Chicago attorney Paul Harris founded Rotary in 1905 as a club for exchanging ideas, building professional & personal friendships, and giving back to the community. Within 16 years there were Rotary clubs on every continent except Antarctica. In 1917, Rotary International President Arch Klumph started an endowment fund with an initial donation of $26.50 for Rotarians to do good in the world. In 1928 it became formally known as the Rotary Foundation.

When Paul Harris died in 1947, Rotarians around the world honored its founder by giving $1.3 million to the Foundation. In 1957 the Paul Harris Fellows program was established to recognize those who had given, or who had someone give in their name, $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation. Since then, over 1 million people have become Paul Harris Fellows.

The Rotary Foundation funds a number of important international projects including Sanitation & Clean Water; Health Services for women & children; educational support especially in vulnerable communities; micro-loans, solar power, and other economic development projects; the Rotary Peace Fellowships for the graduate study of conflict resolution. And perhaps most famously, the Polio Eradication program on which Rotary embarked in 1979. Since then Rotary has contributed nearly two BILLION dollars—by far the largest contribution by any NGO—and the number of polio cases worldwide has gone from the 100’s of thousands to just dozens. And since that number could balloon back in just a few years if we stop fighting, we keep working toward eradication