Kiwanis is an international organization devoted to the principle of service; to the advancement of individual, community, and national welfare; and to the strengthening of international goodwill. Kiwanis membership spans the globe, with more than 291,830 members in more than 8,401 clubs in 79 geographic areas, giving more than $70 million and 7 million volunteer hours for community service each year.
Local Kiwanis clubs may sponsor any or all of the organizations listed on the left. All of these make up the Kiwanis family.
Kiwanis was founded on January 21, 1915 in Detroit. The original Detroit #1 Club is still in existence today. A second club was formed in Cleveland and both sponsored projects to benefit disadvantaged children -- a service slant that became an enduring theme of Kiwanis. A worldwide service organization, Kiwanis appeals to women and men who have the desire to become personally involved in making their community and the world a better place in which to live.
The name "Kiwanis" is a coined word taken from the language of an American Indian tribe which lived in the area where Kiwanis was founded. The original phrase was "Nunc Keewanis". Among the many meanings attributed to the word are: "Self expression"; "To make oneself known"; "We get together"; and "We trade". The club adopted an abbreviated version of this phrase, Kiwanis, and the motto WE BUILD.
Kiwanis became International soon after when it entered Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1916. Kiwanis moved into Mexico in 1962 and since that time, Kiwanis has grown to serve the needs of people in over 80 countries around the world.
The club is governed by a set of by-laws which were adopted when the club was charted in 1921, although some modifications have been made since then. It is the job of the Officers and the Board of Directors to enforce these by-laws. Kiwanians are engaged in education, government, banking, marketing, agriculture, international trade, non-profit organizations, religions, and many other fields. They are corporate officers, managers, small-business owners, fire fighters, police officers, ministers, housewives, and self-employed professionals. They are young individuals embarking on careers, successful executives, and active retirees -- all ages are represented. Members decide how much time and money they want to invest.