History of The Rotary Foundation
1916-17 president of Rotary
and founder of
The Rotary Foundation
In 1917, Arch C. Klumph, Rotary's sixth president, proposed
to the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia,
USA, the creation of an "endowment fund for Rotary . . . for
the purpose of doing good in the world in charitable,
educational, and other avenues of community service." A few
months later, the endowment received its first contribution of
$26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
In 1928, when the endowment fund had grown to more than
US$5,000, the fund 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
US$500 to the International Society for Crippled Children. The
ISCC — created by Rotarian Edgar F. "Daddy" Allen — later grew
into the Easter Seals organization.
The Great Depression and World War II both impeded
significant growth for the Foundation, but the need for
promoting a lasting world peace generated great post-war
interest in developing the Foundation. After Rotary founder
Paul P. Harris died in 1947, contributions began pouring into
Rotary International, and the Paul Harris Memorial Fund was
created for the purpose of building the Foundation.
That same year, the first Foundation program was
established — Fellowships for Advanced Study, which was the
forerunner of the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships program.
Then in 1965-66, three new programs were launched — Group
Study Exchange, Awards for Technical Training, and Grants for
Activities in Keeping with the Objective of The Rotary
Foundation, which was later called Matching Grants.
The Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) program was launched
in 1978, with the Rotary Volunteers program being created as a
part of 3-H in 1980. The PolioPlus
program was announced in 1984-85, and the following year saw
the introduction of Rotary Grants for University Teachers. The
first Peace Forums were held in 1987-88, leading to the
establishment of Rotary Peace Programs. Then in 1989, 1963-64
RI President Carl P. Miller and his wife, Ruth, donated US$1
million to establish the Discovery Grants program.
Throughout this time, support of the Foundation grew
tremendously. Since that first $26.50 donation in 1917, the
Foundation has received contributions totaling more than US$1
billion. More than US$68 million was donated in 1998-99 alone.
To date, some 726,000 individuals have been recognized as Paul
Harris Fellows — that is, someone who has contributed US$1000
or has had that amount contributed in his or her name.
Such strong support and involvement of Rotarians worldwide
ensures a secure future for The Rotary Foundation as it
continues its vital work for international understanding and
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