Member Spotlight: (Volunteer Appreciation Edition)

Carrie Flood
Dalhousie University  
Director, Donor Relations

Corey Smentek
Director, Donor Relations & Stewardship


Carrie and Corey currently lead ADRPs marketing and communications committee.

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Member Spotlight: Karen J. Hamilton

Karen J. Hamilton

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
Director of Donor Relations and Stewardship


Background Info

Can you tell us about your career trajectory? How did you come into donor relations as a career?

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March 2023 - In Service: The Column of the ADRP President

Cheryl Smith Lintner

Executive Director, Donor Relations

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation

Have you heard of the Swedish tradition, fika? According to Google’s Oxford Languages dictionary, fika is defined as “a break from activity during which people drink coffee, eat cakes or other light snacks, and relax with others.” I first heard about this custom in 2020 in the midst of a flurry of idea-sharing about how to manage remote teams and keep in touch with friends during the pandemic. And I thought, wow, you had me at coffee. But also the “break” and “relax with others” parts were appealing. I started holding virtual fikas first with friends, then with colleagues, and now with my team. Every other Friday, we log on to Zoom for a Friday afternoon fika. No work talk. Just coffee (or tea), a little BYOS (bring your own snacks), and a chat. It’s been a great way to unwind, vent, and celebrate - to be among people who share common interests and genuinely want to get to know each other better. 

And that, my friends, is the essence of ADRP. We are a group of like-minded people who share a common interest and want to get to know each other better. So I encourage all of you to start your own little fika. Have you been exchanging messages with someone on MyADRP and want to talk face-to-face? Did you meet an awesome fellow newcomer at an event last year? Are you looking to pull together colleagues who live in your area (psst…the ADRP Office can help with that)? Host a fika! 

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Self Care? Say No! 

Suzanne Bellanger

Brown University

Associate Director, Direct Response & Stewardship Marketing

Recently my college-aged daughter texted me an image of her freshly manicured (blue! pointy!) nails and titled it “self-care”. She’d had a rough week acclimating back to school after winter break and felt the need to do something for herself. Self-care as a “thing” is pretty buzzy these days and she buys into it wholeheartedly. And I admire her for it. She’s a serious student and she tends to be anxious in a lot of situations. But she’s also really good at recognizing internal cues and understanding when she needs to indulge a bit in order to refocus or redirect. It’s a talent she didn’t inherit from me.   

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Member Spotlight: Noël Schiber

Background Info
Can you tell us about your career trajectory? How did you come into donor relations as a career?

My degree in communications led to an internship at a science museum’s development office where I began to learn all the tools of the trade. It turns out that I had a knack for storytelling and wonderful mentors in the cultural realm, medicine, and youth development who gave me opportunities to hone it!

What influenced your interest in and passion for donor relations?

Every day, I get to meld data with heartfelt experiences and stories to build positive, rich relationships among the people who benefit from our mission and the people who believe in them. It’s a perfect job for someone like me who wears their heart on their sleeve!

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The Hub wants to hear from you!

Our skill set as a Donor Relations professional prepares us to be ready in many different situations and scenarios. This got us thinking. What other career could you see yourself in if you were not in the Donor Relations world? Leave a comment on the post in link below to let us know your thoughts! 


Member Spotlight: Sonja Dotson

Sonja Dotson

Associate Director of Donor Relations for Principal Gifts

Western Michigan University


Background Info: 

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In Service: The Column of the ADRP President - January 2023

Cheryl Smith Lintner

Executive Director of Donor Relations

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation


Let me tell you about Sheryl Blair, one of ADRP’s most incredible volunteers. Sheryl was an ADRP board member who is said to have volunteered “tirelessly for people she would likely never meet, in countries when she’d never be able to visit, and did so happily with very little fanfare… it was her passion—the endless work of connecting people…” Read her full biography on ADRP’s website.

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From the Editors - January 2023

Marcelle Austin, Editor

Suzanne Bellanger, Associate Editor

Rachel Humphrey, Associate Editor

Almost nine months ago, we introduced you to The Hub’s editorial board of Marcelle, Rachel, and Suzanne. We are so very pleased to bring you this newsletter each month. Thank you to all readers (almost 3K!). Thank you to the many contributors who have been gracious enough to partner with us so far. Thank you to the ADRP staff who are integral to delivering this member benefit.

We’ve made a lot of changes since we started, and we’d like to show it off and invite you to be a part of The Hub–new and improved!

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The Missing Voice

Kathleen Diemer

Associate Vice President, Advancement Relations

George Mason University 

Gather with any group of donor relations professionals and talk will eventually turn to best practices. How do we create the perfect reports, recognition pieces and events?  What innovative programs or activities will surprise and delight our donors?

