For over 35 years, polio eradication has been a primary initiative of Rotary International. World Polio Day, which originated as a grassroots day of polio fundraising events by local Rotary clubs, is now observed each year on October 24th by Rotary’s 1.4 million members, public health organizations like the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, and public health advocates across the world. The goal: to raise awareness and funding to make polio the second human disease ever eradicated.
Rotary’s World Polio Day 2023 campaign sought to increase the engagement of Rotary members in hosting World Polio Day events and fundraisers, and by extension, also increasing public awareness of past and present polio eradication efforts.
We wanted to approach World Polio Day differently than we had in past years. Rather than premiering on a one-hour video on Oct. 24th, we opted to focus on producing videos, articles, user-generated content, and graphics that were designed specifically for use on social media and could be shared in the weeks leading up to and on World Polio Day. Previously, we had also offered a “toolkit” with various assets as a .zip file download, most of which were the same or very similar in look and feel to previous years. Our approach this year was to create a refreshed look for graphics and videos and create a publicly available World Polio Day Resources webpage that allowed users to download individual assets.
For Rotary clubs, a simplified club registration form was designed to make it easier for Rotary members to share how their clubs were participating in World Polio Day. We encouraged clubs to register their participation, and take advantage of the new resource webpage, through a direct email campaign to Rotary members between August and October, including World Polio Day adverts in various other Rotary-specific newsletters, and by promoting World Polio Day on our social media channels. In the spirit of healthy competition, we also tracked the top registration numbers for Rotary districts and countries on our World Polio Day main webpage, updating it weekly from September through World Polio Day.
A central piece of our World Polio Day content was a three-part video series on the “Hidden Figures” of polio eradication at the Infantile Paralysis Center at the Tuskegee Institute – the only medical facility in the United States that was staffed by black healthcare workers and treated black polio patients. Under a tight production deadline, we contracted with influencer and philanthropist, Rachel Cargle, whose mother was a polio survivor, to be the voice of the series. We also recorded U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson, who told his story as a polio survivor who was treated at the Center. We aired the videos on Rotary’s social media channels throughout October, releasing the final video featuring Judge Thompson on World Polio Day.
Working across multiple departments within Rotary, we produced over 20 graphics, 6 short-form videos, 2 animated factoids, and a series of sample social media messages for the public to use in the weeks leading up to World Polio Day. We were also able to provide all assets in 8 languages. In addition, we released a Rotary Voices podcast episode on the status of polio eradication with leaders from WHO, the CDC, and UNICEF.
We had over 4,200 Rotary clubs across 115 countries register their World Polio Day participation, which accounts for 10% of Rotary Clubs worldwide and a 5.3% increase from the previous year. Over 6,300 actions were registered by clubs – which included fundraisers, awareness campaigns, vaccination campaigns, and much more. There were 20,000+ downloads of assets from the World Polio Day Resources webpage, a 150% increase from the previous year. Across Rotary’s social media channels (organic and paid), we had over 31 million impressions, 11 million video views, and 450,000 engagements. In addition, over US$2 million was raised in donations for Rotary’s polio eradication efforts.