A Brief History of the RCM Community Trust

As we close out a year of reminiscing about first 100 years of the history of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, we need to recognize the 45th anniversary of the RCM Community Trust—founded in October, 1968.  Today, the RCM Community Trust is valued at over $3,000,000.  But how did it start?


After the death of past Rotary International President Cliff Randall in 1984, the RCM Board changed the name of the fund to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee Clifford Randall Memorial Trust - but changed it back several years later as it was felt that it caused some confusion for Rotarians who lacked familiarity with Cliff Randall. 

RCM authorized the creation of the fund to promote the “intellectual, physical, educational and social well-being of people of Wisconsin.” The trust was designed with the idea of completely separating the investing and operating functions from the “application of funds.”   So while the RCM Board of Directors decides how to direct charitable gifts from the Trust; a corporate Trustee (now US Bank) and an individual Trustee (now Adam Wiensch of Foley &Lardner) invest and provide administrative oversight.


This was done to “give a feeling of confidence to a donor as to the proper investment procedures that will be followed and substantial flexibility to the Rotary Board in determining the application of the income.”


Charlie James, still an active member of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, was the club’s treasurer at the time, suggested that the “initial funding be accomplished by the transfer of $5,000 from the club’s surplus, which is presently around $35,000. There is really no good reason, in my opinion, for the club to maintain a surplus of more than $25,000.” The club subsequently increased the transfer to $12,248—the surplus of RCM’s cash balance as of June, 30, 1968 in excess of $25,000.


Investment income in the first year totaled $273.33. This amount was granted to Goodwill to provide for additional deposit boxes.  The following year, the board authorized a $286.50 contribution to the “Wisconsin Historical Society for the replacement of the Historymobile trailer.” Other early gifts included:

  • Junior Achievement – $400 for two scholarships in Rotary’s name
  • The Boy Scouts – $115 for leader training
  • Curative Workshop – $1,675 for a laser beam enlarger for the Low Vision Clinic
  • Children’s Outing Association – $5,000 for the Northwoods Camp Project
  • Peru earthquake relief – $444.27


In 1978, the Board increased dues and directed that $12.50 of each semi-annual payment go to the Trust. The corpus grew slowly and by 1984 still remained under $100,000. After the death of past Rotary International President Cliff Randall, the RCM Board changed the name of the fund to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee Clifford Randall Memorial Trust.  Tony Petullo led a fund raising effort in honor of Cliff. The Past Presidents pledged a $10,000 contribution if club members would contribute $40,000—a challenge that was met in three short weeks.


Wisconsin Governor Tony Earl donates the millionth pound of food to the food bank’s General Manager, Gwen McLean in 1983. 

Second Harvesters (now Feeding America) is an excellent example of a community resource developed with early support from the Trust.


By 1987 the Trust had grown to just over $314,000. An analysis showed that much of the donations from members were coming from past presidents.  The Board then adopted a goal of increasing the assets of the Trust to $1 million by 1995 and established a “Fair Share” policy asking each member to contribute $100 annually.  Also, the initiation fee was increased from $300 to $500 with the difference going the Trust.


As the Club worked to grow the Trust, the Club also committed to raising $500,000 from the members of Rotary in support of the Health Education Center, a partnership with the Junior League of Milwaukee.  Rotarians played a leading role in the planning and development of this $4 million project. As the Board considered ways to grow the assets, there was a concern that many of the newer members did not know much about Cliff Randall and that having his name on the Trust caused some confusion. After much deliberation, the Board changed the name back to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee Community Foundation to enhance  a sense of pride and ownership of the fund.

Camp Enterprise

Throughout the 1990s the RCM Community Foundation provided consistent support to Camp Enterprise, Reading is Fundamental, One-on-One mentoring, the River Revitalization Foundation, the Milwaukee Youth Survey and a myriad of other recipients including the UWM’s Peace Studies Program, and the Riverside Nature Center (now the Urban Ecology Center).


By the early 2000s the Trust was able to provide on-going support for these community efforts and supplement the donations of members to buy the naming rights to the Milwaukee Rotary Amphitheater at Discovery World. Then in 2005, the family of past president Robbie Robertson created the A.D. Robertson Fund for the United Nations, a fund dedicated to supporting education around the work of the United Nations. This was the beginning of the creation of multiple special purpose funds within the Trust. Today, the endowed funds include:

  • The Philip W. Orth Family Fund, created with a generous gift from the estate of Phil and Mariette Orth.  Phil was RCM President in 1954-55 and District Governor in 1961-62.
  • The Gordon and Elizabeth Smith Scholarship Fund, created with a donation by their son and daughter-in-law. Gordy was RCM President in 1976-77.


We have also opened an International Project Fund as a way for Rotarians to make personal contributions for the club’s international projects, a Scholarship Fund supported by the RCM Scholarship Golf Classic, and the Harry Franke Fund created with memorial gifts in honor of Harry.

Finally, each June since 2006, the Trust has been the recipient of an annual gift from the estate of Rotarian Andrew Bell. We receive 1% of the value of Andrew Bell Charitable Trust annually. To date, the gifts have ranged from a low of $11,000 to a high of $19,500. In 2008 the Trust pledged $100,000 for restoration of the Brown Street Academy Schoolyard. This was the first Andrew Bell award as the pledge was fulfilled with distributions from the Andrew Bell Trust.


Funded exclusively by RCM and its members, the RCM Community Trust is a source of pride.  Throughout the coming year, we will tell some of the stories of the programs and organizations it supports. Look for these stories!