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December 2022 - In Service: The Column of the ADRP President

Cheryl Smith Lintner

Executive Director of Donor Relations

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation


There’s a song by The Counting Crows called “A Long December” that gets a lot of play this time of year (hello, ‘90s teen over here). The chorus line, “It’s been a long December, and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last,” is both melancholy and hopeful. December is the time of the year to review goals and outcomes, start performance evaluations, recount our successes, and reflect on our mistakes. As a self-professed Type-A personality, it’s the latter that weighs most heavily on me. I made a lot of mistakes this year; we all did. I spelled a donor’s name wrong on their plaque, misread a contract, forgot to update a colleague on an important issue, hit send on that email before it was ready…and so on.

At the time, these mistakes felt like epic fails. But now, as I review the year and think back on them, I realize I learned something with every single one. My mistakes resulted in improved processes, created better and more intentional communication, and helped my team grow stronger and more focused. ADRP board member Marian Johnson said it best: while mistakes may feel like epic fails at the time, think of them instead as falling forward. Failure is a pretty strong word. But falling? Falling offers the opportunity to get back up and do it right the next time. And forward, well, that’s obvious. Don’t let mistakes set you back. Learn from them, laugh at them (if you can!), and move on. It has been a long December in a long year—and next year will be better than the last.

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Silencing Doubt: My Validation Wall

Sean Valentine
Director of Stewardship & Donor Relations
Wilbraham & Monson Academy


Stewardship and donor relations can be stressful. Anyone who has ever spelled a donor’s name wrong, forgotten that a specific board member’s spouse can’t eat fish, left someone off an invitation list or (inhales deeply) out of the annual report, knows of what I speak. It is just part of the deal; as fulfilling and vital as our work is, it is not delightful 100% of the time. Paraphrasing President Lincoln, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But for me the challenges are more complex. 

In addition to everything our work throws at us daily, I have a +1 that I bring to the stress party: my own diagnosed mental health challenges. Yes friends, like so many people around the world, my noggin plots against me. At work, its favored way of doing so is by giving me a terrible case of imposter syndrome. This is ridiculous, not to mention inaccurate and unwarranted. A masters degree, work as a mentor, satisfactory yearly evaluations, and a solid career across multiple organizations say otherwise. “Regardless,” answers a voice, “you don’t know what you are doing!” It is a persistent little bugger, and sometimes it is LOUD. 

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Member Spotlight: Jacqueline Yau

Q&A with Jacqueline Yau, Medical Center Development, Stanford University, Associate Director, Donor Relations

Can you tell us about your career trajectory? How did you come into donor relations as a career?

I’ve spent much of my career in marketing and communications in the private sector building programs, increasing brand value, rolling out products, and deepening consumer engagement. In the decade prior to joining donor relations, I started my own marketing consultancy. Between projects, a college friend sent me an email to inquire if I was interested in interviewing for a possible six-month contract, outside of my normal projects, to help her friend who was going on maternity leave. That position resided in my current work group. Although the initial contract position was eliminated, I was later offered the opportunity to interview for another position on the team. Despite enjoying the independence and variety of my marketing career, I found working in donor relations for Stanford Medicine really satisfying, fun, and filled with intelligent and good people. I was ready for a career pivot. I just loved my team, the mission of our group, and our culture.

What influenced your interest in and passion for donor relations? 

When I look back over my career and volunteer work, I have always been interested in connecting people and engaging them whether it’s volunteering and working on my college reunion, building a brand loyalty program, or stewarding our donors to ensure we connect them to the joy of their giving. We serve as the voice of the donor. It’s a privilege to help donors understand the impact of their philanthropy.

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November 2022 - In Service: The Column of the ADRP President

Cheryl Smith Lintner

Executive Director, Donor Relations

Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation

November is National Gratitude Month in the U.S. but every month is gratitude month for donor relations professionals, right? It’s what we do best. Let me tell you a story (‘cause that’s what I do). A few years ago I was asked to lead a gratitude exercise at a staff retreat. I really wanted to show not only what it feels like to receive gratitude but to also give it. I handed out blank thank-you cards and instructed everyone to take ten minutes to write a thank-you note expressing gratitude to a colleague in the room. We talked about how it felt to receive a thank-you note (good, right?), but also how it felt to write them. Many of us were surprised that writing them felt good, too! All smiles. 

The next day, I delivered the notes, including one I wrote to a colleague named Jim. I didn’t know Jim well, but I did notice that he always made it a point to publicly acknowledge when someone helped him or did something amazing. So my note thanked Jim for that — for taking the time to recognize greatness and compassion in others. Jim showed up in my office the next day and thanked me for the thank-you note. He shared that it’s really important to him to give kudos to others, and he was so touched that I noticed he did that. And again, we both felt good. We were both all smiles. And that sentiment continued over the next few days in the office — colleagues thanking each other for thanking each other. It was really great to witness how a very small thing could have such a profound impact for both the receiver and the giver.

