“Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.”
—Paul P. Harris
Our 1.2 million-member organization started with the vision of one man—Paul P. Harris. The Chicago attorney formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on 23 February 1905 as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.
Our ongoing commitment
Rotarians have not only been present for major events in history—we’ve been a part of them. From the beginning, three key traits have remained strong throughout Rotary:
We’re truly international. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Today we’re working together from around the globe both digitally and in-person to solve some of our world’s most challenging problems.
We persevere in tough times. During WWII, Rotary clubs in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Japan were forced to disband. Despite the risks, many continued to meet informally and following the war’s end, Rotary members joined together to rebuild their clubs and their countries.
Our commitment to service is ongoing. We began our fight against polio in 1979 with a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. By 2012, only three countries remain polio-endemic—down from 125 in 1988.
Rotary International is an international service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, 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, religion, gender, or political preference. There are 34,282 clubs and over 1.2 million members worldwide.1] The members of Rotary Clubs are known as Rotarians. Members 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.
Rotary’s primary motto is “Service Above Self”; an earlier motto, “One profits most who serves best”
We are 1.2 million neighbors, friends, and community leaders who come together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world.
Our differing occupations, cultures, and countries give us a unique perspective. Our shared passion for service helps us accomplish the remarkable.
What makes us different?
Our distinct point of view and approach gives us unique advantages:
- We see differently: Our multidisciplinary perspective helps us see challenges in unique ways.
- We think differently: We apply leadership and expertise to social issues—and find unique solutions.
- We act responsibly: Our passion and perseverance create lasting change.
- We make a difference at home and around the world: Our members can be found in your community and across the globe.
How do we work?
Our impact starts with our members—people who work tirelessly with their clubs to solve some of our communities’ toughest challenges. Their efforts are supported by Rotary International, our member association, and The Rotary Foundation, which turns generous donations into grants that fund the work of our members and partners around the world. Rotary is led by our members—responsible leaders who help to carry forward our organization’s mission and values in their elected roles.
How did we get here?
We’ve been making history and bringing our world closer together for over 100 years. Since forming in 1905, we’ve taken on some of the world’s toughest challenges and helped a wide range of international and service organizations—from the UN to Easter Seals—get started.
How do we use our funds?
Responsible leadership means more than just doing good work—it means making the most out of every donation we receive.
See how we maximize our impact