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?

Humanize your work! It is so easy to fall into the cyclical trap of just doing the tasks that need to be done. It helps me find more satisfaction in my work to listen to the stories donors share, about their why—and to listen to the stories of those impacted by/benefitting from philanthropy. I like to think of donor relations as being the perfect marriage of head and heart in philanthropy. You need both, and it can take work to make sure you are not leaning too heavily on one versus the other.

One piece of advice I’ve received that has been helpful in my career is that if you want something, you need to ask for it. Don’t wait for someone else to ask you what you want. For me, this meant learning to be proactive about my career instead of just going where the breeze blew me.

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? 

The best experiences (my favorites) are the small, curated personal engagement experiences where we introduce a philanthropist to the beneficiary of their support. That type of engagement means more to both parties than any letter, email, video, or phone call I could make as a go-between. As much as possible, I think our job in donor relations is to be the invisible hand facilitating those meaningful connections.

Connection to ADRP: 
When did you become an ADRP member? 

I joined in my own name in 2013. But before that, I had a helpful mentor who would share ADRP resources and sign me up for webinars.

Why is ADRP membership important to you? 

When I was starting out, this was such an important tool in building a strong foundation in the basics. It then became a great resource to learn about how to take things from good to great by listening to other professionals. The listserv was one of my favorite tools from the beginning because there was a constant flurry of ideas in my inbox, about things I was challenged by, or doing well with. Those conversations and connections helped me level up a few times. When I was laid off during COVID and had to let my membership lapse, I was devastated to lose those connections and access to ideas in the community. It was wonderful when I could renew my membership again, and regain that access to people and information that I had lost.

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?

For me, the greatest thing I get from ADRP is a sense of reassurance or gut check from other professionals out in the world—that what I am doing is in service of a great donor experience. At one point or another, all of us have experienced the feeling that we are the one voice in the room advocating for something and it can start to make you second guess yourself. This community is a great way to pressure test ideas. I love that ADRP members have a growth mindset and that even in failure, we can learn something from each other’s work.


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