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Know Your Neighbors: Robin Doeden

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Philanthropy has always been a priority for this professional fundraiser, who’s helping donations to have a lasting impact. Meet the dynamic director of the McHenry County Foundation.

Robin Doeden, shown with a few of the military veterans who have received help in obtaining books and laptops for their education at McHenry County College, thanks to the McHenry County Community Foundation. From Left: Kati Beck, U.S. Air Force (Ret.); Jesus Gelly, U.S. Navy; Jason Memmen, Army National Guard; Doeden; Scott Winchester, U.S. Army Reserve; Jace Fuchs, U.S. Army; Steve Czarnecki, U.S. Navy.

Robin Doeden, shown with a few of the military veterans who have received help in obtaining books and laptops for their education at McHenry County College, thanks to the McHenry County Community Foundation. From Left: Kati Beck, U.S. Air Force (Ret.); Jesus Gelly, U.S. Navy; Jason Memmen, Army National Guard; Doeden; Scott Winchester, U.S. Army Reserve; Jace Fuchs, U.S. Army; Steve Czarnecki, U.S. Navy.

Robin Doeden always pictured a career that involved sports. But life has a way of taking unexpected turns, and she found herself on a different career path. Born and raised in Richfield, Minn., Doeden, who stands 6-foot-1, played volleyball, basketball and golf. Two years ago, Doeden, now a Lake in the Hills resident, joined the McHenry County Community Foundation as executive director. In her new role, she helps to connect donors with organizations in need.

What does the McHenry County Community Foundation do?

Since 2001, the Foundation has been focused on long-term support for nonprofit organizations in McHenry County. We work with families and businesses to set up long-term endowment funds. People get excited about the chance to give back to their community. I help them dig deeper into what they really care about. In 2013, we distributed more than $1 million to 70 organizations, and we gave out eight college scholarships to students.

One of the projects close to my heart is a program to raise funds for student military veterans at McHenry County College. We’ve set up two funds to purchase laptops and books. I’m extremely proud of this project, because the idea came from the students themselves.

When did you first learn about the importance of philanthropy?

My family has always been very philanthropic through church and other activities. Yes, fundraising is about asking for money, but I’ve found it’s easy to do when you’re passionate about the cause. It’s all about helping people. When I was in college, I helped to buy Christmas gifts for a needy family. We asked all of the students in our dorm to donate what they could, and a fellow student came to my door with four quarters. That’s all he had. It really inspired me, and I’ll never forget that moment.

What’s been one of your most memorable experiences with philanthropy?

For 11 years, I was the executive director for the Chicagoland Lutheran Educational Foundation, where we provided funding and educational training to 27 inner-city Lutheran schools.

One day, I went to one school that had budgetary issues, and they asked me to join the kids for lunch. I sat down to the biggest plate of food that I couldn’t even finish. I told the school that they could save money by cutting their meals in half. They said they couldn’t, because it was the only hot meal most of the kids had all day. I looked around and these elementary schoolchildren were cleaning off their plates. It made me very aware of the different situations people are going through. I’m a much more compassionate person now, and I’m grateful for that lesson.

You majored in journalism at Wartburg College. How’d you transition to working in the nonprofit sector?

I love sports. I played some basketball in college, before an injury ended my career, but it pushed me toward my career path. Once basketball was over, I had to figure out who I was and what I was going to do with my life. I became the sports editor for my college newspaper, and I always wanted to work in public relations for a professional sports team, where I could combine my passions of sports and writing.

While it didn’t end up in the direction I thought it would, I was able to land a marketing position where they housed me in the fundraising department of the company. I was excited to see what they were doing with fundraising. Many people, like me, fall into fundraising from different routes. I found a niche that I really enjoyed.

What do you like to do during your free time?

Most of my time revolves around working out or playing sports. That’s my stress reliever. During the summer, I will either be on the golf course or running. I once got a hole-in-one while golfing with my father, the person who introduced me to the sport. I jokingly say my second home is the gym. I can be found there really early in the morning; that’s where I get my energy.

What’s the one thing readers might be surprised to learn about you?

My boyfriend and I own a bar in San Pedro, Belize. We bought the bar, Lola’s Pub, four years ago on April Fool’s Day. Everyone thought it was a joke, but that’s what happens when you spend cold winters in Chicago. It’s a Chicago-themed sports bar, and we see so many people vacationing from Chicago who find us down there. It’s really fun.

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