Faces of WID - January 2020

Headshot of Erin Stone EricsonName: Erin Stone Ericson 

Title & Organization: Director of Advancement at School Year Abroad 

WID Role: Member 
Hometown: Jaffrey, NH 
Lives Currently: Salem, NH 
Education: BS in Clinical and Research Psychology from Eastern Nazarene College (ENC), MS in Marriage and Family Therapy also from ENC 
Hobbies: Traveling, hiking, playing tabletop games, reading (I “read my age,” meaning I read the number of books equal to my age each year). 

When and how did you join the development field? What path brought you to your current role? 

Like many people in the field, I came into development by accident. I was offered a full-time position by my alma mater upon graduating, at a time when unemployment was on the rise. That position included 30 hours in Institutional Advancement covering for a woman who was on maternity leave. It was all somewhat cobbled together and temporary at the time, and I didn’t know what “Institutional Advancement” was when I started. Then, inevitably, I spent the next seven years doing everything from gift entry to endowment reports to running the leadership giving society. 

In 2015 I was ready for a new challenge and was hired as the Director of Annual Giving at School Year Abroad (SYA). After two years, I was promoted to Associate Director of Advancement, and then to the position of Director of Advancement last summer. 

Tell us a bit about the organization for which you currently work and why fundraising is important to it. 

Founded in 1964, School Year Abroad, while classified as a NEASC-accredited independent school, functions very differently from your typical school. Our students come from U.S. high schools and choose to live with a host family and earn academic credit abroad at one of our four campuses (China, France, Italy or Spain). 

Many of our alumni say that SYA was the most important and formative year of their educational career. Students learn a new culture and language, which, frankly, involves a fair amount of failure and humiliation. But they become resilient, empathetic and creative through that process. In today’s world, the need is great for leaders with these qualities – – leaders who can see the world from another perspective and engage on a human level. 

Despite being a 55-year-old organization, the Development program at SYA is young and complex. We have students and families for only ONE year and we don’t have immediate access to typical campus resources – like students, faculty, or even a central location where we can host reunions and events – which forces us, much like our students, to be creative. 

The next phase for SYA will be realized through The Campaign for SYA, our first-ever comprehensive capital campaign with an $18 million goal. This is our opportunity to secure and bolster the SYA experience, as well as stride confidently into new areas of innovation. 

Why did you join WIDGB?  

A friend and colleague in the field, Katie Kozin, is a WID Board member and she has always been a huge proponent. I wanted to join especially at this point in my career because I value tremendously the wisdom and partnership of other women professionals. 

What do you look forward to as a WID member? 

I look forward to attending more WID seminars and events. I find many of the topics to be relevant and helpful, and I appreciate learning from others about trends and effective strategies. I use the knowledge I come away with in conversations with organizational leaders and the Board. 

Can you share with us an inspiring development story from your career? 

Early in my development career I was in a meeting with high-level development volunteers (many of whom I worked with closely). In listening to the conversation, I recognized that I had knowledge about giving trends and the organization’s constituents that would be helpful, and I asked my boss if I could contribute to the conversation. He told me I was “there to take notes, not to speak.” It was so demoralizing. Fast forward to today: I give presentations to and work closely with our Board, I lead the strategy for my team and make high-level asks, and I sit at a leadership table where my contributions are welcomed and appreciated. I took that past rejection and used it as motivation to prove myself and my worth, and most importantly, to find my voice. 

What advice would you offer to someone new in the field of Development? 

Make sure to get some experience in a small shop! The opportunities are vast and the learning curve is steep. Because you wear many hats and have limited resources, you are forced to be creative and collaborative. In those settings, I learned quickly and got a deeper appreciation for the demands of each role. Now, as a leader for my team, I understand the time and complexity involved when devising strategies and making requests of my teammates.

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