August 30, 2022

Rotary and businesses coming together for the community

In recent years, Rotary has made big strides in adapting to modern lifestyles and accommodating working people. Part of those adaptation efforts require Rotary in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire to form closer bonds with businesses, local government, and other organisations.

It’s well evidenced that Rotary has a particular specialty in partnering with charities and non-profit organisations with many great examples found throughout Rotary in Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire. However, as businesses have an impact on local communities, it’s important to partner with them to share resources and skills to do more good locally.

For some clubs, the link between Rotary and business can be tenuous, or they simply don’t know how to start. Below we have rounded up some examples of how clubs have partnered with businesses and local government across the district, and in doing so have created stronger links at the benefit of the local community.  

Friends of Rotary

There are lots of people who want to give their time to groups like Rotary, but may be unable, or do not want, to commit to a full membership. Friends of Rotary is a programme where individuals can team with Rotary to provide support and services to communities both locally and internationally.

Friends of York Rotary was established in 2018 as a means of involving the York community in the aims and activities of Rotary in York. The group’s other objective is to enable networking and friendship amongst its members.

Members range in gender, age (with some of the youngest members being university students), skills, professions, interests and more. The Friends group has been vital in helping York Rotary with hands-on events such as the club’s annual York Dragon Boat Challenge and some Friends have converted to full Rotary memberships.

Birstall Luddites Rotary also has a Friends group and Wetherby Wharfedale Rotary is in the initial stages of setting up a group as well. Wetherby Wharfedale Rotary wants to give an opportunity for people who can’t fully commit to Rotary but still wish to volunteer on projects and bring their own interests and skillsets into Rotary. They hope that a Friends group will help increase the amount of good that happens in the community and allow Rotary to be more visible in the local area. 

Business Networking

For some Rotary clubs and communities, creating business networking opportunities has been key to helping communities during tough times.

After a major flood in the Calderdale area, Sowerby Bridge Rotary applied for and obtained funding to create a Sowerby Bridge Networking group in an effort to bring local businesses and community together. Having an established business network proved fortunate as Covid-19 hit only six months later. During the pandemic, the network provided a lifeline and support for small enterprises and businesses in the area with more businesses now connected and willing to help one another. As a result, Rotary has reached a new audience with many of the businesses willing to either join or promate Rotary projects in the area.

Rotary within Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire is a member of three local Chambers of Commerce–with members attending events promoting Rotary and its benefits to local organisations. By joining Chamber of Commerce events, clubs can meet and interact with different local businesses that they have not met before.

Clubs can also look for specific networking events–such as the Huddersfield Giants Women in Business event that some local clubs have attended–where attendees can showcase Rotary’s work and link with potential partners from the business community.  

Initiatives such as “Around the Town with Northallerton Rotary Club” is yet another way in which Rotary can work with businesses. By creating their own fortnightly event to interview and promote local small independent businesses, they increased the visibility of the club, of the business and also gained two new members.

Project based support

One of the easiest ways to partner with the wider community is to invite businesses to participate in ongoing projects.

Since 2012, Rotary clubs across Calderdale have been collecting items for the Calderdale Community Shoebox Appeal. Since its inception, the project has given out 19,895 boxes for children and adults as well as food parcels to families which are distributed to those in need around the Christmas holiday.

Boxes are mainly filled by students from approximately 35 primary and secondary schools. In 2015, the project was introduced to businesses and quickly got the support from 10 local small and large companies. That year, their donations represented 30% of the total number of boxes. By 2019, there were over 688 boxes filled by a total of 18 local companies.

The latest figures provided by Halifax Rotary show that Covid affected the contributions from businesses in the 2020 and 2021 collections. With more people working from home and fewer people in the office, raising awareness and getting support in the usual ways will be affected.

This prompted the clubs to set up a JustGiving page where people could contribute funds to help with the project. This is yet another example of how Rotary will need to continue to adapt to continue doing good work in communities.

