Rotary is made up of three parts: at the heart of Rotary are our clubs, that are supported by Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation.
Rotary clubs bring together dedicated individuals to exchange ideas, build relationships, and take action.
Rotary International supports Rotary clubs worldwide by coordinating global programs, campaigns, and initiatives.
The Rotary Foundation uses generous donations to fund projects by Rotarians and our partners in communities around the world. As a nonprofit, all of the Foundation's funding comes from voluntary contributions made by Rotarians and friends who share our vision of a better world.
Together, Rotary clubs, Rotary International, and The Rotary Foundation work to make lasting improvements in our communities and around the world.
Paul P. Harris, an attorney, wanted to create a professional group with the same friendly spirit he felt in the small towns of his youth. On 23 February 1905, Harris, Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, and Hiram Shorey gathered at Loehr’s office in Room 711 of the Unity Building in downtown Chicago. This was the first Rotary club meeting. They decided to call the new club “Rotary” after the practice of rotating meeting locations. Within five years clubs had formed across the country, from San Francisco to New York. In August 1910, Rotarians held their first convention in Chicago. The 16 clubs that existed at that time united to form the National Association of Rotary Clubs. In 1912, the name changed to International Association of Rotary Clubs to reflect the addition of clubs in other countries. The name Rotary International was adopted in 1922.
What does it take to be a leader with Rotary? Integrity, expertise, and a commitment to service—all the qualities that make Rotary members extraordinary. We look for these qualities in all our leadership positions, including our elected President and Board of Directors, who lead Rotary, our appointed Trustee Chair and Board of Trustees, who run The Rotary Foundation, and our General Secretary and executive staff, who provide long-term oversight of the organization. Members of each Rotary club elect their own leadership.