About Rotary

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Rotary International, the world’s first service organization, is made up of over 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Its members form a global network of business, professional and community leaders who volunteer their time and talents to serve their communities and the world.

Rotary's motto, Service Above Self, exemplifies the humanitarian spirit of the organization's more than 1.2 million members. Strong fellowship among Rotarians and meaningful community and international service projects characterize Rotary worldwide.

Rotary enjoys a rich and sometimes complex tradition and organizational structure, with many programs that can be confusing to new and even not-so-new members. This website offers a basic Rotary education — the fundamental knowledge that will make every member better informed about Rotary and proud to be a Rotarian.

What is Rotary?

Rotary International is a worldwide organization of business and professional clubs, dedicated to high vocational standards, community service, and international understanding. To foster fellowship through diversity of interests, a Rotary club is composed of one representative of each business and profession in a community.

Established in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, it now has its headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. Rotary is the oldest service club organization in the world; in 1922 the name became Rotary International as clubs were organized in other countries.

Rotary International is comprised of more than 1.1 million men and women in nearly 27,000 Rotary clubs in 149 countries and 39 geographical regions. Membership is by invitation, and clubs determine their own service activities.

Currently the organization is encouraging clubs to focus community activities on fighting hunger, illiteracy, and drug abuse, and helping the elderly and the environment.

Clubs also may participate in the international programs of the Rotary Foundation, which administers privately funded scholarships and grants in order to accomplish large-scale, international humanitarian projects as well as smaller projects that are sponsored and partially funded by Rotary clubs or districts in two or more countries. Rotary International's PolioPlus program, in cooperation with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), funds vaccine purchases and social mobilization activities in order to help eradicate polio worldwide by the year 2000.

The organization also publishes an official periodical, The Rotarian in English and Revista Rotaria in Spanish.

Object of Rotary

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

FIRST: The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;

SECOND: High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian's occupation as an opportunity to serve society;

THIRD: The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian's personal, business, and community life;

FOURTH: The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

The Object of Rotary has not always been expressed in this manner. The original Constitution of 1906 had three objects: promotion of business interests, promotion of good fellowship and the advancement of the best interests of the community. By 1910 Rotary had five Objects as increased emphasis was given to expanding Rotary. By 1915 there were six Objects. In 1918 the Objects were rewritten again and reduced to four. Four years later they had again grown to six and were revised again in 1927.

Finally, at the 1935 Mexico City Convention the six Objects were restated and reduced to four. The last major change came in 1951 when the Objects were streamlined and changed to a single Object, which has four parts. The "ideal of service" is the key phrase in the Object of Rotary. This ideal is an attitude of being a thoughtful and helpful person in all of one's endeavours. That's what the Object truly means.

The 4-Way Test

One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics in the world is the Rotary "4-Way Test." It was created by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of the Chicago-based Club Aluminum Company, which was facing bankruptcy.

Taylor looked for a way to save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all employees to follow in their business and professional lives.

The 4-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company was credited to this simple philosophy.

Herb Taylor became president of Rotary International during 1954-55. The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been translated into more than 100 languages and published in thousands of ways. The message should be known and followed by all Rotarians. "Of the things we think, say or do:

1. Is it the TRUTH?
2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"

Avenues of Service

For years, Rotary’s commitment to Service Above Self has been channeled through the Avenues of Service, which form the foundation of club activity. To get started on a project, think broadly about how your club and its members could contribute within each avenue.

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Club Service

Club Service focuses on strengthening fellowship and ensuring the smooth functioning of Rotary clubs. Learn about effective club service in Membership and Training.

Vocational Service

Vocational Service involves club members serving others through their professions and aspiring to high ethical standards. Rotarians, as business leaders, share skills and expertise through their vocations, and they inspire others in the process. Learn more.

Community Service

Community Service is the opportunity  Rotary clubs have to implement club projects and activities that improve life in the local community.
Learn more about community service and assessing your community.

International Service

International Service encompasses efforts to expand Rotary’s humanitarian reach around the world and to promote world understanding and peace. It includes everything from contributing to PolioPlus to helping Rotary Youth Exchange students adjust to their host countries. Learn more about participating in World Community Service.

