Meet the DX Team: University of Virginia

Meet the Donor Experience team at the University of Virginia and hear their first-hand experiences connecting with donors.

Emma English

Donor Experience Officer

Jeanna Grimes Ogbar

Donor Experience Officer

Abigail Simmerman

Donor Experience Officer

Joe Montante

Assistant Director, Student Philanthropy

How long have you been a Donor Experience Officer and what was your experience prior to joining the team?

Abigail: I joined the team in July of this year. Before this I graduated UVA in 2021 with a BA and 2022 with an MA. I had gained experience with Admissions, Athletics, and fundraising while a student. 

Jeanna: I’ve been a DXO for three and a half months now. Before this, I was at home with my toddlers, and before that, I managed membership and marketing for a non-profit higher education association.

Emma: I have been a DXO since July 18th, 2022. Prior to joining the team, I was an Orientation Leader at UVA, the Director of Membership and Outreach for Student Council, and a Peer Financial Counselor. I was involved as a student prior to my graduation in summer 2022

What do you love most about your role as a Donor Experience Officer?

Abigail: I love connecting with donors! It is so great to hear stories of UVA past, especially with a school with deep history.

Jeanna: I love connecting with my fellow alums, hearing their stories, and serving as their connection back to the university from which I have so many great memories.

Emma: I get to connect with other alumni who are passionate about UVA!

Do you have a story about your experience connecting with donors?

Abigail: I connected with a donor for my first meeting in the position. She graduated in the  1960s from the Nursing program, before women were accepted into all schools of the University. She was thrilled to tell me tales of UVA, like having dinner with the President who oversaw coeducation, and even more thrilled when I told her UVA is now more than  50% women. She is a wonderful person and I loved talking with her.

Emma: I am currently working with a donor on setting up an endowed scholarship for UVA Men’s Soccer!

What is the most challenging part of your role?

Abigail: It can be tough to talk with donors who have lost their passion for the school, and are uninterested in finding it again.

Jeanna: It still stings a little when a donor doesn’t want to talk or expresses distaste for my outreach – fortunately, this doesn’t happen often!

Emma: Time management. If you aren’t on top of your workday it can feel overwhelming, so plugging in as early as possible helps with the volume.

What are you excited to try next in your DX work?

Abigail: I’m excited to continue to meet new people, and to have my first stewardship meeting this week! 

Jeanna: I love reaching out to donors who have given to the areas I’m also passionate about. It may be interesting to segment out those donors and see if I have more success or better results with them and if I can learn anything about my approach for all donors in my portfolio.

Emma: Meeting donors in person or texting! These are both great ways to boost engagement.

What advice do you have for a new Donor Experience Officer?

Abigail: Communicate with your team!! Messaging my fellow DXOs is how I get the best advice, the biggest laughs, and the most support.

Jeanna: Eat the frog! Getting the least-fun tasks out of the way early helps me feel accomplished and ready to attack the rest of my tasks each day. 

Emma: Reach out for help as often as you can, let yourself make mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask questions! This role can help you learn how to be a fundraiser, so humility and teachability will go a long way in the early days of your role.

Where did you grow up and what school did you attend?

Abigail: I grew up in Leonardtown, MD and attended the University of Virginia. 

Jeanna: I grew up in Philly and went to UVA for undergrad. I also went to American University for grad school

Emma: I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, and went to UVA, which is in my hometown. I WILL move at some point, hopefully, next year!

Do you have any children or pets? What are their names?

Abigail: I have one dog, a five month old golden retriever named Sunday.

Jeanna: I have two adorable little kids – Asa and Hazel. 

Emma: I have two cats, one is a fluffy, hyper black kitten named Poe (1yr/old) and the other is a chonky, sweet orange cat named George (8 yrs/old)

What is your hidden talent?

Abigail: I was a competitive sailor back in the day, I can get a boat moving fast! 

Jeanna: I make a really good vegetarian Philly cheesesteak!

Emma: Cooking! I am an excellent cook and its one of my passions 🙂

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