Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 by a group of businessmen in Detroit, Michigan, United States. 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, women were invited to join. In 2008, delegates approved a resolution that calls for Kiwanis clubs to celebrate and foster inclusiveness.