Rotary Foundation

Arch C. Klumph, founder of The Rotary Foundation,1916

In 1917, RI President Arch C. Klumph proposed that an endowment be set up “for the purpose of doing good in the world.” In 1928, when the endowment fund had grown to more than US$5,000, it was renamed The Rotary Foundation, and it became a distinct entity within Rotary International.

Five Trustees, including Klumph, were appointed to “hold, invest, manage, and administer all of its property . . . as a single trust, for the furtherance of the purposes of RI.”

Two years later, the Foundation made its first grant of $500 to the International Society for Crippled Children. The organization, created by Rotarian Edgar F. “Daddy” Allen, later grew into the Easter Seals.

The Great Depression and World War II both impeded the Foundation’s growth, but the need for lasting world peace generated great postwar interest in its development. After Rotary’s founder, Paul P. Harris, died in 1947, contributions began pouring into Rotary International, and the Paul Harris Memorial Fund was created to build the Foundation.

Throughout this time, support of the Foundation grew tremendously. Since the first donation of $26.50 in 1917, it has received contributions totaling more than $5 billion. More than $380 million was donated in 2020-21 alone. To date, more than one million individuals have been recognized as Paul Harris Fellows – people who have given $1,000 to the Annual Programs Fund or have had that amount contributed in their name.

Such strong support, along with Rotarian involvement worldwide, ensures a secure future for The Rotary Foundation as it continues its vital work for international understanding and world peace.

The Rotary Foundation has been consistently rated as a top charity for 14 years for adhering to sector best practices and executing its mission in a financially efficient way, demonstrating both strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.

The Rotary Foundation disburses funding for various Rotary causes in many ways:


Since 1988, Rotary and our partners have immunized nearly 3 billion children against polio. As of June 2021, Rotary had committed more than $2.2 billion to global polio eradication.

We’re still working to eliminate the wild poliovirus in the last two countries where it

remains endemic and to ensure that it does not return elsewhere. In 2020-21, program

awards, including PolioPlus Partners grants, totaled $152.9 million.

Global Grants

Global grants fund large-scale international activities with sustainable, measurable results that support Rotary’s areas of focus. Activities include humanitarian projects, scholarships, and vocational training teams. In 2020-21, the Foundation approved 2,066 global grants, and program awards totaled $130.0 million.

District Grants

District grants support small-scale, short-term projects related to the Foundation’s mission. In 2020-21, the Foundation approved 467 district grants, and program awards totaled $31.1 million.

Disaster Response Grants

Rotary’s disaster response grants support relief and recovery efforts in areas that have been affected by natural disasters within the past six months. In 2020-21, the Foundation approved 55 disaster response grants, and program awards totaled $3.1 million.

Rotary Peach Centers

Each year, the Foundation supports the training of peace fellows at Rotary Peace Centers, where they earn master’s degrees or professional development certificates. Since 2002-03, 1,487 fellows from more than 115 countries have participated. In 2020-21, 117 fellows from 63 countries began their studies at the Rotary Peace Centers, and program awards for the fellows and centers totaled $4.4 million.

Program of Scale Grants

Programs of Scale grants empower Rotary members to work with experienced partners to implement large-scale, high-impact projects over three to five years to benefit a large number of people. The member-led Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia program was awarded the 2020-21 grant of $2 million, which was matched by $4 million in funding from our partners.

Polio Eradication in India is one of several Rotary Foundation success stories

Rotary Foundation has funded WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) facilities in 30,000 Indian schools

For more information on the Rotary Foundation, please visit: