Rotary Foundation manager upgrades fundraising skills

Being the only Canadian employee of an international non-profit organization comes with a unique set of challenges. But Carolyn Ferguson stepped up at her workplace by implementing principles she learned from SFU’s Non-Profit Management Certificate

Carolyn was offered a role as the only Canadian major gifts officer at the Rotary Foundation 11 years ago, after volunteering with the organization for some time. The foundation’s main offices are located in the U.S., but its members support a number of international projects, including initiatives to eradicate polio, provide education and healthcare for women and children, and bring clean water and sanitation to communities in need. 

“I love being able to help individuals see their vision for how they can do good in the world, and helping that vision become reality,” she says. 

Carolyn used to make trips every month to meet donors from across the country, but when the pandemic halted all travel, she had to find alternative fundraising tools and methods.

While she was searching for new ideas, SFU’s certificate piqued her interest because its curriculum focuses on non-profit management strategies within a Canadian context. Being from Ontario, Carolyn is intimately familiar with the Rotary Foundation’s Canadian programs and wondered how she could help grow those initiatives. 

“I’m really the only staff voice in the organization for Canadian content and trends and what’s going on in Canada right now,” she explains. “The certificate gave me perspectives on Canada-specific strategies that I could relay back to my employer.” 

Although she initially enrolled in the certificate to upgrade her skills for a Canadian context, Carolyn found herself sharing the wealth of information from courses with colleagues in the U.S. Her employer gave her the freedom to pilot new strategies from her studies for a fundraising event she was hosting, which allowed her to put her learning into practice immediately. She was also able to offer recommendations from her learnings to the chair of the Rotary Foundation Canada's board. 

“The program added value for me, my employer and really, for my donors, because it made me a better communicator and fundraiser,” she says. “You can accomplish so much if you’re willing to think differently about how to do your job.” 

By Bernice Puzon