What is Rotary?

For over 100 years, Rotary has been an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world. In more than 166 countries worldwide, approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 33,000 Rotary clubs.

How Did Rotary Get Started?

The world’s first service club, Rotary began with the formation of the Rotary Club of Chicago, Illinois, on February 23, 1905. The club was started by a young lawyer, Paul P. Harris, and three of his friends. He wished to recapture the friendly spirit he had felt among business people in the small town where he had grown up. Their weekly meetings “rotated” among their offices, thereby providing the new service club with its name.

What is the Main Objective of Rotary?

The main objective of Rotary is service—in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world. Rotarians develop community service projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as children at risk, poverty and hunger, the environment, illiteracy, and violence. They also support programs for youth, educational opportunities and international exchanges for students, teachers, and other professionals, and vocational and career development. The Rotary motto is Service Above Self. The four Avenues of Service are Club Service, Community Service, Vocational Service, and International Service.

Who are Members, and How Often Do They Meet?

Rotary club membership represents a cross-section of the community’s business and professional men and women. The world’s Rotary clubs meet weekly, and, although Rotary is nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds, each club develops distinctions that reflect its local community. Attendance is mandatory and missed meetings must be “made-up” to maintain membership.

What is Rotary’s Classification System?

Rotary uses a classification system to establish and maintain a vibrant cross-section or representation of the community’s business, vocational, and professional interests among members and to develop a pool of resources and expertise to successfully implement service projects. This system is based on the founders’ paradigm of choosing cross-representation of each business, profession, and institution within a community.

A classification describes either the principal business or the professional service of the organization that the Rotarian works for or the Rotarian’s own activity within the organization. Some examples of classifications include: health care management, banking, pharmaceutical-retailing, petroleum distribution, and insurance agency.

What is the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International?

The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International is a not-for-profit corporation that promotes world under­standing through international humanitarian service programs and educational and cultural exchanges. It is supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and others who share its vision of a better world. Since 1947, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian and educational grants, which are initiated and administered by local Rotary clubs and districts.

What is Rotary International’s Premier Service Program?

Although Rotary clubs as well as districts develop autonomous service programs, all Rotarians worldwide are united in a campaign for the global eradication of polio, PolioPlus. Since its inception in 1985, Rotarians have raised nearly $800 million to immunize the children of the world, and more than two billion children have received the oral polio vaccine. In addition, Rotary has provided an army of volunteers to promote and assist at national immunization days in polio-endemic countries around the world.

Although the original goal was to have the world polio-free by 2005, it has not been possible to meet this goal. However, Rotary was so respected in their efforts that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a matching grant totaling $335 million to help reach the goal of a polio-free world in our lifetime. Rotary’s current PolioPlus Challenge is to raise $200 million to meet the Gates Foundation match.

How is Rotary Organized?

Rotary is organized at club, district, and international levels to carry out its program of service. Rotarians are members of their clubs, and the clubs are members of the global association known as Rotary International. Each club elects its own officers and enjoys considerable autonomy within the framework of the standard constitution and the constitution and bylaws of Rotary International. Once accepted, you are therefore a member of your local Rotary club, not of Rotary International.

How are Clubs Grouped?

Clubs are grouped into 531 Rotary districts, each led by a district governor who is an officer of Rotary International and represents the RI Board of Directors in the field. Though selected by the clubs of the district, a governor is elected by all of the clubs worldwide meeting in the RI Convention. The 50 clubs in south Alabama are part of District 6880.

Does Rotary Work With Other Organizations?

Throughout its history, Rotary International has collaborated with many civic and humanitarian organizations as well as government agencies in its efforts to improve the human condition. Just one excellent example of what these partnerships can accomplish can be found in Rotary’s ambitious PolioPlus program, launched in 1985 in concert with the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and UNICEF, whose goal is to immunize every child in the world against polio. Rotary brought to the effort millions of volunteers to assist in vaccine delivery, social mobilization, and logistical help at the local, national, regional, and international levels.