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An early group gathers to meet about the Association of Donor Relations Professionals (photo credit: Debbie Meyers)

Our Story

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. And so it was with the founding of ADRP—formerly the New England Stewardship Conference (NESC). Prior to 1990, there were relatively few professionals dedicated solely to stewardship. But those who were developed an informal network and began meeting as a group that year. The founding members were from the New England area (hence the original name) and focused primarily on higher education. These efforts were spearheaded by Joseph J. Donnelly, Jr., who would later become ADRP's first President.

One of the founding members, Roberta O'Hara, recalls the early days, "Twelve people sitting around a table at Vassar...led to an organization that is now 1,800 strong."

One can only imagine the excitement and synergy that existed among our inaugural members—could it be that there was an entire body of work that could advance an organization by expressing appreciation and demonstrating impact to its donors? A resounding YES! And was there an inherent art and science to this aspect of the fundraising profession? Again, a resounding YES!

Typical of donor relations professionals, this group was energetic, visionary and progressive. They freely shared ideas and used relatively new electronic technology to establish a cohesive network in between annual meetings—which were organized on a volunteer basis and hosted by various institutions.

"All of ADRP's members are very fortunate recipients of the vision, fortitude and 'never give up' attitude of those who have gone before us."–Roberta O'Hara.

Fast forward to 2002 when members decided to hold their conference at a non-institution, advancing their goal of inclusivity. But such a move added a host of complexities that needed to be addressed. And, by now, the importance of the profession was being recognized and the number of members was burgeoning. Time to re-group. 

A group of like-minded colleagues began earnest discussions about the future of the organization. Rather than join forces with other existing, related entities, they decided to blaze their own trail.

Donor relations professionals gather for an educational session at the 2012 ADRP International Conference

So they broadened their reach beyond higher education and illuminated this very specific aspect of development. In 2003, bylaws were adopted and in January 2004 in New Hampshire a newly-formed organization with an international reach was incorporated–the Association of Donor Relations Professionals. Joe Donnelly officially took up the mantle of President of ADRP alongside a stellar founding board. Over the next several years, the organization drafted a strategic plan, launched the website and The Hub monthly newsletter, and hosted the first International Conference. 

ADRP has grown in leaps and bounds since its incorporation in 2004, and the board continues to set ambitious goals to keep up with the speed of the industry and the evolving needs of our membership. Nancy McKinney, who was ADRP’s third and longest serving President, remembers a major priority of the group, “Our evolution was about making sure the organization was sustainable.” Improving and evolving are hallmarks of the Association of Donor Relations Professionals–for individual members and for the organization as a whole. After all, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” as Aristotle observed centuries ago!

Recognizing that “new members are those who will chart the course of where the profession goes,” Nancy McKinney, ADRP President (2006–14) offers sound advice to donor relations/stewardship professionals, “You need to figure out how you can learn through the ADRP network to see how you can improve and evolve. This relates to both you as a professional as well as the program you lead or work in."

Major Milestones

1990: First New England Stewardship Conference

2004: ADRP incorporates and appoints its first President and Board, the First International Conference: Empowering the Profession is held in Syracuse, ADRP website is launched

2006: The e-Hub is launched and membership reaches 500

2007: First strategic plan is adopted and member survey conducted, Southeast Donor Relations Conference (SEDRC) is held jointly with ADRP for the first time

2008: Website transitions to MemberClicks including online processing capabilities and linkage to the member database

2009: ADRP trademark is registered

2010: Inaugural Webinar is launched, CFRE approved provider status is awarded and Blair Scholarships are inaugurated

2011: SBI Management Services hired as association management company, the first New York City Regional is held, membership reaches 1,000

2012: New strategic plan adopted

2013: Knowledge Center content archive is launched

2014: Membership reaches 1,500

2015: First Canadian Regional Conference held in Toronto and first Midwest Regional held in Chicago

2016: The first Los Angeles Regional is held

2017: ADRP International Stewardship Awards launched, new ADRP brand and visual identity launched, first research project with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy conducted

2018: Research collaboration with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, New England Regional is held in Boston - renewing the tradition started by ADRP's founders

2019: Introduction of targeted senior leadership programming as part of the International Conference

Founders

Joe Donnelly
Jenny Hertig
Kati Mann Dombrosky
Jaime Porter
Michelle Robertson
Bonnie Palmer Weeks

Founding Board

President: Joe Donnelly
Vice President: Rose Dalba
Secretary: Jenny Hertig
Treasurer: Roberta O'Hara
Directors:
Cindy Belknap
Leanne Bernaerdt
Kathy Billings
Diana Elvin
Paige Eubanks-Barrow
Linda Humphrey
Debbie Meyers
Toni Robinson
Kathy Ruvolo
Ex-Officio:
Pam Havens
Lisa Honan

Past Presidents:
2003–2004: Joe Donnelly
2004–2006: Rose Dalba
2005–2014: Nancy Lubich McKinney
2014–2015: Erin Moyer
2015–2016: Julie Bostian
2016–2017: Kathleen Diemer
2017–2018: Eliza McNulty