grants take place elsewhere. Both are less than $30,000. Because of our international focus, our Global Travelers club has chosen not to participate in any Local Grants. We have originated or participated in several Small International Grants. You can find the list on our Grants page.

If you have an idea for a grant, the best course of action is to consult with our club’s grants committee for guidance on how to get started. Nancy Davis ( is the committee chair.

Every year, Rotarians are responsible for hundreds of grants around the world addressing a wide variety of needs. Donations are the engine that funds these grants.

Obviously, donating is a personal decision. Rotary as an organization hopes that every member will donate something every year. Our own club’s ability to fund grants is directly correlated to the donations made by our club’s members.

So… two different foundations. Where do you donate? Again, it’s a personal choice. Let’s recap the role of each.

GTF (Global Travelers Foundation) provides funds for our club to participate directly in grants. We use these funds to initiate grants like the Colombia water project. We also use these funds to participate in grants that other clubs have initiated (called being a collaborating club). Typically, we initiate one grant per year and collaborate on a handful more. But our membership is growing so that number is likely to increase. (See a list of our grants here.)

Our club does not hold fundraisers so our only source of funds to initiate grants or collaborate with partner clubs is donations to GTF. 

GTF is not a registered 501(c)3 non-profit yet. GTF funds are housed in the District 5950 Foundation (which is a non-profit). So you submit your donations to the District 5950 Foundation and designate them for GTF. As of now, the District Foundation does not provide the ability to donate online. You can access the donation form here.

The Rotary Foundation (TRF) provides funds to the District for grants in proportion to what District members donated 3 years ago. Those District Designated Funds (DDF) are the source of the matches that leverage our initial club’s initial contribution to a grant. (Note: if you are an Associate Member of Global Travelers, your TRF donations are credited to the District for your “home club.”)

In addition, TRF provides funds for important areas of focus: 

  • Peace and conflict resolution
  • Disease prevention/treatment
  • Water and sanitation
  • Maternal and child health
  • Basic education and literacy
  • Economic and community development
  • Supporting the environment

You can donate to TRF here.

In whatever way you choose to donate, you are helping to Serve the World through Rotary grants.