About Kiwanis - What Is Kiwanis
Founded in 1915 in Detroit and with headquarters now in Indianapolis, Kiwanis International is a thriving organization of service and community-minded individuals who support children and young adults around the world. More than 600,000 Kiwanis family members in 80 countries make their mark by responding to the needs of their communities and pooling their resources to address worldwide issues. Through these efforts, Kiwanis International truly is "Serving the Children of the World."
History: The first Kiwanis club was organized in Detroit, Michigan, in 1915. Kiwanis became international with the organization of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario, in 1916. Kiwanis limited its membership to the United States and Canada until 1962, when worldwide expansion was approved. Since then, Kiwanis has spread to all the inhabited continents of the globe.
Kiwanis was defined as "an organization for men" in the constitution adopted in 1924. Membership was opened to women in 1987, and today women serve in leadership positions at all levels of the organization.
The Kiwanis Name: The name "Kiwanis" was coined from an expression in an American Indian language of the Detroit area, "Nunc Kee-wanis," which means, "we trade" or "we share our talents."
Kiwanis clubs view their role within their respective communities with a great deal of foresight. Key aspects to operating an effective club include: Evaluating both children’s issues and community needs on an ongoing basis, conducting service projects to respond to those identified needs, maintaining an active membership roster of professional business people who have both the desire and the ability to serve their community.
Each community’s needs are different—so each Kiwanis club is different. By working together, members achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone. When you give a child the chance to learn, experience, dream, grow, succeed and thrive, great things happen.
Service footprint: Service is at the heart of every Kiwanis Club, no matter where in the world it’s located. Members stage nearly 150,000 service projects and raise nearly US$107 million every year for communities, families and projects.
A family of servant leaders: Kiwanis Clubs focus on changing the world by serving children, one child and one community at a time. To do this, many clubs also sponsor a Kiwanis family club—K-Kids for primary school children; Builders Clubs for adolescents; Key Clubs for teens; CKI clubs university students and Aktion Clubs for adults living with disabilities—to reach more people and have a greater service impact on their communities.
Traditional and not: No two Kiwanis Clubs look exactly the same. And they shouldn’t. Each members’ and community’s needs are different, and each club should look different. Some clubs are very traditional, with weekly meetings and a strong sense of history. Other clubs don’t meet at all, and instead hold meetings online and only come together for service projects. Newer clubs may follow the 3-2-1 concept: 3 hours of service, 2 hours of social activity and a 1 hour meeting each month. Clubs should reflect their community and their members and should work to meet their needs. Flexibility is key to a successful club.
Fellowship and fun: Kiwanis members don’t just do service—they have fun. Members make new friends by being part of a club where they attend meetings and participate in social events. Kiwanis clubs also provide excellent networking opportunities for professionals. Members meet new people from all over their region and the world through service projects, fundraising and by attending district and international conventions.
Learn more: To learn more about specific Kiwanis Club projects around the world, read some of our favorite stories on Center Stage.