Article from May 25, 2013 Guelph Mercury
 

Local Rotary clubs re-examine fundraising priorities

GUELPH — Rotary Club of Guelph president-elect Jim Wadleigh says the organization is undergoing a review of priorities, but won’t discard its renowned bankrolling events, despite the loss of its Dream Home fundraiser, at least for this year, because of housing market conditions.

“We’re going to have some choices. We don’t have limitless resources,” Wadleigh said, noting the 151-member club funds 33 service projects that may have to be transformed as the organization streamlines, perhaps into less than two dozen.

“We have more committees than many clubs have members,” Wadleigh said, calling the next stage in the veteran club’s existence one of a sharper focus on projects like the winter’s Sparkles in the Park light display and fireworks, Canada Day celebrations, Rotary Forest, charity hockey challenge and major fundraising lottery.

“We thought it would be a good idea to focus and measure impact,” he said. “It takes cash to do most of these projects, as well as volunteer hours.”

It’s not alone in examining resources and effectiveness.

“We’re constantly tweaking,” Rotary Club of Guelph-Trillium president Paul Fitzpatrick said of his organization, known for its annual Ribfest fundraiser and scotch nosing events.

These are two of four local clubs that include the Rotary Club of Guelph South, known for its yearly spelling bee, and Rotary Club of Guelph-Wellington, noted for its fun duck races.

Despite change in the wind, the Rotary Club of Guelph’s Dream Home lottery won’t fade into the past, Wadleigh said. While last year’s lottery was a $250,000 cash prize, it’s traditionally been a house lottery.

“It was our largest fundraiser for the last 10 years,” he said. But it’s been hard to build a new upscale home affordably for the club in a housing market as hot as Guelph’s, hence the fundraising project’s hiatus, he explained. It could be back as early as next year.

He added it’s still premature to say how programming will change, including possibly partnering with other organizations or augmenting funding elsewhere. Wadleigh cited as examples of projects the club would like to maintain local youth-at-risk, student mentoring and forest replanting programs, as well as development projects in Africa offering loans to poultry farmers in Lesotho.

Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium president Paul Fitzpatrick said Rotary Clubs are responding to the international organization’s advice to attract new and young members to augment the experience of older ones, while remaining relevant to the larger community.

“Our focus on Ribfest is not changing,” Fitzpatrick continued, stressing it’s the main fundraiser for a variety of projects supporting two dozen community groups, mainly local.

The 50-member Trillium, he said, is recognized within the Rotary district umbrella “for being one of the stronger ones.” But he’d welcome some fresh young blood, something president-elect John Barnum said it already boasts.

“I find this club very young and energetic,” Barnum said, noting in part its connection to the University of Guelph’s Rotaract Club for students in their late teens and 20s.

While Trillium has established committees to determine where it wants to be in five years, Barnum expressed continued support for current projects that help youths learn about business and the economy, provide scholarship funds and offer leadership training.

He didn’t rule out operational changes.

“You’ve got to look at structures all the time and we’re doing that,” Barnum said.

Rotary Club of Guelph-Wellington president-elect Drew Hughes said his club wants to boost the “fun” part of being a Rotarian through fellowship and camaraderie.

“We’re always open to having new members, that’s for sure,” Hughes said of the 22-strong organization.

“The duck race is going as planned,” he added. It’s slated for July 1 at Riverside Park, coinciding with the Rotary Club of Guelph’s Canada Day bash.

Around the globe, there are 1.2 million Rotarians. “These service clubs are extremely dynamic,” Barnum said.

vkirsch@guelphmercury.com