Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 by a group of businessmen in Detroit. The organization was originally called the Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order of Brothers, but changed its name to Kiwanis a year later.
The name “Kiwanis” was coined from an American Indian expression, “Nunc Kee-wanis,” which means, “We trade.” In 1920, the motto of Kiwanis became “We Build.” It remained the motto until 2005, when members voted to change it to “Serving the children of the world.” In the early years, members focused on business networking but in 1919, the organization changed its focus to service — specifically service to children.
Kiwanis became an international organization with the founding of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1916. Kiwanis clubs formed in communities across the United States and Canada until the 1960s, when worldwide expansion was approved. Today, Kiwanis clubs are helping children thrive, prosper and grow in nearly 80 nations and geographic locations.
All people are welcome to participate in the Kiwanis movement of improving communities for children. In 1987, Kiwanis became a co-ed organization as women were invited to join after a years long effort to amend the Kiwanis Constitution. In 2008, delegates approved a resolution that calls for Kiwanis clubs to celebrate and foster inclusiveness.
The Kiwanis Mission
Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time.
The Kiwanis Vision
Kiwanis will be a positive influence in communities worldwide – so that one day, all children will wake up in communities that believe in them, nurture them and provide the support they need to thrive.
Celebrating and fostering inclusiveness
In 2008, delegates at the Kiwanis International convention adopted a resolution that encourages and empowers clubs to create environments that develop and nurture mutual respect for all, and to celebrate the inclusiveness of all Kiwanis members. The language reads:
Therefore, be it resolved that the delegates assembled at the 2008 Kiwanis International convention in Orlando, Florida, and all Kiwanis leaders and members to take action to create a culture and club environment that develops and nurtures mutual respect for all and celebrates the inclusiveness of our beloved Kiwanis.”