New Generations Service

New Generations Service recognizes the positive change implemented by youth and young adults through leadership development activities such as RYLA, Rotaract and Interact club service projects, and creating international understanding with Rotary Youth Exchange.

When a Rotarian understands and travels down the "Avenues of Service' the Object of Rotary takes on even greater meaning.

A brief History of Rotary

The first Rotary Club in the world was organized in Chicago, Illinois, USA, on 23 February 1905 by Paul P. Harris, a young lawyer, who gathered together in a spirit of friendship and understanding, a group of men, each of whom was engaged in a different form of service to the public. That basis for membership - one person from each business and profession in the community - still exists in Rotary. At first, the members of the new club met in rotation at their various places of business and this suggested the name "Rotary".

Since 1905, the ideals of Paul Harris and his friends have become ideals which have been accepted by people of practically all nationalities and many political and religious beliefs. Today, there are Rotary clubs in Austria and American Samoa, in Brazil and Brunei, in India and Italy, in Scotland and South Africa, in 184 countries and geographical regions. The universal acceptance of Rotary principles has been so great that there are now more than 27.000 Rotary clubs, which have a membership of over 1.2 Mio.The general objectives of Rotary clubs in every country are the same, the development of fellowship and understanding among the business and professional leaders in the community, the promotion of community-betterment endeavors and of high standards in business and professional practices, and the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace. Rotary clubs everywhere have one basic ideal - "ideal of Service", which is thoughtfulness of and helpfulness to others.

Paul Harris - First but Not First

Paul HarrisWas Paul Harris the first president of a Rotary club? No.

Was Paul Harris the first president of Rotary International? Yes.

There is an easy explanation to this apparent contradiction. Although Paul Harris was the founder and organizer of the first Rotary club in Chicago in 1905, the man selected to be the first president was one of the other founding members, Silvester Schiele.

By the year 1910 there were 16 Rotary clubs, which linked up as an organization called the National Association of Rotary Clubs. Two years later the name was changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs, as Rotary was organized in Winnipeg, Canada, and then in England, Ireland and Scotland. In 1922 the name was shortened to Rotary International.

When the first organization of Rotary clubs was created in 1910, Paul Harris was selected as the first president. He served in this position for two years, from 1910 until 1912. Thus, the founder of the Rotary idea, who declined to be president of the first club, became the first president of the worldwide organization, Rotary International.

Rotary's Wheel Emblem

Rotary EmblemA wheel has been the symbol of Rotary since our earliest days. The first design was made by Chicago Rotarian Montague Bear, an engraver who drew a simple wagon wheel, with a few lines to show dust and motion. The wheel was said to illustrate "Civilization and Movement." Most of the early clubs had some form of wagon wheel on their publications and letterheads. Finally, in 1922, it was decided that all Rotary clubs should adopt a single design as the exclusive emblem of Rotarians.

Thus, in 1923, the present gear wheel with 24 cogs and six spokes was adopted by the "Rotary Interna­tional Association." A group of engineers advised that the gear wheel was mechanically unsound and would not work without a "keyway" in the center of the gear to attach it to a power shaft. So, in 1923 the keyway was added and the design which we now know was formally adopted as the official Rotary International emblem.

The Official Rotary Flag

An official flag was formally adopted by Rotary International at the 1929 Convention in Dallas, Texas. The Rotary flag consists of a white field with the official wheel emblem emblazoned in gold in the center of the field. The four depressed spaces on the rim of the Rotary wheel are colored royal blue. The words "Rotary" and "International" printed at the top and bottom depressions on the wheel rim are also gold. The shaft in the hub and the keyway of the wheel are white.

The first official Rotary flag reportedly was flown in Kansas City, Missouri, in January 1915. In 1922 a small Rotary flag was carried over the South Pole by Admiral Richard Byrd, a member of the Rotary Club of Winchester, Virginia, U.5.A. Four years later, the admiral carried a Rotary flag in his expedition to the North Pole.

Some Rotary clubs use the official Rotary flag as a banner at club meetings. In these instances it is appropriate to print the words "Rotary Club" above the wheel symbol and the name of the city, state or nation below the emblem.

