Rotary basics for New Rotarians

Rotary is a worldwide network of inspired individuals who translate their passions into relevant social causes to change lives in communities.

Made up of over 34,000 Rotary clubs around the world, Rotary International forms a global network of business, professional, and community leaders who volunteer their time and talents to serve communities locally and around the world – and form strong, lasting friendships in the process.

Our motto, Service Above Self, exemplifies the humanitarian spirit of the 1.2 million Rotarians worldwide . Service efforts are directed toward our areas of focus:

  • Peace and conflict prevention/resolution

  • Disease prevention and treatment

  • Water and sanitation

  • Maternal and child health

  • Basic education and literacy

  • Economic and community development

  • Download the Rotary Basics – a Guide for New Members

Longtime Rotarians agree that involvement is key to getting the most out of membership. Volunteer to serve on a committee that meets your interests, to be a greeter for weekly club meetings, or to join a service project team. These activities will help you get to know your fellow club members and better understand the work of Rotary.

Membership responsibilities:
What Rotarians get out of Rotary depends largely on what they put into it. Many membership requirements are designed to help club members more fully participate in and enjoy their Rotary experience.

Attending weekly club meetings allows members to enjoy fellowship, enrich their professional and personal knowledge, and meet other business leaders in their community. If members miss a meeting of their own club, they’re encouraged to expand their Rotary horizons by attending a meeting of any other Rotary club in the world.

By participating in local and international service projects, club members can volunteer their time and talents where they’re most needed. The Avenues of Service are Rotary’s philosophical cornerstone and the foundation on which club activity is based:

  • Club Service focuses on strengthening fellowship and ensuring the club’s effective functioning.

  • Vocational Service encourages Rotarians to serve others through their vocations and to practice high ethical standards.

  • Community Service covers the projects and activities the club undertakes to improve life in its community.

  • International Service encompasses actions taken to expand Rotary’s humanitarian reach around the globe and to promote world understanding and peace.

  • New Generations Service recognizes the positive change implemented by youth and young adults through leadership development activities, service projects, and exchange programs.

Read more about Rotary fellowship and service.

Finding and keeping members:
To keep clubs strong, every Rotarian must share the responsibility of bringing new people into Rotary. Even new members can bring guests to club meetings or invite them to participate in a service project.
Keeping members involved in Rotary is another responsibility. Fostering strong fellowship and encouraging early participation in service projects are two of the best ways to sustain a club’s membership.

Dues: Club members are required to pay annual dues to their clubs, districts, and Rotary International, as well as the subscription fee to the appropriate Rotary magazine.

Leadership: Club members are encouraged to volunteer for leadership roles at the club level and beyond. To learn more about leadership opportunities in your district, see the district leadership seminar page and the club committees page.

Rotary is a grassroots organization, with service efforts carried out by members of Rotary clubs. District and international leaders support Rotary clubs and help them provide 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 RI districts , each led by a district governor. District leaders, including assistant governors and various committees, help guide and support clubs. Annual district conferences celebrate achievements and bring Rotarians from different clubs together.

RI Board: The RI Board of Directors, which includes the RI president and president-elect, meets quarterly to establish policies. Directors are elected to represent Rotary clubs within a particular zone (group of districts).

The Rotary Foundation: The Rotary Foundation is overseen by its Board of Trustees, which includes the Trustee chair and chair-elect. Trustees are appointed by the RI president, with approval from the RI Board.

The Secretariat: The Secretariat, or staff, of Rotary is led by the General Secretary, who is Rotary’s chief executive officer. The staff works to serve Rotarians from the International headquarters located near Chicago, and at 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.

RI Strategic Plan: The RI Strategic Plan focuses Rotary’s efforts on clubs, helping clubs expand their service and publicize their accomplishments. The plan’s three priorities are equally important to Rotary’s future:

  • Support and strengthen clubs.

  • Focus and increase humanitarian service.

  • Enhance public image and awareness.