February-March 2023 | Features

What is The Rotary Foundation?

What is The Rotary Foundation?

A broad overview of The Rotary Foundation, how it works and what it has achieved since the Rotary International President, Arch Klumph initially set it up in 1917,

As Rotary’s one and only charity, The Rotary Foundation (TRF) taps into a global network of Rotarians who invest their time, money and expertise into priorities that align with our seven areas of focus.

Foundation grants empower Rotarians to approach problems such as disease, poverty, illiteracy, and malnutrition with sustainable solutions that leave a lasting impact.

The Rotary Foundation is known throughout the world for its exceptional financial management and for the efficient use of its donations.

Every year since 2008, TRF has received the top four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the world’s largest and most trusted charity evaluator.

This rating is a standard achieved by only one percent of charities for judicious care of donors’ money.

What is The Rotary Foundation?

The Foundation was created in 1917 by Rotary International’s (RI) sixth president, Arch Klumph. It was established as an endowment fund to provide an ongoing and sustainable income for Rotary to allow us to ‘do good in the world’.

It has grown from an initial contribution of US$26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City to more than US$1 billion. It provides grants of over $1 million per day to support projects led by Rotarians.

Today, TRF has one of the largest and most prestigious international fellowship programmes in the world.

Since it was founded, it has spent more than US$4 billion on life-changing, sustainable projects. TRF’s mission 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’.

Our Foundation has special qualities because it is an enabling Foundation.

It is a not-for-profit organisation that is supported solely by donations from its members and friends.

TRF asks us to donate, just like other charities, but it also asks us to get involved and utilise the funds. Our Foundation is able to achieve its mission through the generous contributions and the active participation of its members.

A major recipient of donations to TRF is the Annual Fund. When we donate, half our contributions are directed to the District Fund and the other half to the World Fund. Both help support and enable Rotary projects to become a reality through global and district grants.

Bob Hildreth (right) and Sara Lucena, both of the Rotary Club of Puerto Plata Isabel de Torres, Dominican Republic, pour 50-pound bags of sand into a bio-sand water filter in the home of Rosa Dia, a resident of Aguas Negras, a neighborhood in Puerto Plata. The installation is part of an effort funded by Rotary Foundation Matching Grants and Rotary clubs in Canada, the United States, the Dominican Republic, and other Caribbean countries. Find the story in “The Rotarian,” August 2009, pages 30-45.


The Board of Trustees manages the business of the Foundation, led by the Trustee Chair, who is currently RI Past President, Ian Riseley, from Australia.
The Rotary International President Elect nominates the Trustees, who are elected by the Rotary International Board of Directors. The Trustee Chair serves for one year and the Trustees serve for
four years.

Foundation achievements

The Foundation leads the way on worldwide Rotary campaigns such as eradicating polio and promoting peace.

In 1930, the Foundation made its first grant of US$500 to the International Society for Crippled Children.

In 1947, following the death of Rotary’s founder Paul Harris, scholarships were the first large programme to be set up. These scholarships were established predominately as a tribute to Paul.
To date, more than 350,000 scholarships have been awarded, allowing recipients to study overseas.

Polio eradication is Rotary’s top philanthropic priority. Rotary launched the PolioPlus programme in 1985.

In 1988, when Rotary began working with its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, there were more than 350,000 polio cases in over 125 countries. Since then, nearly 3 billion children have been immunised against polio, and the incidence of polio has decreased by 99.9 percent.

As of 2021, Rotary’s contributions to the global polio eradication effort, including matching funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, exceeded US$2 billion.

In 2002, TRF established the Peace Fellow Programme. Since then, the Rotary Peace Centres have trained more than 1400 Fellows who now work in more than 115 countries.

Many serve as leaders in governments, NGOs, the military, education, law enforcement, and international organisations like the United Nations and the World Bank.

Hundreds of thousands of people now enjoy access to clean water, health care and education, thanks to TRF’s humanitarian projects.

With thanks to the original author, Rotarian Anne Matthews, from the District 9560 Passport Club, Australia.

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