April-May 2023 | Features

How does The Rotary Foundation help when disaster strikes?

How does The Rotary Foundation help when disaster strikes?

A detailed run-through of how The Rotary Foundation provides support to places hit by natural and man-made disasters.

With more than 1.4 million members worldwide, Rotary is well placed and equipped to help communities recover wherever disaster strikes. Working closely with other organisations that specialise in disaster relief, Rotary members lead projects to support every phase of a community’s recovery.

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Rotary supports three phases of relief:

  1. Immediate response – Local clubs offer helping hands and supplies.
  2. Short-term assistance – Clubs and districts provide funds and materials to re-establish day-to-day operations. The Rotary Foundation has established a number of Disaster Response Funds (DRFs) to finance this work. At districts’ discretion, these projects can also be supported by use of District Grants.
  3. Long-term rebuilding – Clubs plan and implement projects that rebuild and develop affected communities. This work is supported by both District and Global Grants.

Traditionally, Rotary has seen its role mostly in the last of these areas with grants from The Rotary Foundation being aligned towards those ends. However, many members felt this limited our ability to help communities in the shorter term when natural disasters strike.

In April 2019, the TRF Trustees agreed to the creation of a general Disaster Response Fund and associated disaster response grants, initially as a three-year pilot.

This is now a permanent Rotary Foundation offering. Initially it was set up as one fund, with grants available towards recovery from natural disasters in any area of the world.

The Rotary Foundation has now made Disaster Response Funds available for the conflict in Ukraine, the earthquakes that have affected Turkey and Syria, and the devastating floods that hit Pakistan in 2022.

In February 2022, the world was impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The TRF Trustees decided that Rotary’s response could best be supported by some easing of the requirements for a grant from the DRF.

Whilst the war is not a natural disaster, help would be offered via a segregated fund. That led to the Ukraine DRF, which rapidly grew to over $15m, that has now all been distributed to projects in Ukraine and for supporting displaced Ukrainians.

Following the success of that campaign, in the early part of 2023 the Trustees decided to launch three new Disaster Response Funds.


Following much the same guidelines as for the previous year, all districts can apply for disaster response grants from this fund.

Pakistan floods

Responding to the 2022 widespread flooding in Pakistan. Only Pakistan districts D3271, D3272, can apply to this Disaster Response Fund, but Rotarians elsewhere are encouraged both to donate and to work with the Pakistani districts.

Turkey/Syria earthquake

Following the recent devastating earthquakes. Only the four districts in the region (D2420, D2430, D2440, D2452) can apply for disaster response grants to support Turkey/Syria, but again Rotarians elsewhere are encouraged both to donate and work with these districts.

To give to any of the Rotary Disaster Response Funds, go to the Donate page on the Rotary GB&I website and choose any of the funds of The Rotary Foundation.

The funds for Ukraine and Pakistan will accept contributions until 31st December 2023. Grants will be awarded until 30th June 2024, or earlier if all funds have been expended.

For Turkey/Syria, donations made using the main Disaster Response Fund link will be prioritised for Turkey/Syria for a limited time, after which donations will be used to support disasters worldwide.

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