Member Profile: Aaron S. Rouse
The advancement bug bit Aaron S. Rouse when he was a college student, working part-time at his college’s alumni/foundation office. Now the director of fund stewardship and management at the University of Nebraska Foundation, Rouse shares some of the wisdom he’s accrued, including the importance of a network of colleagues.
“You are not always going to have the answers,” he says. “But having a network of experts to support you and serve as your resource will add so much value to the work you do.”
Here, Rouse describes his personal advancement journey, which included a stopover at legendary game show The Price is Right, an experience that taught him he should always be prepared to “come on down.”
How did you find your way to advancement and your current role at your institution?
When I was a freshman at Hastings College [in Nebraska, U.S.], my advisor worked in the alumni/foundation office. My first semester finals week was pretty light that year, so they told me that if I wanted to make some money, they had an opening for a student worker over the holidays. So, I started in the file room, filing alumni newspaper clippings and updates. From there, the advancement bug bit me. For all four years of college, I worked as a student worker in the alumni/foundation office and after graduating they offered me a full-time job.
I started as a special projects assistant, which is code for doing the stuff that other people don’t want to do, and it was a great opportunity to learn. Hastings College had a small shop, so I got a lot of great experience in all things advancement. I eventually left Hastings College for an opportunity outside of higher education and spent two years doing donor relations and membership management for Omaha Performing Arts. After a two-year stint there, I found myself wanting to get off of the front lines of advancement work and find a job that was more in the advancement services role. That led me to my current employer, the University of Nebraska Foundation.
My first job at the NU Foundation was in prospect management. I later transitioned to my current role as director of fund stewardship and management. In this role, I oversee all things related to donor funds, including fund management and coding, fund utilization by campus partners, and donor fund reporting.
How did you get involved with CASE, and what have you enjoyed most working with your district?
I attended my first CASE conference in January 2009. One of my colleagues at Hastings College was very involved with the CASE District VI Conference and she encouraged me to apply for a New to the Profession Scholarship that was being offered by the district. I did receive that scholarship and from my first pre-conference session, I was hooked.
Starting with that conference and all of the CASE conferences that followed, I met so many great colleagues and friends that have become my support network. Whether it is something I am dealing with professionally or personally, these are a great group of people that I can reach out to at any time. I love working with so many great people who have such passion for moving the world of advancement forward, making education a priority, and creating opportunities for students.
What’s one professional achievement that you’re particularly proud of?
In my current role, I have a lot of interaction with donors and those who benefit from the donors’ generosity. There is nothing that makes me prouder of what I do than to hear about the impact that philanthropy has on both the recipient and the benefactor. Philanthropy changes lives for both those that give and receive. Just knowing that I may have played a small part in facilitating that connection and those emotions fill me with such joy. It is what drives me to get up and do what I do every day.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
If you want to learn and grow, you have to invest in yourself. You may have a mentor or a colleague that encourages you to get out and learn as much as you can; it ultimately comes down to you taking the action to get out there and do it.
You have to seek out those opportunities to learn. You have to build your relationships and develop your network. You have to be willing to raise your hand and volunteer to be involved. It may not always be easy, it may not be comfortable, and you may not always have the time, but at the end of the day, it is up to you and you alone to invest in yourself.
What’s something you keep on your desk or in your office that’s special to you?
A picture of me and Bob Barker from when I was on The Price is Right. During spring break of my junior year in college, my dad and older sister went to California to see a taping of the show. I had always been a lifelong fan of The Price is Right and adored Bob Barker. It was Bob’s last season as the host and I had to experience a taping of the show, live in person.
I never expected that I would be called to “come on down,” let alone end up on stage, but that’s exactly what happened. My name was called. I found myself on contestants’ row. I had the closest bid on a decorative baker’s rack and found myself on stage next to my childhood idol, Bob Barker. To top it off, I ended up winning a car.
It was one of the most surreal and unbelievable experiences I’ve ever had. In addition to being a great conversation starter, that picture also serves as a constant reminder that you never know when it will be your turn to be called to “come on down.” You don’t know when you are going to be thrust into the spotlight and have everything turn into a blur. The picture is a reminder to always be prepared to “come on down” in life and tune out the bells, whistles, bright lights, and all the distractions of the situation so you can ultimately find success in whatever you are tasked to do.