The Rotary flag is always prominently displayed at the World Headquarters as well as at all conventions and official events of Rotary International.

Rotary Mottoes

The first motto of Rotary International, "He Profits Most Who Serves Best," was approved at the second Rotary Convention, held in Portland, Oregon, in August 1911. The phrase was first stated by a Chicago Rotarian, Art Sheldon, who made a speech in 1910 that included the remark, "He profits most who serves his fellows best."

At about the same time, Ben Collins, president of the Rotary Club of Minneapolis, Minnesota, commented that the proper way to organize a Rotary club was through the principle his club had adopted - "Service, Not Self."

These two slogans, slightly modified, were formally approved to be the official mottoes of Rotary at the 1950 Convention in Detroit - "He Profits Most Who Serves Best" and "Service Above Self."

The 1989 Council on Legislation established "Service Above Self" as the principal motto of Rotary, since it best explains the philosophy of unselfish volunteer service.

The Secretariat

Many Rotarians consider the Secretariat simply another name for the RI World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, U.S.A. Actually, it is much more. While it does include the World Headquarters, the Secretariat encompasses nearly 500 individuals working to make Rotary International run smoothly and effectively. The term describes the entire operations of the general secretary and his staff. The Secretariat also includes eight Rotary Service Centers (formerly called Branch Offices) around the world, all of the staff serving in those centers, as well as all staff assigned to The Rotary Foundation.

Its sole purpose is to serve the clubs, districts and administrative officers of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation. RI World Headquarters, in a building called OneRotary Center in Evanston, is the headquarters of the Secretariat.

Some Rotary "Firsts"
  • The first Rotary club meeting was in Chicago, Illinois, on 23 February 1905.
  • The first regular luncheon meetings were in Oakland, California, chartered in 1909.
  • The first Rotary convention was in Chicago in 1910.
  • The first Rotary club outside of the United States was chartered in innipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in 1910.
  • The first Rotary club outside of North America was chartered in Dublin, Ireland, in 1911.
  • The first Rotary club in a non-English-speaking country was in Havana, Cuba, in 1916.
  • The first Rotary club in South America was chartered in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1918.
  • The first Rotary club in Asia was chartered in Manila, Philippines, in 1919.
  • The first Rotary club in Africa was chartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1921.
  • The first Rotary club in Australia was chartered in Melbourne in 1921.
100 Percent Attendance

Regular attendance is essential to a strong and active Rotary club. The emphasis on attendance is traced back to 1922 when Rotary International announced a worldwide attendance contest that motivated thousands of Rotarians to achieve 100 percent attendance year after year. Many Rotar­ians take great pride in maintaining their 100 percent record in their own club or by making-up at other Rotary club meetings.

Although the bylaws of Rotary require members to attend only 60 percent of all meetings, the custom has emerged that 100 percent is the desirable level. Rotary stresses regular attendance because each member represents his own business or profession and thus the absence of any member deprives the club of the values of its diversified membership and the personal fellowship of each member. From time to time, proposals have been made to give attendance credit for various reasons or to lower the minimum requirement. Such attempts generally have been rebuffed by the clubs acting through the Council on Legislation.

What is a Paul Harris Fellow?

Anyone who contributes - or in whose name is contributed - a gift of US$1,000 or more to the Annual Programs Fund may become a Paul Harris Fellow. Each new Paul Harris Fellow receives a commemorative certificate, a Paul Harris Fellow pin, and a medallion. Donors are eligible for Paul Harris Fellow recognition when their cumulative giving reaches US$1,000.

For additional gifts totaling US$1,000 or more, a Paul Harris Fellow:

  • is recognized as a Multiple Paul Harris Fellow
  • may also choose to honor someone else as a Paul Harris Fellow with their Foundation Recognition Points, formerly called "available credit"
  • is eligible to receive a Multiple Paul Harris Fellow pin with additional stones.

