Interview with MGO Carolyn Ferguson

The Rotary Foundation Canada had the opportunity to have a conversation with Senior Major Gifts Officer Carolyn Ferguson, MGO for Zone 28.
  • How long have you worked for The Rotary Foundation?
In September 2021 I celebrated 11 years on staff.
  • What did you do before you started working for The Rotary Foundation?
I had a mixed career in both human resources, training and development and sales. Once I realized I could use all these skills for good by working for a charity, I was sold on the idea and made the move. I spent seven wonderful years working for the Heart and Stroke Foundation in a variety of roles, and during that time, joined Rotary as a member (influenced by my Rotarian Father and Past Centennial Governor-David Seabrook). It was a colleague from Heart and Stroke that alerted me to the job posting with Rotary for a Canadian based staff member. I would have had no idea that my volunteer organization of choice could be my employer as well. Lucky me, and twelve interviews later, I was hired!  
  • What does a major gifts officer do?
We have one Rotary Foundation with eleven different ways to direct a gift. With this much choice comes the challenge of interpretation. I would say this role focuses on making meaning connections with individuals/couples to better understand their philanthropic priorities and inviting their major gift and/or planned gifts and bequests to make their charitable vision a reality through the programs of the Rotary Foundation.  
  • In the eleven years you've worked for The Rotary Foundation what changes have you seen?
Starting in 2010, we had just launched the new future vision areas of focus, and all of the customized major gift and legacy support opportunities related to these areas, which has really opened the doors for donors to be more deeply invested in the areas of Rotary’s work that matter most to them. I have also witnessed amazing progress and expansion in our peace building efforts through the Peace Centers programs and the addition of new locations, thanks to the continued generosity of individual donors and Peace building districts. Polio case counts were still in the hundreds each year, now only 4 cases in 2021- which is truly something be excited about; especially as we take full advantage of the Gates $50 Million dollar 2:1 match each year.         
  • You just completed a graduate diploma at SFU, how have you been able to apply those new skills to your work with The Rotary Foundation in Canada?
My Non-Profit Management program from Simon Fraser University was an opportunity to learn more about fundraising practices in a Canada specific culture. Ideas regarding fundraising and event evaluation were particularly interesting in the context of my work with Major Gift Initiative events and district facilitated Million $ dinner campaigns; and have resulted in new approaches for me.
  • What is the most misunderstood aspect of The Rotary Foundation?
Great question. The one thing that I find myself explaining most is how a gift to The Rotary Foundation can bring local benefit. So often donors assume that giving to the Rotary Foundation means all of the support helps others internationally. It is through the unique and wonderful model that is defined as our Annual fund, that a portion of your gift will be directed back to your home district and through a district grant request from your own Rotary club, possibly back to your home community. Yes, you can give to Rotary and still “give where you live.”
  • What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
For me it is knowing that kindness, peace and goodwill in our world continues to grow with each Major gift to Rotary and each Bequest gift commitment. I feel very fortunate to have had a small role to play in helping facilitate the extraordinary generosity of others and to witness the joy they experience in seeing their gift doing good in the world.   
  • Do you have any advice to share?
Take full advantage of all that the Rotary Foundation has to offer. Not just from a global and district grants standpoint, but from a legacy standpoint. You joined Rotary because service was important to you. Your example is known now to those close to you, your family and friends. Make Rotary your legacy as well. Name a gift to the Rotary Foundation Canada in your estate plans and allow the generations that follow to do good in your name; and allow your family to witness your legacy in action.
I am a second-generation Rotarian. My husband is a Rotarian. My sister is a Rotarian. My daughters have been beneficiaries as exchange students, one is now a Rotaract member. Some might say Rotary is in our DNA. In honour of my father and for my family, I have named Rotary Foundation Canada as a beneficiary of my life insurance policy. This gift commitment will ensure a Family named endowed fund is established to support our continued work to build Peace through the Rotary Peace Centers. This is my family legacy in Rotary. What will yours look like?      
Carolyn Ferguson can be contacted at:
Senior Major Gifts Officer | The Rotary Foundation
Regionally based in Ancaster, Ontario
Office 1-289-239-7190