About Rotary

Rotary International is an organization of service clubs (known as Rotary Clubs) located all over the world. The first Rotary Club was founded in Chicago on February 23, 1905, by Paul P. Harris, and today Rotary International is recognized as the world's first volunteer service organization.  (See Paul P. Harris and Rotary History.)  

The stated purpose of the organization is to bring together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.  It is a secular organization open to all persons regardless of race, color, creed, gender, or political preference.  There are more than 34,000 Rotary Clubs and over 1.2 million members in over 160 countries worldwide. The members of Rotary Clubs are known as Rotarians, who usually meet weekly for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, which is a social event as well as an opportunity to organize work on their service goals.  (See Rotary's guide for new members entitled Rotary Basics under "Documents to Download" on the left side of this page.)

Rotary's main objective is Service - in the community, in the workplace, and around the globe. Its primary motto is "Service Above Self", and its secondary motto is "One profits most who serves best".  

Object of Rotary

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  • FIRST: The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
  • SECOND: High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  • THIRD: The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  • FOURTH: The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

The Four-Way Test

The Four-Way Test is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages, and Rotarians recite it at club meetings:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Avenues of Service

Rotarians channel their commitment to service at home and abroad through five "Avenues of Service", which serve as the foundation of club activity, including:

  • Club Service focuses on making clubs strong. A thriving club is anchored by strong relationships and an active membership development plan.
  • Vocational Service calls on every Rotarian to work with integrity and contribute their expertise to the problems and needs of society. Learn more in Rotary's Code of Conduct and in its Vocational Service in Action publication.
  • Community Service encourages every Rotarian to find ways to improve the quality of life for people in their communities and to serve the public interest. Learn more in Communities in Action: A Guide to Effective Projects.
  • International Service exemplifies our global reach in promoting peace and understanding. We support this service avenue by sponsoring or volunteering on international projects, seeking partners abroad, and more.
  • Youth Service recognizes the importance of empowering youth and young professionals through leadership development programs such as RotaractInteractRotary Youth Leadership Awards, and Rotary Youth Exchange.

Mission

The mission of Rotary International is to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.

Areas of Focus

The work of Rotary begins in the community, and every community has its own unique needs and concerns. While we serve in countless ways, we’ve focused our efforts in seven key areas to maximize our impact. These areas encompass some of the world’s most critical and widespread humanitarian needs, and we have a proven record of success in addressing them:

• Peace and conflict prevention/resolution

• Disease prevention and treatment

• Water and sanitation

• Maternal and child health

• Basic education and literacy

• Economic and community development

• Protecting the environment


The Rotary Foundation

The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International (initially proposed by Rotarian Arch C. Klumph in 1917 as an endowment "for doing good in the world") is a not-for-profit corporation that promotes world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty. It is supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and others who share its vision of a better world, and their contributions support the following programs:


Ending Polio

Since 1985, when Rotary began its effort to eradicate polio, Rotarians worldwide have contributed more than $1 billion toward eradication of the disease. In 1988, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention joined Rotary as spearheading partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has been known as Polio Plus, but is now referred to as Ending Polio. More recently, the Gates Foundation has become a major supporter. In 2007, the Gates Foundation gave Rotary a $100 million challenge grant for polio eradication, increasing it to $355 million in 2009. Rotary agreed to raise $200 million in matching funds by 30 June 2012, and when it succeeded in doing so, the Gates Foundation contributed another $50 million to the effort.  

Since 1988, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent, from about 350,000 cases annually to around 650 cases reported in 2011. The wild poliovirus is now endemic in only four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. However, on 13 January 2012 India marked a full calendar year without a case, paving the way for its removal from the endemic list. 

Global Grants

Global grants fund large-scale international activities with sustainable, measurable results that support Rotary’s areas of focus, including:

  • Humanitarian projects
  • Scholarships for graduate-level academic studies
  • Vocational training teams, which are groups of professionals who travel abroad either to teach local professionals about their field or to learn more about it themselves

In 2019-20, the Foundation approved 1,359 global grants, and program awards totaled $95.6 million.

District Grants

District grants support a variety of small-scale, short-term district and club projects and activities related to the Foundation’s mission, including:

  • Humanitarian projects, including service travel and disaster recovery efforts
  • Scholarships for any level, length of time, location, or area of study
  • Youth programs, including Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), Rotaract, and Interact
  • Vocational training teams, which are groups of professionals who travel abroad either to teach local professionals about their field or to learn more about it themselves

In 2019-20, the Foundation approved 490 district grants, and program awards totaled $33.6 million.

Disaster Response Grants

Rotary’s disaster response grants support relief and recovery efforts in areas that have been affected by natural disasters within the past six months.  In 2019-20, the Foundation approved 339 disaster response grants, and program awards totaled $8.4 million.

Rotary Peace Centers

Each year, the Foundation supports the training of peace fellows at six Rotary Peace Centers, where they earn master’s degrees or professional development certificates. Since 2002-03, 1,370 fellows from more than 110 countries have participated.  In 2019-20, 69 fellows from 35 countries began their studies at the Rotary Peace Centers, and program awards for the fellows and centers totaled $4.5 million.

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