Arch Klumph’s idea for an endowment fund dedicated to “doing good in the world” planted the seed for The Rotary Foundation in 1917. That one idea and an initial contribution of $26.50 set in motion a powerful force for good that has transformed millions of lives around the globe.

100 Years of Doing Good in the World

Arch Klumph’s idea for an endowment fund dedicated to “doing good in the world” planted the seed of The Rotary Foundation in 1917. 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.

Learn about the people and events that have made our Foundation a powerful force for good.


The Rotary Foundation formerly named in 1928

Announcement made at 1928 Convention in Minneapolis
In 1930, TRF awards $500 to Society for Crippled Children
Why the International Society for Crippled Children?

Rotary member Edgar F. Allen started the International Society for Crippled Children (Easter Seals) in 1919, after his work to build a hospital in his hometown of Elyria, Ohio, USA, had made him aware that children with disabilities were often hidden from public view. Other Rotary members were also working to help children with disabilities, and Rotary’s 1922 convention encouraged clubs to take similar action. Hence, Easter Seals seemed a logical choice for the Foundation's support.


In 1942 clubs organized the Institutes for Understanding funded in part by TRF


In 1947, Rotary Members worldwide raised $1.3 Million in honor of Paul Harris

Foundation creates first program: scholarships for graduate study

The Foundation's first ongoing program promoted international understanding by supporting graduate studies in other countries. The program was known by many names, including Ambassadorial Scholars.

In 1957 the Paul Harris Fellow recognition began

What is a Paul Harris Fellow?

The Foundation’s first form of donor recognition expresses appreciation for eligible contributions of $1,000. Later, additional recognition levels are created. Donors may also name another person as a Paul Harris Fellow by donating in his or her honor. In 2006, the number of Paul Harris Fellows reaches 1 million.


In 1963, Matched Districts is established

The approach became the processor to our matching grants programs

In 1965, Group Study Exchange begins

In 1978, the 3H Program begins

What is the 3-H program?

The program is developed to improve health, alleviate hunger, and enhance human and social development. Rotary members use the grants to create access to clean drinking water, support literacy programs, provide medical care, and more — setting the stage for today’s global grants.


In 1979, Rotary immunizes 6 million children in the Philippines against polio

Agreement between Rotary International and the Philippine Ministry of Health
In 1980, Rotary commits to eliminate polio through immunization
Oral Polio Vaccine developer Albert Sabin plays pivotal roll in advancing Rotary's commitment to eradication and getting other partners on board.
Endowment Fund established by TRF in 1981
What's the Endowment Fund?

Trustees decide to create an Endowment Fund specifically for investing certain contributions in perpetuity, with the earnings going to support the Foundation's future ability to do good.


In 1985 TRF launches the Polio Plus Program

What's the plus in PolioPlus?

The “plus” initially refers to the additional vaccines administered along with the polio vaccine. Today, it also reflects the fact that the infrastructure, fundraising, and advocacy methods developed for the polio eradication campaign also support efforts to fight other infectious diseases.


GPEI launched in 1988

What's GPEI?

GPEI, originally composed of Rotary, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF, is created to coordinate polio eradication work. Over the years, others join the effort, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and governments throughout the world.

In 1995, the Polio Plus Partners program is created to support National immunization days
Children gathered for immunization day in India
In 1999 Rotary Peace Centers are founded
What are the Rotary Peace Centers?

The Rotary Peace Centers program develops leaders who become catalysts for peace and conflict prevention and resolution in their communities and around the globe. Each year, up to 100 Rotary Peace Fellows are chosen to participate in a master’s degree or certificate program at one of our centers at universities around the world. Members of the inaugural class of Rotary Peace Fellows begin studies in the fall of 2002.


In 2004, the Every Rotarian Every Year initiative is created

What is EREY?

The initiative encourages every Rotary member to give every year to the Foundation, with the goal of $100 in per capita contributions to the Annual Fund. After 10 years of the initiative, Annual Fund total contributions reach $116 million.

In 2007, Bill Gates issues the 100 million dollar challenge

What is the challenge grant?

The grant challenges Rotary to raise $100 million, which the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match. Two years later, the Gates Foundation pledges an additional $255 million and increases the amount Rotary must raise to $200 million. Rotary's partnership with the Gates Foundation helps both organizations improve lives around the world.

In 2009, Rotary and USAID launch the International H2O Collaboration

Rotary and USAID provide water, sanitation and hygiene in Ghana and 2 neighbouring countries

In 2013, the simplified grant model takes effect

In 2015 the number of Polio endemic countries drop to two

Door to Door immunization led to Nigeria being removed from the list

In Seoul, Korea Rotary starts a year long celebration for our Centennial that will continue through to the 2017 convention in Atlanta, GA.


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