Back to School Projects for Rotary Clubs


Looking for Back to School projects for rotary clubs? Here are a few of the most common 501(c)3 organizations you can work with, to help serve your community.

Author Brandon Smith is an active member of the West Chester Rotary Club of PA and the Partner Development Manager at Operation Warm. To reach him directly, email

The Backpack Program™

Rotary Area of Focus: Saving Mothers and Children

Cost: none

Despite the name, The Backpack Program™ doesn’t provide backpacks to students! Feeding America unites food banks, farmers, grocery stores and volunteers all over the country to feed the hungry. The Backpack Program™ stuffs children’s backpacks with food for them to take home.

Many students who attend Title 1 schools where get free or reduced meals through state and federal funding. However, many of these children do not get adequate meals in the evenings or on weekends since they are not at school. To combat this, the Backpack Program™ can help your service club set up a food drive or pack and provide meals to kids in need.

For example, the New Paltz Rotary Club in NY packs each bag with the following:

  • 2 breakfast items (cereal, oatmeal packets, graham crackers, granola bars)
  • 3 entrées: mac & cheese, PB & J, Spaghetti O’s, tuna, soup), etc.
  • A loaf of bread
  • Milk card for a gallon of milk (every other week)
  • Juice boxes (100% juice when possible)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Canned vegetables (once a month)
  • 2 Snacks: cookies, popcorn, pudding, etc.

Reading Programs

Rotary Area of Focus: Supporting Education

Cost: none

Your club may be one of many with plenty of willing volunteers and a tight budget. If so, the gifts of time and literacy are invaluable. By partnering with a local elementary school, offer to read a grade-appropriate book to a classroom weekly or monthly. Not only are you helping the students, but teachers often appreciate whatever help they can get from the community.

The Dictionary Project

Rotary Area of Focus: Supporting Education

Cost: as low as $1.50 per dictionary

The Dictionary Project wants to provide a brand new dictionary to every third-grade student in the United States. To do this, they provide dictionaries in boxes of 24 with free shipping. Your club only needs to fundraise to cover the cost of the coats. The books can either be given out in-person or shipped directly to the school.

School Scholarships

Rotary Area of Focus: Supporting Education

Cost: $1,000 per student (average)

If your club is strapped for time and volunteers, offering educational scholarships may be the easiest solution for you. It one of the easiest back to school projects for rotary clubs to implement. Rotary International offers guidelines and assistance on their website to help your club write out the requirements, review applications, and promote the scholarship. It’s a great way to get young leaders involved in Rotary early so that they return after graduation.

Coats for Kids

Rotary Area of Focus: Supporting Education

Cost: under $20 per child

August and September is the perfect time to provide coats for children who don’t have one and is one of the favorite back to school projects for rotary clubs. Used coat drives require a lot of work: obtain and advertise a drop-off location; sort through damaged and stained clothing to throw out; wash and dry the coats or find a local laundromat partner; find a beneficiary to receive the coats; take the coats to the beneficiary.

Instead, consider giving a child a brand new winter coat. A coat that isn’t worn out, damaged or faded offers pride in ownership and a greater sense of joy upon receiving it. Plus, it is significantly easier to buy and give away brand new winter coats than it is to host a strenuous used coast drive.

Operation Warm offers individuals, service organizations and companies alike the opportunity to give brand new coats in-person to local children in need. This easy community service program makes a lasting, tangible impact upon the children’s lives, and Operation Warm offers fundraising tools to make it easy. To learn more, visit


Read the article “Let’s Give the Poor Our Junk” to learn more about the psychology behind recycling clothes:


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