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.
That year, the first Foundation program – the forerunner of Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships – was established. In 1965-66, three new programs were launched: Group Study Ex- change, Awards for Technical Training, and Grants for Activities in Keeping with the Objective of The Rotary Foundation, which was later called Matching Grants.
The Health, Hunger and Humanity (3-H) Grants program was launched in 1978, and Rotary Volunteers was created as a part of that program in 1980. PolioPlus was announced in 1984-85, and the next year brought Rotary Grants for University Teachers. The first peace forums were held in 1987- 88, leading to the Foundation's peace and conflict studies programs.
Throughout this time, support of the Foundation grew 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 US$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.