If you’re looking for more information about why expressing gratitude is good for both you and the recipient, check out A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik.

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Pour Yourself a Cup of Gratitude

Gracie Herbert
Miami University
Assistant Director of Donor Engagement

 pouring a cup of coffee

Dolly Parton is known for pouring herself a cup of ambition, but I’m here to remind you to pour yourself a cup of gratitude. Gratitude is a word that we as  donor relations professionals understand better than most. November marks a season of focus on gratitude, but as we know, our profession is a never-ending quest to express appreciation. 

As a donor relations professional who is constantly filling others’ cups, I tend to brush off thanks quickly and immediately turn around and thank them. Sound familiar? As the season of giving thanks is upon us, I challenge myself and you to sit with the appreciation your peers provide you and let your cup be filled.

Thanking is not a competition. When gratitude is expressed towards me, I often immediately find a way to thank the other person in return. Although being appreciative of your peers is not a bad thing, learning how to receive compliments and notes of appreciation without immediately thanking the other person is a vital skill to master. Now you might be thinking, “that’s easier said than done,” but it does not have to be. The next time you receive an expression of gratitude I encourage you to slow down, hear the words, repeat the phrase in your head, and not thank the person for something else. Let them know you appreciate hearing their praise, and that you enjoy being able to provide support. Ensure that you have heard their gratitude without entering a competition of who can thank who better! 

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I Know Where All the Bodies Are Buried...

Betsy Teles

The University of Connecticut Foundation, Inc.
Director of Donor Relations & Stewardship

 women peeking over folder

In a recent conversation with a fellow colleague as we grappled with a particularly sensitive donor scenario and its complex history, they commented, “What would we do without you? You know where all the bodies are buried!” This led me to reflect on the many similar scenarios I’ve helped resolve, the donor preferences I’ve captured and explained, the development professionals I’ve helped onboard, the special touch points I’ve created and delivered, and the creative language I’ve crafted to address the most sensitive situations.

I suspect many of you out there could say the same. Donor relations professionals remain laser-focused on ensuring all donors feel valued, engaged, and appreciated, even amid a global pandemic! Yet, for those of us in the business of recognizing and thanking our donors, we may “forget” our own value to the organizations we dedicate ourselves to and our collaborative efforts remain “hidden” in the more public profile of total dollars raised. Coming out of our annual ADRP Conference, this has always been one of my main takeaways – the validation that our work is critical, appreciated, and even innovative! 

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Member Spotlight: Rebecca Geragosian

Background Info: 
Can you tell us about your career trajectory? How did you come into donor relations as a career?

When I was a freshman in college, I started a work study position in the Parent and Alumni Relations Office. That was the first time I had heard of this line of work. But I quit in favor of taking a job in the bookstore that came with discounts! I did not even think about it as a career. After graduation, I took an administrative assistant job in donor relations as a way to get my foot in the door of a well-respected school. My plan was to work on a graduate degree and work to support that, but I fell in love with this specific aspect of fundraising and development. That job gave me a strong foundation once I was willing to consider that it might not be a pass-through opportunity, and might be a rewarding, meaningful way to earn a living.

What influenced your interest in and passion for donor relations? 

I had one mentor/boss who really encouraged me to try different aspects of donor relations work and supported healthy risk taking, encouraged me to figure out what I was good at, and supported my growth. When I started learning more about philanthropy, and considered the less transactional side of what we do—focusing on the relationships and impact—I realized that I could earn a living, do something rewarding for me, and have an impact on others.

What lessons, words of advice/inspiration would you like to pass on to other donor relations professionals?

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From the ADRP Research Committee: Donor Retention

When focusing on what our donors want from us, we deepen their connection. We survey our donors — ask what resonates with them and how they want us to communicate. And in an ideal world, we create stewardship that drives future giving.

But in the ideal world, there are no budgets, competing priorities, or staff shortages. In reality, few shops can achieve all of their most ambitious goals. We must focus our limited resources on the greatest impact on giving — donor retention.

We know it costs less to retain a donor than to acquire a new one. But what can we do that will drive our donors to give again and again?

In their 2019 research study titled “Giving Intention Versus Giving Behavior: How Differently Do Satisfaction, Trust, and Commitment Relate to Them?” authors Jen Shang, Adrian Sargeant, and Kathryn Carpenter offer one approach: increase donor satisfaction and commitment. 

