Mission and History of the Rotary Foundation
The mission of The Rotary Foundation is to enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education and the alleviation of poverty. The Rotary Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation that is supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world.
The Foundation was created in 1917 by Rotary International’s sixth president, Arch C. Klumph, as an endowment fund for Rotary “to do good in the world.” It has grown from an initial contribution of US$26.50 to more than US$117.9 million contributed in 2004-05. Its event-filled history is a story of Rotarians learning the value of service to humanity.
The Foundation’s Humanitarian Programs fund international Rotary club and district projects to improve the quality of life, providing health care, clean water, food, education, and other essential needs primarily in the developing world. One of the major Humanitarian Programs is PolioPlus, which seeks to eradicate the poliovirus worldwide. Through its Educational Programs, the Foundation provides funding for some 1,200 students to study abroad each year. Grants are also awarded to university teachers to teach in developing countries and for exchanges of business and professional people. Former participants in the Foundation’s programs have the opportunity to continue their affiliation with Rotary as Foundation Alumni.
In 1917, Arch C. Klumph, Rotary’s sixth president, proposed to the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the creation of an “endowment fund for Rotary . . . for the purpose of doing good in the world in charitable, educational, and other avenues of community service.” A few months later, the endowment received its first contribution of $26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
In 1928, when the endowment fund had grown to more than US$5,000, the fund was renamed The Rotary Foundation, and it became a distinct entity within Rotary International. Five Trustees, including Klumph, were appointed to “hold, invest, manage, and administer all of its property. . . as a single trust, for the furtherance of the purposes of RI.”
Two years later, the Foundation made its first grant of US $500 to the International Society for Crippled Children. The ISCC — created by Rotarian Edgar F. “Daddy” Allen — later grew into the Easter Seals organization.
The Great Depression and World War II both impeded significant growth for the Foundation, but the need for promoting a lasting world peace generated great post-war interest in developing the Foundation. After Rotary founder Paul P. Harris died in 1947, contributions began pouring into Rotary International, and the Paul Harris Memorial Fund was created for the purpose of building the Foundation.
That same year, the first Foundation program — the forerunner of the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships program — was established. Then in 1965-66, three new programs were launched — Group Study Exchange, Awards for Technical Training, and Grants for Activities in Keeping with the Objective of The Rotary Foundation, which was later called Matching Grants.
The Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) program was launched in 1978, with the Rotary Volunteers program being created as a part of 3-H in 1980. The PolioPlus program was announced in 1984-85, and the following year saw the introduction of Rotary Grants for University Teachers. The first Peace Forums were held in 1987-88, leading to the establishment of Rotary Peace Programs. Then in 1989, 1963-64 RI President Carl P. Miller and his wife, Ruth, donated US$1 million to establish the Discovery Grants program.
Throughout this time, support of the Foundation grew tremendously. Since that first $26.50 donation in 1917, the Foundation has received contributions totaling more than US$1 billion. More than US$70 million was contributed in 2003-04 alone. To date, some 914,792 individuals have been recognized as Paul Harris Fellows — that is, someone who has contributed US$1000 or has had that amount contributed in his or her name.
Such strong support and involvement of Rotarians worldwide ensures a secure future for The Rotary Foundation as it continues its vital work for international understanding and world peace.