Editor’s Note: Bob Rogers of the Rotary Club of Sebastopol, California, USA, and Greg Owen, Rotary Club of Long Beach, California, USA, both End Polio Now coordinators, came together to form a PolioPlus Society in their zones. The Society, which encourages automatic annual giving to Rotary’s PolioPlus fund, has been praised by senior Rotary Leaders as a model for others to follow. Rotary Voices talked to Rogers and Owen about the origins of the idea.
Q: How did you get the idea for a PolioPlus Society in your zones?
Bob Rogers: It was back in 2018 or 2019 and I was beginning my role as District 5130’s PolioPlus committee chair. Cort Vaughn, our End Polio Now coordinator, told me how District 5110 had formed a society several years earlier as a way to increase sustainable giving to the PolioPlus Fund. The original concept has been credited to Harriett Schloer of the Rotary Club of Bend High Desert in Oregon and her district governor, Dell Gray. Vaughn noted it had proved very successful and had been copied by other districts.
I knew I wanted to try one in my district as well. Some folks might call it standing on the shoulders of those who came before us (I would certainly be doing that). Others might call it Rotary R&D, which stands for “Rotary Rip off and Duplicate.” But I believe it’s an honorable thing to do in Rotary if it’s all for the same cause.
At that time, I was asked to take on the role of End Polio Now coordinator in Zone 27 and it dawned on me, why not take the PolioPlus Society idea zone wide? I mentioned it to my counterpart Greg Owen in Zone 26 and he liked the idea as well.
Greg Owen: I remember Bob saying, “it’s exactly what we want to do.” We thought, why reinvent something that is already working? So, we decided to run with it and attempt to spread it throughout the 30 districts in our two combined zones.
Q: How does it work?
Rogers: The purpose is to encourage Rotary members to give a minimum of $100 a year to the PolioPlus fund until we achieve our goal of eradicating polio. Greg suggested we incorporate his passion, which is to encourage Rotary members to give with their credit cards via a recurring debit or credit charge at the pacing of their choosing. This can be either monthly, quarterly, or annually through giving online.
Of course, members can also give with a one-time charge, or continue to give by writing a check to the Rotary Foundation with “PolioPlus Fund” in the memo line.
Society members receive a special pin and certificate, to which we have since added an End Polio Now wristband.
Owen: The beauty of the program is you don’t have to start from zero with your polio fundraising every year. We raised $500,000 this year. We start with that much every 1 July. We want to promote the idea that members can join, and then recruit another Rotarian or friend to join, and immediately we double the annual donation.
Q: How did Greg’s puppy Mollie become the unofficial mascot of the effort?
Owen: My daughter made an End Polio Now scarf for our little puppy after asking how she could help promote the program. We took a picture and she wrote under the photo “My name is Mollie and I’m giving up $10 a month worth of treats to give to the PolioPlus Society.” A fellow member saw it and spread it around and it prompted 100 new Society members.
During our monthly Zoom calls for End Polio Now coordinators, Mollie would be there with her scarf on. When 2021-22 Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair John Germ would see her, he would immediately note “Hey, there’s Mollie.” After that each month, without fail, someone would ask “Where’s Mollie?” She has an appeal that seems to reach the hearts of Rotary members.
Q: How successful has the Society been in your zones?
Rogers: As of December 31, 2021, 24 of the 30 districts that reported back to us had almost 4,000 Society members. They have collectively pledged to donate more than $524,000 annually until the world is declared polio-free by the World Health Organization.
Q: What advice would you have for other districts?
Rogers: We have templates that you can download from the Rotary Zones 26 & 27 website including the forms we use and suggestions on how to get started. You can use them as is or alter them to your needs. You can also reach out to us for help at email@example.com.