A unique Rotary project between District 5160 in Northern Central California and Districts 3030 and 3070 in India helped provide COVID-19 relief to India in June 2021. The Governors and other leaders of these three districts initiated a successful short term fundraising effort to support the purchase of life-saving oxygen products, equipment, and supplies for India.
In June 2021 Rotarians in District 5160 responded to a request to help people in India. The country had been hit by a devastating second wave of COVID-19 cases that overwhelmed the healthcare system and resulted in people struggling to get hospital beds, oxygen, and medicines. A Rotary-to-Rotary team was created involving three Districts in two countries across a time difference of 12 and a half hours. Through a series of phone conversations, emails, and Zoom meetings, team members discussed, analyzed, and addressed the challenging logistics.
A major consideration was the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), India’s law regulating the flow of foreign funding into the country. Indian nonprofits must have a valid FCRA Registration or receive prior approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs to be able to legally receive charitable funds from donors outside of India.
The team learned that a Rotary Club in District 3070 had the required compliant account. The Moraga Rotary Foundation in District 5160 is recognized by the United States Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so donations to it to support the India relief project are tax-deductible to the donor. In June, Rotary clubs and individuals donated funds to the Moraga Rotary Foundation that were transferred to the FCRA-compliant bank account in India.
Some actively involved Rotarians in Districts 5160, 3030, and 3070
A peek into one of the Zoom meetings
By written Agreement, the receiving Rotary Club in India was directed to purchase the needed devices and supplies identified by the Governors of Districts 3030 and 3070. The Agreement included an acknowledgement of receipt of funds, a summary of the intended usage of the funds, and reporting requirements to describe how and when the funds had been used including photographs, testimonials, and explanations of the impact and benefits.
The need was urgent, the Rotary year was ending, and the time was short. The Governor of District 5160 sent a high-priority email appeal to each Rotarian in the District specifying a two-week window in which the Moraga Rotary Foundation could accept online donations or receive written checks.
The response was strong, generous, and prompt: almost $35,000 was donated in that short time. Funds were sent to the FCRA-compliant account in India before the end of June.
Comments from the Governors of District 3030 and District 3070:
Shabbir Shakir, District 3030 Governor, 2020-2021
This is yet another example that we Rotarians stand with each other in our moment of need. Thanks for all the pains taken, for the generous contributions, and for saying loud and clear – “We Care!!!”.
CA Davinder Singh, District 3070 Governor, 2020-2021
We express heartfelt gratitude to all for coming forward at this crucial time to help in this urgent cause. Your efforts will go a long way in saving many lives. The joy of collective goodness is simply amazing.
In less than 3 weeks, Rotarians and Clubs in District 5160 contributed almost $35,000 to the India COVID-19 Relief Fund
This is how Rotarians in Districts 3030 and 3070 used donations from Rotarians in District 5160 to save lives in India
Donations from District 5160 Rotarians were quickly put into action to help people in India.
In District 3030, Rotarians provided hospitals with critical medical devices used with great success. Some instruments are facilitating early diagnosis and intervention of Mucormycosis (“black fungus”), a serious infection in some Covid-19 patients in India.
In District 3070, Rotarians opened 7 Oxygen Concentrator Banks using 18 Oxygen Concentrators, mostly in rural areas, providing access to life-saving oxygen support for people in desperate need. Additional Oxygen Concentrator Banks are planned in other areas.
In District 3030, at a hybrid Dedication Ceremony on August 30, 2021, vital COVID-related diagnostic and treatment equipment funded by District 5160 Rotarians was presented to the Indira Gandhi Government Medical College in Nagpur. District Governor Kathy Suvia and iPDG Mark Roberts with District 3030 Governor Ramesh Meher and iPDG Shabbir Shakir were among the dignitaries who spoke at the proceedings.
In District 3070, iPDG Davinder Singh announced the installation of another Oxygen Concentrator Bank in September. This brings the current total to 8 banks with 31 oxygen concentrators that were funded by the District 5160 COVID-19 Relief Project.
Observations and Lessons Learned
District 3030 purchased medical equipment for public hospitals in India
District 3070 purchased oxygen concentrators and set up Oxygen Loan Banks
The need was urgent and the challenges immense with an emergency international crisis. There was no time to apply for a District Grant, so the team developed a process that raised and transferred funds quickly to provide life-saving equipment and supplies.
- Leverage networks and relationships to make connections to club and district leaders in the country of need.
- Identify other local clubs that may want to help, and avoid duplicating efforts.
- Arrange a “Rotary to Rotary” fund transfer which is safer and enhances donor comfort because of the built-in mutual trust and warmth between Rotarians.
- Choose repository foundation to collect donations and handle recordkeeping. Understand and research country specific laws and regulations and accepted money transfer practices. Local supply sourcing was beneficial in this example rather than direct to vendors.
- Create a written agreement for clear understanding and acknowledgement, intended usage and follow up reporting. Use similar principles to a grant process, but streamline the process. Emphasize photos and documentation for reports and updates. Flexibility is important as situations are fluid, and needs may change
- Utilize video conferencing for regular communication. Have prepared agendas, choose one person to facilitate, and always set a date for a follow up meeting. Consider time zones, local holidays, and customs.
- In an inherently time-sensitive project, market accordingly using emails, shared links, social media, presentations to other clubs, etc.
- Publicize a clear end date, and have a plan for what to do when funds come in after that date.
- Maximize the Power of Rotary, strengthened by relationships across the world.