“Some see things and ask why? Others dream dreams and ask Why not?” -George Bernard Shaw.
Arch C. Klumph, Rotary’s sixth President had a dream and asked why not? Why not have an endowment fund? He believed that “Rotary is a movement for centuries” He had a vision. In 1917 he proposed to 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 progress.
The proposal was successful and the fund became a reality with the receipt of its first contribution – U.S.$ 26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City, Missouri.
U.S.A. The money originally had been intended to buy a memento for President Arch C. Klumph, but the Missourians decided to contribute it towards the endowment fund instead. The endowment fund had grown to more than US $ 5,000 when the 1928 Rotary International Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, decided it was time to build a Foundation. The fund was renamed The Rotary Foundation and became a distinct entity within Rotary International. It was then organized as a trust in 1931. As Arch Klumph said more than 50 years ago: “We should look at the Foundation as being not something of today or tomorrow, but think of it in terms of the years and generations to come. Rotary is a movement for the centuries.”
On 27 January 1947, Paul P. Harris died at his home in Chicago, Illinois. The Foundation created the Paul Harris Memorial Fund and asked Rotarians who wanted to honor Paul to donate to the fund for the purpose of building the Foundation. The response was extraordinary. By July of the next year, More than US $ 1.3 million had been contributed and the long-sought goal of a US $ 2 million endowment was in sight.
In the spring of 1947, there was a creation of International Graduate Scholarships to enhance world understanding and peace. In 1948 a group of 18 highly qualified scholars from seven countries became first Rotary Foundation fellows for advances study.
On 3 June 1951, Arch C. Klumph died in Cleveland, Ohio. By 1951, the Foundation had grown into an organization dedicated to international service very much in the way Arch originally conceived it.
In 1957, The Rotary Foundation launched Paul Harris Fellow recognition as a way of showing appreciation for those who contribute to its work.
The Rotary Foundation was later established as a not-for-profit organisation under the state of Illinois, USA in 1983.
So far total foundation collection has crossed U.S. $ 500 million on 1990 and more than U.S.$ 450 million have been spent on various foundations programmes. Our yearly collections are more than U.S. $ 52 million, an amount which is entirely spent on the foundation programmes. First grant of U.S. $ 500 was made to the International Society for crippled children, as had been requested by the donor – Paul P. Harris – 12,000 food and clothing packages were sent to war-torn countries. There are thirteen humanitarian grants already established, more important among which are the Matching Grants, Helping Grants, Grants for Volunteers, Polio Plus, etc. For educational grants there are four major grants in operation currently, These are the Ambassadorial Scholarships, Group Study Exchange, Grants for University Teachers and Rotary Centres for International Studies. The Rotary Foundation is administered by thirteen trustees, at least four of which are past presidents of Rotary International. Each trustee serves a four year term with the Foundation. There are four important sub-committees formed by the Trustees for the effective functioning of the Foundation, These are the Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Fund Development Committee and the Programs Committee. The Secretary General of the Rotary International is the Chief Administrative and Financial Officer of the Foundation. At the District level the Governor appoints the District Foundation committee and the relevant sub-committees under this.The Regional Rotary Foundation Co-ordinator is a link between the Clubs/District and the Foundation Trustees.