The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International is the cornerstone for Rotary service and programs. It is a trust fund that is administered by 13 trustees who are appointed by the RI Board of Directors. The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International promotes world understanding through international humanitarian service programs and educational and cultural exchanges. The Foundation was created in 1917 by Rotary International's sixth president, Arch C. Klumph, as an endowment fund for Rotary "to do good in the world."

The Foundation is supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and others who share Rotary’s vision of a better world. All awards and grants are initiated and administered by local Rotary clubs and districts.

The Foundation's Humanitarian Programs fund international Rotary club and district projects to improve the quality of life, providing health care, clean water, food, education, and other essential needs, primarily in the developing world. Through its Educational Programs, the Foundation provides funding for some 1,200 students to study abroad each year. Grants are also awarded to university teachers to teach in developing countries and for exchanges of business and professional people.

The Rotary Foundation spends 100 percent of its contributions on programs. Contributions are invested for a three-year period before they are expended on programs, with the interest and earnings paying the Foundation's administrative, program operation, and fundraising costs.