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The mission of The Rotary Foundation 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.
The Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world.
In 1917, RI President Arch C. Klumph proposed that an endowment be set up "for the purpose of doing good in the world." In 1928, when the endowment fund had grown to more than US$5,000, it 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 $500 to the International Society for Crippled Children. The organization, created by Rotarian Edgar F. "Daddy" Allen, later grew into the Easter Seals.
The Great Depression and World War II both impeded the Foundation's growth, but the need for lasting world peace generated great postwar interest in its development. After Rotary's founder, Paul P. Harris, died in 1947, contributions began pouring into Rotary International, and the Paul Harris Memorial Fund was created to build the Foundation.
From that time to this day, support of the Foundation has grown tremendously. Since the first donation of $26.50 in 1917, it has received contributions totaling more than $1 billion. More than $70 million was donated in 2003-04 alone. To date, more than one million individuals have been recognized as Paul Harris Fellows – people who have given $1,000 to the Annual Programs Fund or have had that amount contributed in their name.
Such strong support, along with Rotarian involvement worldwide, ensures a secure future for The Rotary Foundation as it continues its vital work for international understanding and world peace.