When Arch Klumph was president of Rotary in 1916-17, he suggested in a speech at the 1917 Atlanta convention that Rotary should start an endowment fund for the purpose of doing good in the world. It was only a brief reference, but the idea caught on with Rotarians. The Rotary Club of Kansas City, Mo., made the first donation of $26.50 to the new fund, which was officially named The Rotary Foundation in 1928.
The Rotary Foundation had some activity in the 1930s and 1940s, but it was the memorial gifts to honor Paul Harris after his death in January 1947 that provided the funds to undertake the first major program. That was the award of 18 international scholarships for successful college graduates to spend a year studying abroad as Rotary Fellows. The fellowship program grew to 125 students a year in 1960-61, when I was a Rotary Fellow in Cape Town, South Africa, and it later became the largest privately funded scholarship program with 1,200 students a year.
Rotarians’ constant search for the best possible charitable programs led to the introduction of the Matching Grants and Group Study Exchange programs in 1965-66. From there, the Foundation assumed responsibility for the PolioPlus program in the early 1980s, established the Rotary Peace Centers in 2002, and restructured Rotary’s Humanitarian Grants Program as a part of the Future Vision plan in 2013.
What has been the result of these efforts? Rotarians have been justifiably proud and supportive of the Foundation for many years, evidenced by their generous contributions of $123 million to the Annual Fund in 2014-15. In addition, the CNBC television network recently confirmed the success of The Rotary Foundation by naming it one of the “top 10 charities changing the world in 2015.” In fact, our Foundation was ranked as the fifth-best charity working to make the world a better place!
What a powerful tribute to Arch Klumph’s visionary idea in 1917! We have so much to be proud of in Rotary, including The Rotary Foundation, and so much to celebrate at the Atlanta convention next year. Please plan now to attend the centenary celebration at the convention and show your support for one of the very best charitable foundations in the world!
Trustee Chair 2015 – 16
Source: Rotary International