The Rotary Bowl is a Fall football game held as a fundraiser for college scholarships by the Rotary Club of North Augusta, South Carolina.
By Sam Turner
Nonprofit Sector News
While much media and public attention to nonprofit organizations during COVID-19 has been focused on humane societies, YMCAs, and Goodwill stores closed, staff furloughed and fundraisers cancelled, one result has been a double-whammy: shortfalls in scholarships funds just when many college students need them most.
Each year, millions of dollars in college scholarships are presented by local Rotary Clubs and Rotary Club districts (composed of dozens of clubs) around the United States. Amounts range from $1,500 to “global grants” given by club districts to a study abroad student for $40,000. But an untold number of local Rotary Club fundraising events have been cancelled or held in less effective formats, such as virtually. The parent organization, Rotary International, is not a funder for local scholarships, but provides other assistance.
Russell Kurian, a Rotary International support team member, said, “The Foundation supports Rotary clubs and districts that wish to offer scholarships as part of their service to their communities.”
Each local Rotary Club sets its own goals for scholarships. They also have their own ways of raising money: golf tournaments, bake sales, and simple donations by members. Many Rotary chapters had to cancel fundraisers, float the scholarships to the next school year or reduce the number of students selected for the scholarships.
Brett McNeill, Rotary club president in North Augusta, South Carolina, made six scholarships available to guidance counselors at both Fox Creek High School and North Augusta High School despite COVID-19. Each student received $1,500, for a total of $9,000.
McNeill said that despite decreased fundraising, the club was able to award the scholarships on schedule, but not as many. “We wanted to have seven kids, but it is still great to know that these kids will be able to go to college despite having to cancel our annual fundraisers.” Seven scholarships per high school has been the club’s usual number.
Brett Turner, treasurer of the North Augusta Rotary club, said one guidance counselor at each school nominates students to the club. The guidance counselors did not see a decrease in students applying. “Unfortunately, the students are required to come to our meetings and give us a presentation on their plans and things they have done while in school,” explained Turner, “because we stopped having meetings due to Covid-19, we didn’t have as many applicants as normal. The guidance counselors at both schools told me they were receiving a lot less scholarships in general this year. They were surprised we were able to give the amount we did
According to the North Augusta Rotary Club, the annual fall Rotary Bowl was not affected. The annual golf tournament held in May was cancelled due to COVID-19. Local rotary clubs hope to be able to have their annual fundraisers such as Rotary Bowl in the upcoming fall season.