The Beginning & Basics


The first Rotary Club meeting was on 23 February 1905 in downtown Chicago, USA with four members including the Founder, Paul Harris


Within five years, clubs had formed across the USA from San Francisco to New York

First Convention

In August 2010, Rotarians held their first convention in Chicago USA.  The 16 clubs united to form the National Association of Rotary Clubs.

Name Change

In 1912, the name was changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs, and in 1922 to Rotary International.

The Rotary Foundation

At the 1917 Rotary Convention, outgoing RI President Arch C. Klumph proposed to set up an endowment “for the purpose of doing good in the world.”  In 1928, it was renamed The Rotary Foundation, and it became a distinct entity within Rotary International.
The mission of The Rotary Foundation 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. The Rotary Foundation helps fund our humanitarian activities, from local service projects to global initiatives. Each club or district can apply for grants from the Foundation to invest in projects and provide scholarships.  The Foundation also leads the charge on worldwide Rotary campaigns such as eradicating polio and promoting peace.  Rotarians and friends of Rotary support the Foundation’s work through voluntary contributions.
The Board of Trustees manages the business of the Foundation, led by the trustee chair.  The Rotary International President Elect nominates the 15 trustees, who are elected by the Rotary International Board of Directors. The trustee chair serves for one year and trustees serve for four years.

The Four Way Test

In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test.  The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:
Of the things we think, say or do
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?


There are now approx. 1.23m Rotarians in 34,905 clubs doing good all over the world.  The most Rotarian-populated countries in the world are USA, India, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Germany, England, Italy, Taiwan, France and Australia.  Average membership per club is 35 of which 20% are female.  In Australia, the average club size is 30 and 24% are female.


As a club member you help elect your own leaders each year.  Your club pays dues to Rotary International (RI) and in return RI provides resources, training, and programs to assist your club run effectively.
Our club and others in our geographic location are part of a District, led by the District Governor.  Our District is 9685.  There are 530 districts worldwide and these are organised into 34 Zones.
Every Rotary year, the members of each district select a District Governor who is nominated by his/her club.  That person must have been a Rotarian for at least seven years and also served as a club President.
The President of Rotary International is elected by Rotarians and leads an elected Board of Directors of 19 plus the General Secretary.  Three of the present Board are females.  The President serves for one year and the directors serve for two years.
The General Secretary, John Hewko manages the staff at Rotary's headquarters in Evanston, Illinois USA and additional offices around the world (including Parramatta in Australia).

Women in Rotary

In 1987, the first woman was admitted to the Rotary Club of Marin Sunrise, California USA in response to the US Supreme Court Ruling that Roitary Clubs may not exclude women from membership on the basis of gender.
In 1995, eight women became District Governors.
In 2005, Carolyn Jones from the USA began her term as the first woman appointed as a Trustee of The Rotary Foundation.
In 2008, the first woman was elected to the RI Board of Directors.
Women now represent  20% of Rotarians worldwide numbering about 246,000.

What is Rotary