What Is the Rotary Club?

by Lynn Peterson; Updated September 26, 2017

Rotary International is a century-old service organization founded in the United States. The organization supports charity projects both locally and internationally, with a focus on disease eradication. Membership is open to male and female occupational and professional leaders, with the goal of encouraging fellowship, increasing educational opportunities and giving back to the global community.

Size

Rotary International is a world-wide organization comprised of more than 1.2 million people from the business and professional communities. There are over 33,000 Rotary Clubs located in 200 countries across the globe.

Function

Rotary International guides its members in providing service to the Rotarian’s community and place of work. The organization supports the Rotary Foundation, which works worldwide to diminish poverty, improve health conditions, and champion education. Rotary International is not a political or religious organization.

Significance

The motto of Rotary International is “Service Above Self.” The organization’s major service mission is the eradication of polio on a worldwide scale. The Rotary has a program called PolioPlus and works with Unicef, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide immunizations in impoverished nations.

Membership

Membership in Rotary International is by invitation only, with the invitation issued by a current member of the Rotary Club. Qualified individuals are those who have served a business or community in a leadership position. The candidate must be known for a strong character and good reputation, and have a history of community involvement. Although initially a male-only organization, the group started to admit women in 1989. Rotary International clubs hold weekly meetings, collect annual dues and sponsor service projects.

Rotary International sponsors a youth program called Interact, a service program for teens from 14 to 18. Rotaract is another Rotary-sponsored organization for young leaders ages 18 to 30.

History

The Rotary Club of Chicago began in 1905, formed as a service club by a lawyer named Paul P. Harris. The organization was so named because early meetings “rotated” from one member’s office to the next. The concept caught on quickly and within 20 years, Rotary Club had more than 20,000 members in 200 clubs around the world. Famous early members of Rotary included Dr. Charles H. Mayo (physician and founder of the Mayo Clinic), William Allen White (publisher), William Jennings Bryan (orator), Orville Wright (aviator), and Thomas Mann (novelist from Germany).

About the Author

Lynn Peterson is a professional writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience in the publishing, marketing, fund-raising and insurance industries. Peterson is the managing editor for three niche market magazines and a freelance writer specializing in web content.