Rotary International is a global service organization whose purpose is to bring together men and women from all backgrounds and lifestyles who share a passion for and commitment to enhancing communities and improving lives across the world through humanitarian service and the advancement of goodwill and peace.
Rotary is a non-political and non-religious organization open to all people regardless of race, colour, religion, gender, or political preference. There are over 35,000 member clubs worldwide, and more than 1.2 million men and women as members of those clubs, known as Rotarians.
Rotarians believe that we have a shared responsibility to take action on our world’s most persistent issues through local and international projects. Solving real problems takes real commitment and vision. Since 1905, Rotary's people of action have used their passion, energy, and intelligence to take action on sustainable projects that make a real difference in the communities that need these.
Being a member provides the opportunity to take action and make a difference to those needing a hand up, but the flexibility of Rotary membership to fit in with individual lifestyles and busy lives also brings personal rewards, and lifelong friendships in the process.
As the world’s first service club, Rotary was founded on 23 February 1905 when lawyer Paul Harris (then aged 37) and three friends met in a small office in downtown Chicago. These men wanted to rekindle in the turn-of-the-century city the spirit of friendliness they had known in their hometowns.
Word of the club soon spread, and others were invited to join. They named their new club “Rotary” to describe the practice of meeting in rotation at the members’ various places of business.
Originally formed for fellowship, the first Rotary club quickly evolved to use the talents and resources of its members to serve the community. By the end of 1905, the Rotary Club of Chicago had 30 members. Three years later a second club was established in San Francisco, California, USA.
The next year three more clubs were established on the west coast of the United States and a fourth in New York City. Within a few years other groups formed service clubs based on the Rotary model. The first clubs in New Zealand were in Wellington closely followed by Auckland in 1921 and the first in the Pacific was in Suva in 1936.
Rotary is a GRASSROOTS organization with our most meaningful service work through our Rotary clubs. It is the Rotary clubs themselves that belong to the global association Rotary International and while autonomous they are bound by the Policies and Procedures of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.
Rotary clubs are grouped into districts led by District Governors who are nominated by clubs in their districts for their leadership skills, Rotary experience, and dedication to service. They are trained extensively and serve a one-year term, leading a team of assistant governors and district committees to support and strengthen clubs and motivate them to carry out service projects.
Districts are organized into regional zones, each led by a team of regional leaders. New Zealand, the Pacific and Australia are one zone (Zone 8).
Rotary International is administered by the Secretariat, which comprises the general secretary and nearly 800 employees who work to support clubs and districts around the world with its headquarters in Evanston supported by seven regional offices. Rotary staff support Rotary members and work to make Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation run smoothly and effectively.
The Rotary International president is elected to a one-year term, during which she or he presides over the Board of Directors. The RI Board of Directors and The Rotary Foundation Trustees govern our organization and its Foundation. The Board sets policies that aim to help clubs thrive. Clubs elect members of the Board, or directors, every year at the Rotary International Convention. Each director serves for two years and represents one of the Rotary zones. The Board of Trustees manages the business of The Rotary Foundation. The Rotary International president-elect appoints Trustees to four-year terms.
Each club elects its own officers and enjoys considerable autonomy within the framework of Rotary’s constitution and bylaws.
The club is the most important component of Rotary’s organizational structure. There are over 35,000 Rotary clubs in more than 220 countries and geographical areas. Rotary clubs are autonomous, so the member experience varies from club to club.
However, they all operate somewhat similarly. For example, all clubs have presidents, secretaries, and treasurers and committees that help them run smoothly. Each Rotary club is considered a member of Rotary International. Strong, well-run clubs enhance our members’ experiences and deliver valuable service to our communities.
There are more than 1.2 million Rotary club members (men and women), or Rotarians, around the world. The potential to do good in their community as a Rotarian is far greater than it was as an individual before they joined.
Rotarians have the privilege of working with other like-minded people and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others by bringing together their expertise, skills, and resources.
As People of Action, Rotarians share a strong sense of purpose. Rotary’s connections are a network that spans the globe; bridging cultural, linguistic, generational, and geographic barriers and shares the vision of a better world.
