If you go to Wikipedia and search on the words “service clubs”, you can find a list of American service clubs of various sorts that still survive today. Most of the American ones in the list were founded before Rotary was. The only ones in the list that you can see evidence of in a typical American city are the Loyal Order of Moose (you can see their lodges, but you never seem to meet anyone who is a member), the Volunteers of America (very large and active), and the Knights of Columbus (huge and extremely active).
Other clubs that began in the US, such as Kiwanis, and Lions International, are in the international list in Wikipedia, but most of them are not as old as Rotary.
One thing you have to take into consideration with the success of these organizations in the US is that Americans have a long history of volunteerism and independent charitable action that isn’t as strong as in many other countries. It’s because we don’t wait for – or even trust – the government to fix problems, and we just take care of many things ourselves. Before students enter the workforce, they usually have volunteer work to list on their r?sum?s. (For example, in high school I worked in a drug crisis center, and my girlfriend worked in the pediatric ward of the hospital.)
People in many other countries just don’t understand this phenomenon here. In the mid-1990s, I had to help show a delegation of Czech mayors and businessmen around the city of Hamtramck, Michigan. They were learning how a civic development plan works here. Everywhere they went, something was being run by volunteers. The local bankers had volunteered and formed a civic development corporation to help the city get grants for improvements. The mayor of the second largest Czech city said to me, “Let me see if I understand this. The grant money goes through their banks, their banks take a cut, and then they send it on to the city’s account, right?” I told him, “No, I’m sure all the money goes to the city. Nobody takes a cut of it.” The Czech mayor looked shocked, and said, “Then why do they DO it?!”
The delegation went on to other parts of town. There were volunteers helping with public safety and neighborhood beautification, etc. The Czechs kept wondering how these people were paid. They weren’t paid. Finally, at a big manufacturing company, they couldn’t stand it anymore. A spokesman for the company said, “Our employees go into the public schools as volunteers and help teach math and industrial skills…” A Czech blurted out, “What do they get from it?” The spokesman (an Englishman) looked over at him speechless, but then explained that they didn’t get anything. Some of the Czechs started to get angry, as if they thought people had been tricking them all day. They started shouting, “TELL US CONCRETELY WHAT THEY GET!” There was no answer to this. The volunteers didn’t get anything but a feeling of satisfaction. Things have changed in the past 10 years in the Czech Republic, so Czechs today would have a better understanding of this phenomenon, but it would still probably be a bit disorienting for some of them.
Here is a good article about the reasons service clubs and other such organizations succeed in the US:
Here is one by a British historian that explains something about the American mentality in relation to charity and volunteerism:
forbes.com/columnists/global … 3/018.html