What is Rotary?

Rotary International is the world's oldest service organisation and one of the best known. Its motto is 'Service Above Self'.  Amongst Rotary's achievements is the important role it played in the formation of UNESCO and some 50 Rotarians served as delegates and consultants at the creation of the United Nations.


Rotary was founded by Paul Harris, a Chicago lawyer, on 23 February 1905. He formed the first club - the Rotary Club of Chicago - with five other friends. They decided to hold meetings in each other’s homes on a rota system - hence the name 'Rotary'.  The first ever public service carried out by a Rotary Club was in Chicago where the newly formed club financed a public convenience in the city centre.


Rotary’s members are made up of men and women in all walks of life - neighbours, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves,  Today there are some 35,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas, with a global network of 1.2 million members. In Great Britain and Ireland there are 47,000 members in over 1,700 clubs.



Rotary is made up of three parts: our clubs, Rotary International, and The Rotary Foundation. Together, we work to make lasting change in our communities and around the world.

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Rotary Clubs

The heart of Rotary is our members, dedicated people who share a passion for community service and friendship.

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Rotary International

Rotary International supports Rotary clubs worldwide by coordinating global programmes and initiatives. There are seven areas of focus.

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Rotary Foundation

The Rotary Foundation is Rotary’s own and only charity and helps fund our humanitarian activities, from local service projects to global initiatives.


While Rotarians can serve in countless ways, Rotary has focused its efforts on seven areas, which reflect some of the most critical and widespread humanitarian needs.  The most recent addition enables Rotarians to strive to make our world a healthy place for all life to live.






























At the Rotary Convention in Alabama in 1917, Georgia Rotary’s sixth President Arch Klumph’s idea for an endowment fund dedicated to “doing good in the world” planted the seed of The Rotary Foundation.  Thanks to his vision and staunch advocacy, and the extraordinary generosity of Rotary members worldwide, that fund has become one of the world’s leading humanitarian foundations.

The Rotary Foundation, based at the Rotary Headquarters in Illinois, USA, is globally recognised for its financial efficiency, accountability and transparency.

Since it was founded more than 100 years ago

More than $4 billion has been spent on life-changing, sustainable projects.

91% of funds has been spent on the programmes and projects it delivers.

Each year it gives

$70 million worth of grants to Rotary clubs throughout the world for humanitarian projects, vocational training and scholarships.

In the UK

Since 2001 over £1 million in Gift Aid has been recovered, allowing even more communities to benefit from The Rotary Foundation.