Rotarians understand that fulfilling that vision requires a plan, and Rotary’s plan for the next five years (Ex 2019) to; 1) increase our impact, 2) expand our reach, 3) enhance participant engagement, and 4) increase our ability to adapt.
This plan is rooted in our tried-and-true values and builds on the remarkable capabilities and spirit of Rotarians.
It is clear-eyed about the challenges that Rotary and the world face and it protects the value of human connection in an age of technology.
It lays out a path for bringing great ideas to the forefront of the global imagination of what’s possible, providing a continuity of vision from year to year.
Rotary’s motto, SERVICE ABOVE SELF, is as valid for today as it was in 1911 when it was adopted. This Motto embodies the humanitarian spirit of the organisation and its members and supporters.
Rotary’s Avenues of Service guides its activities:
• Through Club Service, Rotarians have fun, build lasting friendships, and make sure that their club runs well.
• Through Vocational Service, Rotarians volunteer their vocational skills to serve others and promote integrity in everything they do.
• Through Community Service, Rotarians address local needs and work with their community to bring lasting improvements.
• Through International Service, Rotarians meet humanitarian needs around the globe and promote world understanding and peace.
• Through New Generations Service, Rotarians work with young people to help them become the next generation of leaders, visionaries, and peacemakers
These principles have been developed over the years to provide Rotarians with a strong, common purpose and direction. They serve as a foundation for relationships with each other and the action they take in the world.
The OBJECT OF ROTARY is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and 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 is a non partisan and non-sectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional and vocational 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?
The five AVENUES OF SERVICE are where we channel our commitment to service at home and abroad through, which are the foundation of club activity:
• 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 An Introduction to Vocational Service and the Code of Conduct.
• 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.
• 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 adults through leadership development programs such as Rotaract, Interact, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, and Rotary Youth Exchange.
Rotary’s core values represent the guiding principles of the organization’s culture, including what guides members’ priorities and actions within the organization.
SERVICE - service activities and programs bring about greater world understanding and peace. Through the plans and actions of individual clubs, Rotary has a culture of service that provides unparalleled satisfaction for those who serve.
FELLOWSHIP - individual efforts focus on individual needs, but combined efforts serve humanity. The power of combined efforts knows no limitation, multiplies resources, and broadens our lives and perspectives. Fellowship leads to tolerance and transcends racial, national, and other boundaries.
DIVERSITY - Rotary unifies all people internationally behind the ideal of service, encouraging the diversity of vocations within the membership and in all activities and service work. A club that reflects the vocations within its community is a club with a key to its future.
INTEGRITY – Rotarians are committed to and expect accountability from their leaders and fellow members, both in the results of all activities and in the processes used to accomplish goals. All adhere to high ethical and professional standards in their work and personal relationships and are fair and respectful in all interactions, and are conscientiously steward the resources entrusted to Rotary.
LEADERSHIP – Rotary is a global fellowship of individuals who are leaders in their fields of endeavour. There is a strong belief in the importance of leadership development and in leadership as a quality of members.
All of these core values are reflected in the Object of Rotary and The Four-Way Test, which Rotarians use in their daily lives, inspiring them to foster and support the ideal of service for developing and maintaining integrity in human relations.
The work of Rotary begins in the community, and every community has its own unique needs and concerns. While Rotary serves in countless ways, efforts are focused in seven key areas listed here to maximize impact to build international relationships, improve lives, and create a better world to support our peace efforts and end polio forever.
These areas encompass some of the world’s most critical and widespread humanitarian needs, and Rotary has a proven record of success in addressing them. Rotary members planning new service projects are encouraged to consider these areas and the many opportunities for innovative projects within them.
The extensive funding provided by The Rotary Foundation through its grant processes are aligned with these seven key areas.
Most service projects are initiated by individual Rotarians within their clubs and take many forms Ranging from a project of a club in their local community to a projects that involve other clubs, organisations and individuals in working in partnership anywhere in the world to achieve outcomes of a scale beyond that an individual or individual club could ever hope to achieve. This demonstrates the internationality of Rotary at work … its global reach.