Satisfaction is “how donors feel about the way they are treated as a donor.”

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Donor Relations at its Scariest

Here are ten things that can be hair-raising for even the most seasoned donor relations professional. Most times, it’s all about the recovery. Have any of these happened to you? Feel free to share your story in the comments.
  • Getting personal information wrong on correspondence
  • Publishing an anonymous donor’s name
  • Mispronouncing a donor’s name
  • Saying something negative about a problem donor in front of the wrong person
  • Sending something addressed to a deceased donor and their living spouse
  • Missed donation acknowledgement 
  • Bad press!
  • Duplicate donor record in the CRM
  • Failure to respect the donor’s communication preferences
  • Soliciting a donor right after they made a generous gift
  • And the scariest of all… PRODUCING ANNUAL FINANCIAL REPORTS 

Member Spotlight: Eshon Allen

Eshon Allen
UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Assistant Director of Stewardship
Background Information:
1. Can you tell us about your career trajectory? How did you come into donor relations as a career?
My journey into the fundraising world and donor relations came out of a natural progression of customer service jobs I held in my early years. I worked in retail management straight out of college and then moved on to be a grants assistant in higher education. Those jobs taught me how to serve and assist people with grace, patience and attention to detail. It wasn’t until I worked as a temp at a mid-size non-profit that I realized how much those earlier jobs prepared me to serve donors. I saw the commonalities between serving customers and serving the philanthropic community—with that same level of grace, patience and attention to detail. More importantly, the donor relations world seemed a perfect match for what some called my talent for making people feel seen, heard and appreciated. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to use my innate personality traits as well as learned skills in a career that suits me so well.

2. What influenced your interest in and passion for donor relations? 
I didn’t know until later in life what “donor relations” was. It wasn’t a field that was widely marketed to me in college or a career I saw others involved in. But once I got my foot in the door at a non-profit, I quickly developed a passion for it. I was influenced by the joy I saw on a donor’s face when I greeted them by name as they arrived at my events (“I can’t believe you remember my name!”), or by the emotion a donor expressed when I shared a heartfelt thank you letter from a student they supported. Knowing that even the smallest things I contributed made such a big impact on the mission not only gave me a sense of passion, but a sense of purpose. I was hooked!

3. What lessons, words of advice/inspiration would you like to pass on to other donor relations professionals?
Don’t underestimate the power of listening. Listening to a donor is obviously integral to the work that we do, but picking up on the small details in what a person says can guide you in meeting a donor’s needs and help you enrich their experiences. It can guide you in knowing what information you feel the donor will benefit from receiving and what might bring them the most joy. Sometimes I think we get stuck in the rut of the template stewardship approach, when really hearing what a donor wants or needs can better guide us to more customized engagement. Listening to yourself is also vital. Knowing when you can truly be of service or when boundaries must be set so you can do your job well is something I think we all have had to rediscover over the past two years. 

4. Can you talk about a specific donor engagement or stewardship activity that makes you feel like you are providing the best experience for donors and/or aid recipients?  
When we went into remote work at the onset of the pandemic, I was eager to use video messages to steward our donors and, luckily, I was able to get my team on board with the quick shift in approach. Because I work for a music school, I have always wanted to do a better job of actually sharing music with our donors who have made so much of it possible. I created personalized videos of our student musicians singing or performing the “Happy Birthday Song” for the monthly donor birthday program. In the past donors only received a template card with a few leadership signatures. Now, they get a warm spoken message and a thoughtful song from a smiling student whose education they helped make possible. The positive feedback from recipients has been overwhelming and validating. We identified what was special about our program, and used that to make our supporters feel connected.
Connection to ADRP: 
1. When did you become an ADRP member? 
Two months before the 2022 ADRP International Conference! After viewing numerous ADRP webinars over the past year and enjoying the resources offered online and via emails, I really felt like the organization was so well suited to my ongoing educational needs and an ideal way to feel more connected to my professional community.

2. Why is ADRP membership important to you? 
ADRP membership will allow me to strengthen my skills as a more well-rounded donor relations professional—something that is very important to me. I am always concerned with my work getting stuck in the bubble of what my campus or unit is used to doing and learning from others across the country seems like a great way to ensure I’m broadening my scope of knowledge. It’s also important for the sense of community ADRP offers. No one can appreciate the hazards, pitfalls and unbelievable stories we all have more than our peers and it really helps to vent with others—sometimes you just have to have a good laugh at it all!

3. ADRP is universally recognized as the authority on donor engagement for the philanthropy profession. In your own words, how does ADRP serve you in the form of professional development?
ADRP serves me and my professional development because of the vast resources it offers, the gatherings it provides, and the community it builds. It truly is a wellspring of information and solidarity.