Last month, after confirming a full year without a single case of wild poliovirus, Nigeria was removed from the list of the world's polio-endemic countries. It was the last polio-endemic country in Africa. Today, only two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – harbor the world's final reservoir of endemic poliovirus. As this issue of The Rotarian goes to press, global cases of polio in 2015 number only a few dozen.

The scale of this achievement can hardly be overstated. Polio has existed for millennia; it has plagued humanity since our earliest civilizations. Today, because of Rotary's work and that of our partners, the end is in sight. We are counting down not in years, but in months.

And yet, our success is as fragile as it is monumental. We are moving forward, slowly, steadily, inexorably – thanks to colossal efforts that never cease. We continue to vaccinate hundreds of millions of children in vast synchronized campaigns; we constantly monitor environments to prevent new outbreaks. The sheer scale of the effort – the coordination, the cost, and the commitment – boggles the mind.

Some ask why such high levels of immunization and surveillance are still needed to combat a disease that is almost gone. The answer is simple: It is the only way forward. If we did anything less – if we allowed the virus any quarter – years of work would be undone. We know too well how easily polio could spread again. We know how quickly our decades of progress could be lost. And this is why the months ahead are so tremendously important. We need your voice – to raise awareness, to raise funds, and to keep the momentum going. We need your strength to help fight this war until we have won.

On 24 October, we mark World Polio Day. I hope that on that day, all of you will take part in some way in our work to eradicate polio. I know that many of you intend to publicize this event on the club or district level; for those who have not yet made plans, there are still many ways to participate. Visit endpolionow.org for ideas, tools, sample press releases, and ways to donate. You'll also find the link to our livestream event; be sure to join in, and share it on social media.

This war of ours – which started as a war against polio but is also a war against hatred, against ignorance, against fear – this war will be won. It will be won soon. And when it is won, all of Rotary will have a story to tell – to the children, and the grandchildren, who will never see a leg brace or an iron lung, or know a world with polio in it.

Whether you are a Rotarian in Kano or Peshawar or Swat, in Seoul or Madrid or Chicago – you are a part of this story. Your part in it is one that only you can write. I ask you all to write it well – so that the story you will one day tell is one of which you will be proud.

There was once a strong young man who was offered a job as a woodcutter. He set about his task with energy: The first week, he turned 18 trees into firewood. The second week, he worked just as hard, but was surprised to find he had chopped only 11 trees. The third week, despite working nonstop from morning till night, the number was six, and he went despairingly to the foreman to offer his resignation. "I am losing my strength. I can no longer cut as many trees as I once could."
 
The foreman looked at the young man, who seemed to him in fine health. "Have you thought of sharpening your ax?" he asked.
 
"Sharpen my ax? Who has time to sharpen an ax?" the young man asked indignantly. "I have been too busy chopping wood!"
 
When we aren't making the kind of progress we feel we should be making, the natural response is to redouble our efforts. Sometimes, though, the better response is not to work harder, but to work smarter. Look at your tools. Analyze your processes. Are you directing your resources in the most effective ways? Or are you pouring all your strength into chopping wood with a dull ax?
 
For the last 20 years, we have relentlessly beaten the drum of membership in Rotary. We set goals and launch campaigns, all focused on bringing in more and more members. And yet, our overall numbers remain the same.
 
It is time to sharpen our tools. Instead of focusing on the question, "How can we bring more members into Rotary?" we should be asking ourselves, "How can we add more value to Rotary membership, so that more will join and fewer will leave?"
 
One way we are doing that is with the new Rotary Global Rewards program, which launched in July. This innovative program allows Rotarians to connect with, and receive discounts and concessions from, businesses and service providers around the world. Individual Rotarians may submit their own business to be included alongside those with which Rotary has already negotiated relationships; the most appropriate offers will be added to the listings. We have also created the option of allowing businesses to return a percentage of their profit on each transaction to our Rotary Foundation, and several companies have already been locked into this part of the scheme. Each month we will update the list with additional offers that we may receive. I urge all of you to try it out by signing up on My Rotary at Rotary.org now. The more Rotarians participate, the stronger, and more beneficial, the program will be.
 
Much more than another loyalty program, Rotary Global Rewards is a new way to benefit from being a Rotarian, and being part of the Rotary network. It is another way to combine business and service. And it is yet another way to add value to Rotary membership. We cannot forget that our potential members will be asking themselves, "What's in it for me?" We need to demonstrate the value of Rotary by showing that becoming a Rotarian will enrich their lives, as it has ours.

 

August is Membership and New Club Development Month, which means it's time to celebrate your Rotary club, your members, and the good you do in your community and around the world.

Make the most of your membership. Here's how.

  1. Learn more about , a new member benefit program that offers discounts on products and services – travel, hotels, car rentals, dining, and entertainment. Visit the .
  2. Identify a need in your community and work with your club to design a hands-on project that addresses it.
  3. Learn how to to implement a project.
  4. Know a young leader? Tell them about Interact, Rotaract, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), and Rotary Youth Exchange.
  5. Explore other clubs. Did you know that you’re welcome to attend any club’s meeting, anywhere in the world? Use the tool or download the Club Locator app to find a meeting when you travel.
  6. Try a new role. Clubs need leaders. Take the first step and ask where your club needs help.
  7. Attend the next Rotary International Convention in Seoul, Korea. Enjoy inspiring talks from global leaders, celebrities, and activists. Meet members from around the world. It’s the ultimate way to understand the scope of Rotary. .
  8. Be part of history and help eradicate polio. .
  9. Use the resources in the  to help you communicate, inspire, and collaborate
  10. Meet other members who share you interests and passions through a Rotary Fellowship or Rotarian Action Group. There are about 70 groups, catering to everyone from cooking enthusiasts to water and sanitation project experts.
  11. Connect on social media. Rotary has official pages on , , LinkedIn, , , Flickr, and more. .
  12. Support The Rotary Foundation. Contributions provide millions of dollars in grants that support our humanitarian service around the world. .

This month, we are collecting stories from members about why they joined-- and are proud to stay-- in Rotary. Tell us your story on or send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and you may see your story featured in a future issue of Membership Minute.