You are here

New Faces: Margo Wolanin and Chad Warren

Duo leads the Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement in new era of fundraising

People  |  Sep 5, 2017  |  By Stacy Willis
Margo Wolanin and Chad Warren

Margo Wolanin and Chad Warren. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Creative Services)

Margo Wolanin and Chad Warren hold newly created leadership positions at UNLV. Wolanin heads the team of fundraising professionals and Warren directs the alumni engagement, regional development, and annual giving teams, two units that were recently united to create the Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement.

What inspired you to get into your field?

Wolanin: The opportunity to make philanthropic dreams come true. It’s such a privilege to work with folks who have earned enough that they can give some of it away to make a really good impact on society.

Warren: You get to make the impossible possible. And although there is a stereotype in philanthropy that it’s not tangible, it actually is. Getting a donor to meet with a student or with a faculty member who is working to cure a disease, or (getting to show the donor) a new building and say, ‘This is because of you.’ Seeing that for the first time is Disneyesque – it’s like a 5-year-old seeing Cinderella’s castle.

Why UNLV?  

Wolanin:  I feel like UNLV’s time is now, and I feel like the university is ready to allow me to actually put into place the things that I have the ability to do — my ability to make something actually happen. At some places you can’t put anything into play. Here, now, we can take action.

Warren: Yes. Opportunity. The opportunity to be a catalyst for positive change under (UNLV) President (Len) Jessup and (Foundation President) Scott Roberts.

What makes UNLV different from other universities?

Wolanin: I think people realize the incredible importance that UNLV has in the future of Las Vegas and the region. There’s a sense of, as UNLV goes, so goes Las Vegas.

Warren: In many industries, 60 years would be considered old. But among universities, we’re considered a young university. It’s exciting to capitalize on that momentum. There’s energy in the air here, you can feel and see the good that is happening.

What are your first impressions of living in Las Vegas?

Wolanin: It’s beautiful. The mountains all around, the sun – it’s a happy place.

Warren: The diversity at UNLV stretches into the community. It’s a melting pot. I love it.

Finish this sentence: “If I couldn’t work in my current field, I would like to …”

Wolanin: … be in geriatric fitness, or any kind of personal coach who can help people realize they are good.

Warren: … be a presidential campaign manager.

What’s the most important quality of a good leader?

Wolanin: Loyalty. Your team has to know that you’re loyal.

Warren: Integrity. Being honest and having strong moral principles is critical.

What do you do in your time off?

Wolanin: I like to work out. I go to the gym. I do spin, bodyflow, boxing. When it’s a little cooler, I’ll do a little climbing. And I like to watch sports, and hang out with friends and family.

Warren: You wouldn’t know it from this body, but I like to run [laughs]. I just signed up for a 10k and I used to run marathons. So I’m getting back into that, it clears my head. Also, I like to go to concerts. I’ve already been to five concerts since I got here.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Wolanin: That I have a softer side. I have a real soft spot for stray animals. I’m a sucker for all of that.

Warren:  To my core, I’m a Christian, and so when someone takes the Lord’s name in vain, if someone says God this or Jesus that, under my breath I’m so conditioned to finish the sentence for them. So if someone says, “Jesus Christ get out of the way!” I’ll say under my breath, “[Jesus Christ] saves, or loves you, or was born on Dec 25th.” I’ll complete the sentence that way. I was just brought up to not take the Lord’s name in vain.

Tell us about a time you did something daring.

Wolanin: I witnessed a bad car accident and the driver didn’t have her seatbelt on. I was the first one there so I ran in and got her out of the car, got her onto the ground and assessed her vital signs. The impact had really sliced her head open. She was going into shock. I stayed with her… In an emergency I’m pretty quick on my feet. I’m the chick you want in the emergency exit seat in an airplane because I will rip that door open so fast you won’t know what hit you [laughs]. I’m good in an emergency.

Warren: Early on in my professional career, I hired someone for a position that was radically different than the norm.  Against the recommendation of 12 others, including my supervisor, I followed my intuition.  Very quickly, it was confirmed that I made the right decision, as the employee was a true value-add to the organization.  Within a year of this employee’s tenure, I was approached by everyone who was initially against my hiring decision, recognizing that the perceived risk paid off.

Tell us about someone you admire and why.

Wolanin: My grandmother. She emigrated from Ireland at 18 with $10 and an extra dress and a clean pair of underwear and that’s it. She worked at Standard Register (document and business services company in Dayton, Ohio), she had four kids, and she was a hard-working woman who did a ton with an 8th grade education. She just followed her gut.

Warren: My adopted mother, who also was my paternal grandmother.  I have learned that anyone can make a baby. But it takes a special woman to raise a child – to love him, nurture him, and guide him.  My beautiful mother raised me since I was 2 – grandmother by chance, but mother by choice. 

Tells us about an object in your office that is significant to you.

Wolanin: It’s a framed poem called “It’s in Your Eyes”.  It was given to me by special donors who were thanking me for helping them make a gift that impacted their entire lives. It reminds me that in this field you have to have fire in your belly, and you also have to be driven by warmth and integrity and want to make people feel good. It’s a very sincere poem and it means a lot to me. 

Warren: A picture I took from an iPhone in 2009, which is now on canvas.  I took the picture in Glencoe, Scotland, which is a place I had always wanted to go because it’s where my ancestors are from. It was a bucket-list trip … It was beautiful in every direction — mountains, a village, river, it had so many different scenes.