The Rotary Foundation

A History of The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International

Before you attend any Rotary meeting on grants or other aspects of TRF,
learn this history and share it. Those who know give more.

To a young set of parents in Afghanistan, it was a life-saving immunization for their five-month-old son. To a woman with seven children in Malaysia, it was a loan to start a sewing business that enabled her to feed her children. To North Koreans, it was an ambulance that equipped a hospital to be able to take care of them. To thousands of college students in almost every country on earth, it was the chance to study abroad, with all expenses paid, and learn their educational specialty up close and personal. Ask anyone who has been touched by The Rotary Foundation what it is and every answer will be different. Ask anyone who has been touched by The Rotary Foundation just how important it is, and every answer will be identical.

The Rotary Foundation was born as an endowment fund in 1917, the brainchild of RI President Arch C. Klumph. It was reborn 12 years later in the form we know today, The Rotary Foundation of Rotary international. However, it wouldn’t be until after the passing of Paul P. Harris in 1947 that TRF would reach the financial health and world importance that it enjoys today. Technically speaking, it is a not-for-profit corporation that supports the efforts of Rotary International to achieve world understanding and peace through international humanitarian, educational, and cultural exchange programs. It is supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world.

Its expenses are borne solely by the interest earned on its contributions over a three year period. As an endowment fund for Rotary “to do good in the world,” its initial contribution was US $26.50 in 1918. When it became The Rotary Foundation in 1928, it had a value of US $5,739.07. In the most recent year that we have complete figures, the Foundation had more than US $73 million contributed in 2000-01. But, that’s not what The Rotary Foundation is all about. Its event-filled 85 years has been a story of Rotarians learning the value of service to humanity, and the citizens of the earth benefiting from that service.The Humanitarian Programs of the foundation help fuel international Rotary projects to improve the quality of life, providing health care, clean water, food, education, and other essential needs primarily in the developing world.

A major Humanitarian Program is PolioPlus, which seeks to eradicate the polio virus worldwide by Rotary’s 100th birthday in 2005. 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. Even its former participants in the Foundation’s programs can continue their affiliation with Rotary as Foundation Alumni.

In his 1917 address, RI President Arch C. Klumph said:

“We have called the attention of the organization this year to the possibility of a future endowment fund for Rotary. Carrying on, as we are, a miscellaneous community service, it seems eminently proper that we should accept endowments for the purpose of doing good in the world, in charitable, educational or other avenues of community progress; or such funds could be well used for extension work. I know of no more commendable use for the vast millions possessed by men in this country than that certain sums might be endowed to Rotary for the purpose of establishing Rotary clubs in all nations of the world”.

From the Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Rotary Convention in Atlanta, 1917, page 19: “Arch … has always been firm in the belief that his persistence would eventually be rewarded, that it would not always be necessary for him to walk alone. Long after Arch Klumph journey is ended other men will be following the trail he has been blazing throughout the years.” Paul P. Harris, Page 237 “This Rotarian Age” 1935

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Welcome to the History of The Rotary Foundation.

Doug Rudman
History Fellows Chair
Rotary Global History (2002-2004)