Posted by Paul Murray on Dec 07, 2018

Are you aiming to enlist a corporation or business to support Rotary's drive to end polio? Whether you're targeting the local, regional, or national level, the best way to begin is to identify a key contact and simply ask.

Aziz Memon, chair of the Pakistan PolioPlus Committee, did just that. In 2010, he approached Zohair Mehmood, director of external affairs at Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan, asking that the company consider sponsoring billboards across the country to promote polio eradication during National Immunization Days. The company agreed to the request as part of its corporate social responsibility program, and went on to sponsor ads in the Pakistan End Polio Now newsletter.

But the new partners both had something bigger in mind. "In 2012, the Pakistan PolioPlus Committee and Coca-Cola Beverages Pakistan signed a memorandum of understanding to raise awareness about polio [and to] facilitate activities related to a clean environment, better sanitation conditions, water conservation, improved education in schools, and other community-based initiatives," says committee project manager Asher Ali.

Work soon began on a reverse-osmosis water filtration plant in Malir Town in Karachi, Sindh, which opened in January, giving 20,000 people access to safe water.

"Clean drinking water is a dire need in areas where the poliovirus exists due to poor sanitation and hygiene," says Ali. "[The plant] was installed at one of our permanent immunization centers."

Creating a corporate partnership to help end polio is all about building relationships, notes John Burt, a member of the Rotary Club of Orange, California, USA. In 2008, he invited Tim Mead, vice president of communications for the Anaheim Angels Major League Baseball club to speak to members of the Orange club. After the talk, Burt and fellow club member Michael Abdalla, a 2005-07 Rotary Foundation trustee, met with Mead, who then arranged for the two Rotarians to meet with Angels Executive Vice President John Carpino.

"John agreed to give us 50 percent off the [ticket] list price if we sold 500 tickets," says Burt. "We also sold over 600 Angels commemorative caps embroidered with 'End Polio Now'."

Since 2009, that formula has helped Rotary members in District 5320 generate more than $117,000 for polio eradication through annual Angels-Rotary Night to End Polio Now fundraisers. Over 5,000 Rotarians have attended the events, and the district has also provided public service announcements that are aired during TV broadcasts of Angels games.

In addition to establishing key contacts with the team, Burt says that enlisting support from the district governor, appointing Rotarian planning and ticket sales coordinators, and promoting the event to Rotary club presidents all have helped ensure success.

"Orange Rotarians have also sponsored 186 needy kids from the Orangewood Children's Home and Big Brothers Big Sisters," says Burt. "Each kid receives a club-level ticket, an Angels cap, food, and an opportunity to attend Angels batting practice. Many of these kids have never attended a Major League Baseball game before."