Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who come together to make positive, lasting change in communities at home and abroad.
Rotary is an international membership organization made up of people who share a passion for and commitment to enhancing communities and improving lives across the world. Rotary clubs exist in almost every country. Our members change lives locally and connect with other clubs to work on international projects that address today’s most pressing challenges. Being a member is an opportunity to take action and make a difference, and it brings personal rewards and lifelong friendships in the process.
Rotary club membership represents a cross-section of the community’s business and professional men and women. The world’s Rotary clubs meet on a regular basis and are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds.
WHAT WE VALUE
Rotary was founded on principles that remain at the heart of the organization today. These principles reflect our core values — integrity, diversity, service, leadership, and fellowship, or friendship. Our core values emerge as themes in our guiding principles.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
We’ve been making history and bringing our world closer together for over 100 years. The first Rotary club was started in Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1905 by an attorney named Paul Harris. Harris wanted to bring together a group of professionals with different backgrounds and skills as a way to exchange ideas and form meaningful acquaintances. In August 1910, the 16 Rotary clubs then in the United States formed the National Association of Rotary Clubs, now Rotary International. In 1912, Rotary expanded to a few more countries, and by July 1925, Rotary clubs existed on six continents. Today, there are more than 35,000 clubs, in almost every country in the world. For more information about Rotary’s history, go to rotary.org/history.
The first four Rotarians:
Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey, and Paul P. Harris, circa 1905-12.
Although Rotary clubs develop autonomous service programs, all Rotarians worldwide are united in a campaign for the global eradication of polio. In the 1980s, Rotarians raised US$240 million to immunize the children of the world; by 2005, Rotary’s centenary year and the target date for the certification of a polio-free world, the PolioPlus program will have contributed US$500 million to this cause. In addition, Rotary has provided an army of volunteers to promote and assist at national immunization days in polio-endemic countries around the world.
Find out more about Rotary by visiting the Rotary International web site.
HOW IS ROTARY STRUCTURED?
ROTARY CLUB MEMBERS
There are more than 1.2 million Rotary club members, or Rotarians, around the world. Your potential to do good in your community as a Rotarian is far greater than it was before you joined. You’ll have the privilege of working with other professionals and the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others by bringing together your expertise, skills, and resources.
The club is the most important component of Rotary’s organizational structure. There are over 35,000 Rotary clubs in more than 220 countries and geographical areas. Rotary clubs are autonomous, so the member experience varies from club to club. However, they all operate somewhat similarly. For example, all clubs have presidents, secretaries, and treasurers and committees that help them run smoothly. Each Rotary club is considered a member of Rotary International. Strong, well-run clubs enhance our members’ experiences and deliver valuable service to our communities.
Rotary clubs hold regular meetings where their members gather to socialize and to discuss their current projects, other Rotary matters, and professional topics. While most clubs meet in person, some clubs meet primarily online or have a combination of in-person and online meetings. Rotary is both apolitical and nonreligious, and Rotary clubs are encouraged to create an inclusive environment for all club members at their meetings. Meetings can be formal or informal and can include food and drinks, speakers, an open forum for discussion, or group activities. The more you participate in your club’s meetings and activities, the better overall experience you will have as a member.
DISTRICTS AND ZONES
Rotary clubs are grouped into districts. District governors serve an important role in Rotary. They’re nominated by clubs in their districts for their leadership skills, Rotary experience, and dedication to service. They are trained extensively both in their regions and all together at the International Assembly. District governors serve a one-year term, leading a team of assistant governors and district committees to support and strengthen clubs and motivate them to carry out service projects. Governors visit each club in the district during the year, oversee the development of new clubs, and plan the district conference and other special events. Districts are organized into regional zones, each led by a team of regional leaders. Finally, your Rotary club belongs to the global association, Rotary International (RI), led by the RI president and the RI Board of Directors.
Object of Rotary
The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:
- FIRST: The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
- SECOND: High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
- THIRD: The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
- FOURTH: The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.
The Four-Way Test
The Four-Way Test is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages, and Rotarians recite it at club meetings:
Of the things we think, say or do
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
What We Do
Rotary members believe that we have a shared responsibility to take action on our world’s most persistent issues. Our 35,000+ clubs work together to:
- Promote peace
- Fight disease
- Provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene
- Save mothers and children
- Support education
- Grow local economies
Declaration of Rotarians in Business and Professions
The Declaration of Rotarians in Businesses and Professions was adopted by the Rotary International Council on Legislation in 1989 to provide more specific guidelines for the high ethical standards called for in the Object of Rotary:
As a Rotarian engaged in a business or profession, I am expected to:
- Consider my vocation to be another opportunity to serve;
- Be faithful to the letter and to the spirit of the ethical codes of my vocation, to the laws of my country, and to the moral standards of my community;
- Do all in my power to dignify my vocation and to promote the highest ethical standards in my chosen vocation;
- Be fair to my employer, employees, associates, competitors, customers, the public, and all those with whom I have a business or professional relationship;
- Recognize the honor and respect due to all occupations which are useful to society;
- Offer my vocational talents: to provide opportunities for young people, to work for the relief of the special needs of others, and to improve the quality of life in my community;
- Adhere to honesty in my advertising and in all representations to the public concerning my business or profession;
- Neither seek from nor grant to a fellow Rotarian a privilege or advantage not normally accorded others in a business or professional relationship.