Corporate membership

Clubs such as Church & Oswaldtwistle Rotary, in a neighbouring Rotary District, and Aireborough Rotary in Leeds have used corporate memberships to partner with nearby schools and universities. According to the corporate members, students and staff can easily get involved with projects, and are able to take advantage of skills amongst members of Rotary and their networks.

Corporate memberships allow clubs to involve businesses, nonprofits, or government entities in Rotary by offering an alternative and membership package to its employees. It’s one of many ways clubs can increase their membership while expanding its network and visibility in the community–and in return, corporate members can access social and service opportunities that Rotary offers in a more flexible way.

Magna Vitae Trust for Leisure and Culture has joined Louth Rotary as one of their corporate members. Magna Vitae staff give their time to join club initiatives, such as Louth Rotary’s Memory Walk, which supports events and activities for people living with dementia. According to Louth Rotary, the club is able to benefit by having more people join projects and in turn, corporate members are able to use existing skills and develop new ones to benefit of the community.

Connecting with local government

Each Saturday, Skipton Rotary runs an all day car park for visitors to the town centre. For £3, people can park within a few minute walk of the town centre. The Skipton Rotary Charity Car Park is the product of collaboration between the club, the local Council and Skipton Building Society who kindly lend the club its parking premises.

In 2021, Northallerton and Northallerton Mowbray clubs partnered with Hambleton District Council to create a decorative garden outside of the council offices. The garden symbolises Rotary’s ongoing work in the community and was a way to make the space nicer for visitors to the area. The project also involved local builders and equipment from a local farmer to help create the garden display.

Community open days

Before the pandemic, Malton & Norton Rotary ran what they called an “Involved Day.” They rented a space at The Milton Room, an arts and cultural activities centre in Malton’s market square, and invited lots of local organisations (such as sporting clubs, play groups, volunteering clubs, hobby clubs, etc.) to attend and set up a table. The idea was to create a space where people could go to learn more about what organisations and groups are in the area.

The event was free of charge for organisations and visitors alike with the goal of people and groups getting to know each other. Ryedale Council also supported the event by giving Malton & Norton Rotary several hundred pounds to cover the hire costs.

Though the event didn’t necessarily include businesses, there is an opportunity to do so in the future. The club plans to hold another event early next year and believes this is something that can easily be replicated by other clubs.

Rotary in windows

For nearly a decade, Malton & Norton Rotary have run an annual pop-up charity shop in Malton’s market square. The shop is open for several weeks at a time and consists of good quality high-end adult and children’s clothing, occasion wear, bric-a-brac and more (see post from 14 July 2022).

It takes the club several weeks to prepare the shop as the location is often a disused shop space, and involves Rotarians, friends and family to get the site, including its window display, ready. The charity shop has earned the name “Posh Shop” amongst locals who are known to queue before the doors even open.

Members of Malton & Norton Rotary preparing for their annual pop-up charity shop opening

Keighley Rotary took the opportunity to connect with a local funeral service provider to raise awareness of Rotary and promote an ongoing charity project. The result was a window display on the village high street promoting Rotary and its projects. The initiative brought together staff from the funeral home and the public to collect items to help people who have experienced domestic and sexual abuse.

For its 75th anniversary, Northallerton Rotary also set up a window display in a department store on the high street to showcase the club and its work in the community (see post from 29 July 2022)

Forming partnerships in your way

Today, with so much change happening in business with more people working from home, physical locations closing and other changes due to business costs, the way Rotary partners with businesses and other organisations will need to adapt. Clubs must continue to be brave and willing to try new ways of forming partnerships and supporting communities.

Above are a few big and small ways that Rotary, businesses, local governments and other organisations can work together to achieve common goals. There is no exact template for partnership working that will work for everyone. It’s up to each club, business and community to decide what is needed and the best way to achieve it.

Rebecca A Mendoza is a freelance writer and member of York Rotary. You can find out more about her work at

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