Successful Partnering: The Connection to International Service

Michael RaineyRotary Club of Reno Central, International Service Committee Chair, 2016-2021.

Learning Objectives

  • To Define Partnering 
  • To Understand the Importance of Partnering
  • To Understand How Partnering Leverages a Club’s International Efforts

Partnering Strategies

  • Partnering is an important strategy to a club’s international service efforts.
  • Partnering can be used at different levels and in different circumstances.
  • Part of the Partnering strategy is to leverage a club’s available resources (funds available) for the most impact.
  • Partnering enables a club to expand its reach and opportunities worldwide and add friendships and acquaintances of other peoples and cultures.
  • In the Partnering strategy, there are tactics a club could employ, either together in concert, or as individual and independent actions.
  • The tactics include, but are not limited to:
    • Collaborating with other local, same District, and/or American Rotary Clubs.
    • Working and collaborating with one or more of the Rotary Clubs outside the United States with direct donations and/or sponsoring and funding Global Grants.
    • Participating in Open World programs sponsored by Rotary International and the U.S. Congress; plus, RI also has a working relationship with the U.S. Peace Corps. 
    • Collaborating with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). This may include religious, educational or non-profit, non-secular humanitarian organizations.
    • Establishing Twin Club relationships.

Recent Successful Partnering Experiences

Participating in Global Grant development and applications encompasses a multitude of activities that enables partnering with domestic Rotary clubs, Districts, The Rotary Foundation, international Rotary clubs and districts, non-governmental organizations, host national governments and institutions to name a few.

Over the past two years, my club, Reno Central Rotary, participated in Global Grants at two different levels.

For instance, at the first level we contributed several thousands of dollars to Global Grants for a water distribution system and purification system in La Plata, Colombia, medical equipment for rural Mexican clinics near Tijuana, Mexico, and most recently, buying and repairing ventilators for hospitals in Ecuador. Our dollars contributed to the aforementioned Global Grants were matched by several other American and Canadian clubs and host national clubs, plus District and TRF funds.

The next level is to not only substantially contribute funds but actively participate in the development, assessment, and in writing the GG application as a host international sponsor. This endeavor requires much more time and almost constant communications with the members of the host national club. My club recently completed a Global Grant in Pereira, Colombia as an international host sponsor which funded an expansion to a coffee processing cooperative and increased the incomes of hundreds of coffee farming families. The result of this partnering besides delivering a major economic empowerment project was a monitoring visit to the project site and a visit to the host sponsor membership meeting where both clubs entered into a Twin Club agreement.

Finding potential Global Grants to donate to and partnering with foreign Rotary Clubs may take sourcing Global Grants beyond investigating internet sites and receiving solicitations from international clubs. This one is fun for the adventurous! Rotary International and host country Districts sponsor International Projects Fairs around the world. You travel to a country for a weekend (need to plan a longer stay for a bit of tourism) and hear presentations from in-country clubs proposing Global Grants. My club has taken advantage of this and have attended fairs in Colombia, South America. In fact, the previously mentioned Global Grants were presented at the International Projects Fair at Armenia, Colombia in 2017. At this fair over 60 Global Grant projects were presented. Most if not all presentations were in English. International Projects Fairs are held annually and the schedules are posted at the Rotary Foundation website. For a further discussion on International Project Fairs, see Rotarian Jon Gresley’s article on this website.  

Installed coffee processing equipment provided by a Global Grant in Belen de Umbria, Colombia. This Global Grant was completed in April 2020. The Rotary Clubs of Pereira Perla del Otun and Reno Central and were the host sponsor and the international host sponsor respectively.
Rotaractor Cesar Lopez and a fellow Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Rotaractor preparing to distribute Project C.U.R.E. medical supplies to a rural medical clinic funded by the Rotary Club of Reno Central.
Students of the University of Reno, Nevada, Geology Club, installing a water tank in a rural community in Panama with funding provided by the Rotary Club of Reno Central and the Rotary Club of Reno.
Benefits of a Twin Club relationship
Through the Partnering process, a positive relationship can be established with not only a club but with members of the club through the tasks and work done necessary to successfully complete an activity (or activities) and/or a project(s) over time.
A Twin Club agreement is a reflection and recognition of the mutual interest and collaborative efforts from both clubs and an interest to continue the relationship for the benefit of both club’s citizens and partnering for future activities and projects.
An interesting benefit is the friendship that may develop between individual members of each club which usually is a product of the interaction of members while collaborating on an activity and/or project.
Rotary Club of Reno Central member Michael Rainey looking on as Rotary Club of Pereira Perla del Otun (Colombia) president, William Gonzalez, signs the Twin Club agreement in February 2020.
“I recently had the opportunity to visit our Twin Club partner in Colombia. I have had a two year ongoing relationship with several of the members who were involved with the development and implementation of a Global Grant my club participated in as the international host sponsor. Along the way, in our exchanges of emails and WhatsApp texts and phone calls besides talking about the project, we shared our personal stories. In arriving in Colombia I was greeted as a “long lost friend,” never paid for a meal or drink (typical Colombian hospitality), and stayed at the home of several of my Colombian Rotary friends. Even today, we still stay in contact with each other. Seeking out projects for donations and partnering with a trustworthy foreign Rotary Club can be challenging and frustrating, but with a Twin Club relationship mutual interest in the types of projects has already been established. Past collaboration has built a high level of trust and respect.”-Michael Rainey
Rotary Club of Reno Central member Michael Rainey with new friends from the Colombian Rotary Club of Pereira Perla del Otun, Angela Ospina Garcia, Juan R. Sanz Uribe, and Dario and Beatrix Gasca on his visit to Colombia after the International Projects Fair in Cali, Colombia in February 2020.

Keys To Success

  1. Be persistent in pursuing partnering. It’s like a funnel. Many opportunities are pursued, but few actually result in funding projects and developing long term relationships.
  2. Establish a formal or informal vetting process for evaluating both a project and the corroborating club.
  3. Ask if a community assessment (community assessments are requirement for Global Grants) has been done (this is done by the collaborating club) and evaluate the results. This will help determine if the beneficiaries are supportive of the project and that it will solve a need.
  4. Communications!
    • Establish ongoing contact with a lead representative of collaborating club.
    • If your club has a fluent speaker in the language of the host club, make them your communications contact. If not, ask if the collaborating club has an English speaker to facilitate the communications.
    • Request periodic progress and final reports including photos.
    • On-going evaluation of the collaborating club on responsiveness and problem solving. 

Experts and Mentors

Global Grants:

Wyn Spiller,
Ramona Delmas,

Open World:

Carolyn Feuille,
Helen Hankins,

Twin Clubs:

Mike Rainey,
Carolyn Feuille,

International Projects Fairs:

Jon Gresley,