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Kiwanis International is an international, coeducational service club founded in 1915. It is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indianamarker. It comprises approximately 8,000 clubs in 96 countries with over 260,000 adult members.

The name “Kiwanis” means “we trade” or “we share our talents” and was coined from an American Indian expression, Nunc Kee-wanis. This was originally the motto of Kiwanis, translated as "We build." The current motto is "serving the children of the world".

Kiwanis International is headed by a Board of Trustees, an International President and other officers. These officers are elected at the annual convention of Kiwanis International. There are several dozen administrative districts, each headed by a Governor, and within the districts are smaller divisions, comprising 12 to 20 clubs and headed by a Lieutenant Governor.

Defining Statement

"Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world, one child and one community at a time."


Kiwanis has adopted six "Objects" to help guide activities:
  • To give primacy to the human and spiritual rather than to the material values of life.
  • To encourage the daily living of the Golden Rule in all human relationships.
  • To promote the adoption and the application of higher social, business, and professional standards.
  • To develop, by precept and example, a more intelligent, aggressive, and serviceable citizenship.
  • To provide, through Kiwanis clubs, a practical means to form enduring friendships, to render altruistic service, and to build better communities.
  • To cooperate in creating and maintaining that sound public opinion and high idealism which make possible the increase of righteousness, justice, patriotism, and goodwill.


The organization was founded on January 21, 1915, in Detroit, Michiganmarker, by Joseph G. Prance (a tailor) and Allen S. Browne (a professional fraternity organizer). In August 1914, Browne suggested to Prance the idea of a business and professional men's club with social and commercial benefits. Prance was sold on the idea, and in 1915 the Kiwanis Club of Detroit, Michigan, was founded. Kiwanis became international with the organization of the Kiwanis club of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, 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 inhabited continents of the globe.

The original purpose of Kiwanis was to exchange business between members and to serve the poor. The debate as to whether to focus on networking or service was resolved in 1919, when Kiwanis adopted a service-focused mission. Each year, clubs sponsor nearly 150,000 service projects and raise more than $107 million. As a global project in coordination with UNICEF, members and clubs contributed more than $80 million toward the global elimination of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), the leading preventable cause of mental retardation.

Until 1988 the organization accepted only men as members. By action of the International Convention in 1987, the rules were changed to admit women as well. Currently women constitute about 22% of total members.


Kiwanis tries to serve children and youth using two approaches.One attempts to improve the quality of life directly through activities promoting health, education, etc. The other tries to encourage leadership and service among youth. In pursuit of the latter goal, Kiwanis sponsors about 7,000 youth service clubs with nearly 320,000 youth members.

Kiwanis members have tried to help shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, mentor the disadvantaged, and care for the sick. They have built playgrounds and raised funds for pediatric research.

In 2007, the charitable financial arm, Kiwanis International Foundation, was awarded the top rating by an independent evaluator.

Kiwanis Family

Kiwanis provides leadership and service opportunities for youth through its Service Leadership Programs.

Key Club

Kiwanis founded and supports Key Club International. Started in Sacramento, Californiamarker in 1925, Key Club it is the oldest and largest service program for high school students in the world. There are about 5000 Key Clubs, primarily in the United States and Canada, but with clubs also in Central and South America, Caribbean nations, Asia, and Australia. Worldwide membership is more than 250,000 high school students.

Circle K

The collegiate version of Kiwanis, which maintains some autonomy from Kiwanis, is Circle K International, also known as CKI. The first official Circle K club was chartered in September, 1947 at the campus of Carthage College (then in Illinois). Current membership is over 12,000 members in 17 countries, making Circle K the largest collegiate service organization of its kind in the world.

K-Kids, Builders Club, Aktion Club, Kiwanis Junior

Key Club, Circle K, Builders Clubs and K-Kids are part of Kiwanis Service Leadership Programs. They are sponsored by a local Kiwanis Club and receive funding and professional guidance from Kiwanis. K-Kids (elementary school), Builders Club (middle school) and Aktion Club (for people who have disabilities) are considered Kiwanis-led programs. Key Club and Circle K elect their own club, district, and International officers each year to lead the organization. Kiwanis Junior is part of the European Service Leadership Program, with clubs in Austriamarker, Germanymarker and Italymarker, and is typically for people ages 18–35. KIWIN'S (high school) is exclusive to the California-Nevada-Hawaii district.

Before 1987, Kiwanis auxiliary clubs known as KIWANIANNES, made up of wives of members of the men-only Kiwanis clubs, also existed. With the changes that made it possible for women to join Kiwanis clubs, official sponsorship of the auxiliary clubs ended. Some Kiwanianne clubs merged with their affiliated Kiwanis club, while others converted into independent Kiwanis clubs.

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