What is Rotary ?

Rotary International, the world’s first service club organization, is made up of 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Its members form a global network of business, professional, and community leaders who volunteer their time and talents to serve their communities and the world.

Rotary’s motto, Service Above Self, exemplifies the humanitarian spirit of the organization’s more than 1.2 million members. Strong fellowship among Rotarians and meaningful community and international service projects characterize Rotary worldwide.

Rotary enjoys a rich and sometimes complex tradition and organizational structure, with many programs that can be confusing to new and even not-so-new members.

The following pages offer a basic Rotary education — the fundamental knowledge that will make every member better informed about Rotary and proud to be a Rotarian.


The Organization of Rotary


Rotary is essentially a grassroots organization, with most of its service efforts being carried out at the club level. The district and international structure is designed to support the clubs and help them provide more service in their local communities and abroad.

Clubs: Rotarians are members of Rotary clubs, which belong to the global association Rotary International (RI). Each club elects its own officers and enjoys considerable autonomy within the framework of Rotary’s constitution and bylaws.

Districts: Clubs are grouped into 531 RI districts, each led by a district governor, who is an officer of RI. The district administration, including assistant governors and various committees, guides and supports the clubs.

RI Board: The 19-member RI Board of Directors, which includes the RI president and president-elect, meets quarterly to establish policies. Traditionally, the RI president, who is elected annually, develops a theme and service emphases for the year.

The Secretariat


Rotary International is headquartered in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, USA, with seven international offices in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Korea, and Switzerland.

The office for RI in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI), located in England, serves clubs and districts in that region. The Secretariat’s chief operating officer is the RI general secretary, who heads a 740-member staff working to serve Rotarians worldwide.