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Guest Profile


Holger Knaack


Rotary International

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Holger Knaack

Holger Knaack, a member of the Rotary Club of Herzogtum Lauenburg-Mölln, Germany, was selected to serve as president of Rotary International in 2020-21.

To build a stronger membership, Knaack says Rotary must focus on increasing the number of female members and transitioning Rotaractors into Rotarians.


A Rotary member since 1992, Knaack has served Rotary as treasurer, director, moderator, member and chair of several committees, representative for the Council on Legislation, zone coordinator, training leader, and district governor.


He is an endowment/major gifts adviser and co-chair of the Host Organization Committee for the 2019 Rotary International Convention in Hamburg.


Knaack is the CEO of Knaack KG, a real estate company. He was previously a partner and general manager of Knaack Enterprises, a 125-year-old family business.


He is a founding member of the Civic Foundation of the City of Ratzeburg and served as president of the Golf-Club Gut Grambek. Knaack is also the founder and chair of the Karl Adam Foundation.


Knaack and his wife, Susanne, are Major Donors to The Rotary Foundation and members of the Bequest Society.

Episode Overview

President of Rotary International, Holger Knaack, discusses the importance of attracting more female members and young professionals; ensuring diversity within their 36,000 clubs and 1.2m members


We discuss Rotary International’s charitable work in local and global settings. They are the largest service club organisation in the world and operate in more than 200 countries.  While clubs are independent they all follow core values. 


Holger is looking to increase the number of female members who join Rotary International as well as the number of young professionals. Diversity is vital and much progress has been achieved on this front in recent years.


Rotary International supports a wide range of charitable activities.  Holger specifically references polio eradication, a successful initiative they started decades ago in the Philippines, which has led them to collaborate with key global partners, such as WHO, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 


Holger also talks about Rotary International’s support of peace initiatives and notes they’re currently partnering with seven universities in the world to run peace projects; where people are conducting masters studies in peace to drive this field forward globally.


Rotary International is both local and global. They support local service projects as well as international projects focused on water, and on maternal and children’s health in Africa and India, for example. Since Rotary clubs are everywhere, they can interact internationally for charitable work unlike many other organisations.


Rotary International is a very flat organisation and has been around for 115 years. There’s just one president — interestingly, Holger’s term is just one year in duration — and there are 17 directors, and then 530 district governors around the world.


Holger’s key takeaway: Rotary is probably different than you thought. It’s a different organisation than it was 100 years ago. It’s not an old man’s organisation that is about going to lunch. Rotary is a vibrant organisation with many different clubs that fit your needs. Rotary clubs are looking to make lasting, positive change in the community, in the world, and within ourselves.

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Additional Resources

Rotary International - Website

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