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Path to the presidency

Rotary has 1.2 million members; every year, one of them becomes the organization’s president. What steps must a Rotarian follow to reach that position? Ultimately, all candidates have their own paths, but there are some universal requirements. We combed through Rotary’s bylaws to boil it down to these basics.

  1. Club president

    Any member in good standing is eligible to be elected club president for a one-year term, though most presidents have already served their clubs as a committee chair or in some other leadership role.

  2. District governor

    Districts select their future governors through either a nominating committee, ballot by mail, or a district conference. Any club may suggest one of its members for consideration, though the nominating committee is not limited by these suggestions. Governors serve a one-year term. A nominee for district governor must have been a Rotarian for at least seven years and have served as a club president.

  3. RI director

    Every year, eight or nine of Rotary’s 34 zones each selects a director. Nominating committees are made up of one past governor from each district in the zone or section of the zone for a two-year term. The committee members interview candidates and choose one to represent the zone. Past district governors are eligible; at least three years must have elapsed since the end of their term as governor. Candidates must also have attended at least two Rotary institutes and a Rotary convention in the previous three years.

  4. RI president

    Every year, half of Rotary’s zones get the opportunity to elect Rotary’s president through their representatives on the 17-member presidential nominating committee. (The zones electing the president alternate every other year.) Only past RI directors may serve on the nominating committee – current Board members are not eligible. If more than one past director from a zone wishes to serve, clubs in their zone hold an election.  

    Only past RI directors are eligible to serve as RI president, and most presidents have held additional leadership roles, including serving on committees that offer international experience. The term is one year.

    Presidents choose their vice president and treasurer from among the second-year RI directors.

Additional steppingstones 

While on paper the path to the presidency is only four steps, in practice, the Rotarians who lead the organization have held many other roles along the way.

District leaders: District committees include finance, membership, public image, and Rotary Foundation training. Other topics vary by district.

Regional leaders: Regional leaders include regional Rotary Foundation coordinators, Rotary coordinators, Rotary public image coordinators, and endowment/major gifts advisers. Other leaders may serve as trainers and facilitators at Rotary institutes, governors-elect training seminars, and other events.

RI and Foundation leaders: Rotary’s committees are made up of Rotarians and Rotaractors from around the world who work with the organization’s leadership. Qualifications for membership vary by committee. Application information is listed annually in The Rotarian. Rotarians may also serve as Rotary Foundation trustees.

Trustees of The Rotary Foundation: Trustees must be Rotarians. Candidates should have broad experience within Rotary and also have held leadership positions in business, government, philanthropy, or the nonprofit sector.

Past and present Rotary senior leaders suggest individuals for consideration. A task force appointed by the Rotary president-elect reviews the names and recommends at least three candidates for each open trustee position. The Rotary president-elect chooses the nominees from among these recommendations, and the RI Board of Directors formally elects them to a four-year term.

The Board of Trustees elects its chair from among the current members for a one-year term.

Facts about the Rotary presidency of the five most recent RI presidents

  • 5.00

    RI presidents had been in Rotary for more than 30 years

  • 3.00

    served as a president's aide

  • 5.00

    had served as a Rotary Foundation trustee

  • 1.00

    was a member of the Arch Klumph Society

  • 2.00

    had chaired the RI Finance Committee

  • 3.00

    had received the Service Above Self Award

  • 5.00

    had chaired an RI or Rotary Foundation committee

  • 5.00

    had been members of a convention committee