Foundation History, Club 'Foundation Minutes'


 Arch Klumph

Click here to download a copy of The Rotary Foundation Resource Guide (PDF).

Click here to learn more about The Rotary Foundation donor recognition levels.

Click here for brochures for The Rotary Foundation.

See information about our Charity Navigator ranking at the bottom. 


NOTE: Make sure you sign in when you click to Donate Now button, so you get Paul Harris Fellow points and credit for the donation. 


The Rotary Foundation Minute - great for Club Foundation Chairs to use each week at club meetings. 



The Rotary Foundation is governed by the Board of Trustees consisting of the Trustee Chair, 14 Trustees, and RI’s General Secretary (who is the only person serving on both the RI Board of Directors and the Rotary Foundation’s Board of Trustees). The Rotary Foundation operates separately from Rotary International.

Evolution and History of the Rotary Foundation

1917: At the 1917 convention in Atlanta, GA, outgoing RI President Arch C. Klumph proposed to set up an endowment “for the purpose of doing good in the world”. The stated mission 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”.

1918: The Rotary Club of Kansas City, MO made the first donation of $26.50 in 1918, (their remaining convention budget), 

1928: When the endowment fund had grown to $5,739, it 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.”

1929: The Foundation made its first grant of $500 to the International Society for Crippled Children. The organization, created by Rotarian Edgar F. “Daddy” Allen, later grew into the Easter Seals.

The Great Depression and World War II: Both impeded the Foundation’s growth, but the need for lasting world peace generated great postwar interest in its development. 

1947: When Rotary founder Paul Harris died, contributions began pouring in to Rotary International, and the Paul Harris Memorial Fund was created to build the Foundation.The Foundation established its first program, Fellowships for Advance Study, later known as Ambassadorial Scholarships.

1957: Paul Harris Fellow designation created to recognize gifts totaling $1,000.

1965: Three 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.

1978: Rotary introduced the Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Grants. The first 3-H Grant funded a project to immunize 6 million Philippine children against polio.

1985: The Polio Plus program was launched to eradicate polio worldwide. Also, the Benefactor designation was created to recognize $1,000 gifts from estate plans.

1986: Rotary Grants for University Teachers introduced.

1987-88: The first peace forums were held, leading to Rotary Peace Fellowships.

1999: Six Rotary Centers for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution were established (one center is a partnership between Duke University and UNC). Also, the Bequest Society was created to recognize $10,000 gifts from estate plans.

2003: Diversified Simple Grants and Individual Grants program were introduced, the latter providing continued support for Rotary Volunteers.

2013: The Future Vision Plan simplifies all programs - now District Designated Funds (DDF) and World Funds - to enable Rotarians around the world to better respond to the world’s greatest needs. There is now a greater emphasis on simplification and local decision making. The new Rotary Foundation Six Areas of Focus are:

  • Peace and conflict prevention/resolution
  • Disease prevention and treatment
  • Water and sanitation
  • Maternal and child health
  • Basic education and literacy
  • Economic and community development

In Summary

Throughout time, support of the Foundation grew tremendously. Since the Rotary Club of Kansas City, MO made the first donation of $26.50 in 1918, the Rotary Foundation has received contributions exceeding $1 billion.

To date, more than one million individuals have been recognized as Paul Harris Fellows – people who have given $1,000 or more to The Rotary Foundation or have had that amount contributed in their name.

Such strong support and governance, along with Rotarian involvement worldwide, ensures a secure future for The Rotary Foundation as it continues its vital work for international understanding and world peace.


The Rotary Foundation has received the highest ranking from Charity Navigator for the past ten years. The exceptional charities on their Top 100 list execute their missions in a fiscally responsible way while adhering to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities. The Rotary Foundation  has earned perfect scores for its Financial Health and its Accountability & Transparency. Those two scores then translate into a perfect 100 point overall score. Less than one percent of the thousands of charities rated by Charity Navigator have earned perfect scores. 

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