The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International – Doing good in the world
The Rotary Foundation is Rotary’s charity. The Rotary Foundation is organized as a public charity operated exclusively for charitable purposes and governed by a Board of Trustees.
It takes the donations it receives from Rotarians and the public in general and transforms these into service projects that change lives both close to home and around the world. Since it was founded in 1917, the Foundation has spent more than $4 billion on life-changing, sustainable projects.
Donations to The Rotary Foundation, fuel service projects— projects that eradicate polio, promote peace, and improve developing communities. As the charitable arm of Rotary, The Rotary Foundation taps into a global network of Rotarians who invest their time, money, and expertise into the six areas of service priorities, such as eradicating polio and promoting peace. Foundation grants empower Rotarians to approach challenges such as poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition with sustainable solutions that leave a lasting impact. Strong financial oversight, a stellar charity rating, and a unique funding model means that the very most is made of every contribution with 92% of funds spent programme awards and operations.
The Rotary Foundation partners with other organizations to increase its impact and make all donations work even harder. When a donation is made to PolioPlus, for example, every $1 Rotary commits to polio eradication is matched by $2 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Thanks to this partnership, all donations to end polio (up to $50 million per year) are tripled, providing critical funding toward creating a polio-free world.
Some quick facts to indicate scale per 2020 (US$ used):
- Since 1988, Rotary and its partners have immunized more than 2.5 billion children against polio. As of June 2019, Rotary had committed $2 billion to global polio eradication.
- In 2018-19, 94 fellows from 43 countries began their studies at the Rotary Peace Centers, and program awards for the fellows and centers totalled $5.0 million.
- District grants support small-scale, short-term projects related to the Foundation’s mission. In 2018-19, the Foundation approved 494 district grants, and program awards totalled $26.3 million.
- Global grants fund large-scale international activities with sustainable, measurable results that support Rotary’s six areas of focus. Activities include humanitarian projects, scholarships, and vocational training teams. In 2018-19, the Foundation approved 1,403 global grants, and program awards totalled $86.6 million.
Rotarians intuitively know that the contribution and impact of the work by each of them is immense, but what they generally see is only what they and their fellow club members do, one hour at a time.
However, to see how the time contribution of each Rotarian adds to a world-wide total is utterly impressive.
None of the major service organizations has been able to gain a meaningful handle on the actual scale or economic value of the volunteer effort they mobilize until Rotary commissioned research by Johns Hopkins University into Rotary’s volunteer impact.
Here are some points:
• Globally, Rotarians contribute 47 million volunteer hours per year. Even more impressive is that each of these hours represents a real benefit to communities locally and internationally.
• Rotary International is mobilizing a workforce for social progress each year that is equivalent to nearly 27,000 full-time equivalent workers—nearly 50 times larger than its own 563 paid staff. Remarkable!
• Conservatively this represents US$850 million a year. Rotary thus saves communities nearly US$850 million in service costs.
• 73.4% of Rotarians rate emphasis on service as one of the organization’s major attractions to its members. [Therefore, service opportunities are how Rotary attracts members and retains them! Rotary does well on this regard]
• Women Rotarians contribute a slightly higher number of volunteer hours than men
• In New Zealand and Australia Rotarians contribute an average of 6 volunteer hours per month … much higher than some! (Asia 4.3, Europe 4.7, North America 3.7, but Latin America 6.4)
• Half of all Rotary organized volunteer time is devoted to health, education, and social assistance (e.g., child, elder, or disability care, soup kitchens, refugee support services), with culture and arts a close fourth.
• The largest proportion of hours (49%) was devoted to manager, organizer, or coordinator functions. [Indicates we use Rotarians use their organisational skills] However, 33.3% of hours is in manual service [ eg. building gardens for schools, or installing sanitation to Pacific villages, and huge variety of other projects].
For an introduction and where to download the full report go to https://www.rotary.org/en/value-rotary-volunteering.You will be impressed! This is the global organisation you could be a meaningful part of.