Recognition levels are determined based on the following guidelines:

Recognition Total

Pin Level

US $2,000 to 2,999.99

one sapphire

3,000 to 3,999.99

two sapphires

4,000 to 4,999.99

three sapphires

5,000 to 5,999.99

four sapphires

6,000 to 6,999.99

five sapphires

7,000 to 7,999.99

one ruby

8,000 to 8,999.99

two rubies

9,000 to 9,999.99

three rubies

Frequently Asked Questions about Paul Harris Fellows

First Names or Nicknames

From the earliest days of Rotary, members have referred to each other on a first-name basis. Since personal acquaintanceship and friendship are cornerstones of Rotary, it was natural that many clubs adopted the practice of setting aside formal titles in conversations among members. Individuals who normally would be addressed as Doctor, Professor, Mister, the Honor­able or Sir are regularly called Joe, Bill, Mary, Karen or Charley by other Rotarians. The characteristic Rotary club name badge fosters the first-name custom.

In a few areas, such as Europe, club members use a more formal style in addressing fellow members. In other parts of the world, mainly in Asian countries, the practice is to assign each new Rotarian a humorous nickname which relates to some personal characteristic or which is descriptive of the member's business or profession. A member nicknamed "Oxygen" is the manufacturer of chemical gas products. "Trees" is the nickname for the Rotarian in the lumber business, "Building" is the contractor, "Paper" is the stationery or office supply retailer. Other members might carry nicknames like "Muscles," "Foghorn" or "Smiles" as commentaries on their physical features.

The nicknames are frequently a source of good-natured fun and fellow­ship. But whether a Rotarian is addressed by a given first name or a nickname, the spirit of personal friendship is the initial step that opens doors to all other opportunities for service.

Summary of Rotary Acronyms




Health, Hunger & Humanity


Assistant Governor


Annual Giving Advisor


Annual Programs Fund


Annual Programs Fund Strategic Advisors


Community & Vocational


Council on Legislation


Criminal Record Bureau


Chief Sergeant at Arms


District Communications Officer


District Community & Vocational Officer


District Designated Fund


District Extension Officer


District Governor


District Governor Elect


District Governor Nominee


District Governors Training Manual


District Interact Officer


District International Services Chairman


District IT Officer


District Membership Services Chairman


District Officers Training Seminar


District Protection Officer


District Public Relation Officer


District Rotary Foundation Chairman


District Rotaract Officer


District Secretary


District Trainer (Current Year)


District Trainer (Incoming)


District Treasurer


District Youth Activities Chairman


Every Rotarian, Every Year


Foundation Alumni Resource Group


Governor Elect Training Seminar


Group Study Exchange


Host Organisation Committee


House of Friendship


International Assembly


Immediate Past District Governor


Immediate Past President


International Polio Plus Committee


Leadership Development & Training Committee


Multi District Information Organisation


Manual for Incoming Club Officers


Major Gift Advisor


Major Gifts National Advisor


Membership Services


Manual of Procedure


National Immunisation Day


Official Directory


Oral Polio Vaccine


Past District Governor


Polio Eradication Fundraising Campaign


President Elect Training Seminar


Paul Harris Fellow


Past Honorary Treasurer


Past President


Past Presidents Advisory Committee


Past Rotary International Director


Past Rotary International President


Rotary Community Corps


Rotary Foundation United Kingdom


Rotaract in Great Britain & Ireland


Rotary International


Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland


Rotary International Membership Coordinator


Rotary International Membership Zone Coordinator


Rotary International President Elect


Rotary One Stop Shop


Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator




Rotary World Peace Scholars


Rotary Youth Leadership Award


Sergeant at Arms


Selection Advisory Committee


Service & Communications Committees Seminar


Semi Annual Report


Sub National Immunisation Day


The Rotary Foundation


World Community Service


Youth Activities


Youth Exchange Officers


Youth Exchange

Courtesy : Lawrence Tristram, Source: e-flash Rotary

Read more about Rotary on the District 9200 website:

Rotary Resources

The A-Z of Rotary

Joining Rotary

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Rotary at a glance

February 23, 1905,
in Chicago, Ill., USA

Chicago lawyer
Paul P. Harris

33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical regions

1.2 million men
and women

Service Above Self

Rotary Emblem

Rotary Emblem

The RI emblem identifies Rotarians, Rotary clubs, and Rotary-sponsored service projects around the world.

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