What is Rotary?

Functionally, Rotary is an association of local clubs gathered into a larger organization called Rotary International.  Officially, Rotary is described as a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.

Why is it called Rotary?

When Rotary began in 1905 in Chicago, meetings would ROTATE at the members individual places of business.  From that came the name Rotary.

How did Rotary begin?

In 1905, a 37-year-old attorney name Paul Harris started a movement that would change the world.  He was joined by Silvester Schiele, a coal dealer, Gustavus Loehr, a mining engineer, and Hiram Shore, a merchant tailor.  The founding four were of English, German, Swedish and Irish ancestry, and represented Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish faiths.  Rotary was the world’s first service organisation.

How does one become a member?

A new Rotarian must be asked to join a local club by a current member.  Membership is still based on choosing representatives of each business, profession and institution in a community.  The purpose of this “classification” system is to ensure that club members comprise a true cross section of their community’s business and professional life.

Also have a look at our dedicated webpage.

What is the Objective of Rotary?

To encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster: (1) The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service; (2) 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; (3) The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life; (4) The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

What is Service Above Self?

“Service Above Self” is the official motto of Rotary.  It was entered into the Rotary Constitution in 1911, after being submitted by Frank Collins of Minneapolis.  It was originally “Service, Not Self” and was later changed to Service Above Self.  Rotarians strive to create order where there is chaos, beauty where there is ugliness, friendship where there is misunderstanding and health and happiness where there is poverty and disease.

How big is Rotary today?

Today there are more than 1,243,000 Rotarians in over 32,000 clubs in 200 countries.  Rotarians meet regularly to enjoy each other’s friendship as we go about the business of running our clubs and managing our service efforts. Rotary is the greatest non-profit, nongovernmental and nonreligious organization dedicated to doing good in all the world’s history.

What is PolioPlus?

PolioPlus is Rotary International’s goal of global eradication of polio. In 1985, Rotary launched the PolioPlus program to protect children worldwide from the cruel and fatal consequences of polio. In 1988, the World Health Assembly challenged the world to eradicate polio. Since that time, Rotary’s efforts and those of partner agencies, including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and governments around the world, have achieved a 99 percent reduction in the number of polio cases worldwide. Rotarians stand at the brink of a great victory and look forward to celebrating the global eradication of polio in 2005, the organization’s centennial year.

What is the Rotary Four-Way Test?

From the earliest days of the organization, Rotarians were concerned with promoting high ethical standards in their professional lives. One of the world’s most widely printed and quoted statements of business ethics is The Four-Way Test, which was created in 1932 by Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor (who later served as RI president) when he was asked to take charge of a company that was facing bankruptcy.


This 24-word test for employees to follow in their business and professional lives became the guide for sales, production, advertising, and all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the company is credited to this simple philosophy. Adopted by Rotary in 1943, The Four-Way Test has been translated into more than a hundred languages and published in thousands of ways. It asks the following four questions:

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?