By Morgan Cluck, HGOco Intern
Jennifer Wijangco turned the frame that sits on her desk at HGO so that I could see it. In it was the ticket to the first opera she ever saw: Houston Grand Opera’s production of The Tales of Hoffmann on November 15, 1992. “On this night,” Jennifer says, “I fell in love with opera.” That’s what made her decision to work at HGO so easy when she came here about three and a half years ago to be the director of development in individual giving.
After studying art history and finance at the University of Texas in Austin, Wijangco began working in corporate finance. However, after about five years in that industry, Wijangco realized that she wanted to devote her talents to the arts, so she went back to pursue her master's at the University of Oregon. There, she studied arts management with a concentration in museum studies and received a certificate in 501(c)3 management. After receiving her degree, she found her way to the Texas Cultural Trust, which acted as a stepping stone into the world of development for her. From there, she continued to work in development at various art museums. It wasn’t until three and a half years ago that Wijangco dusted off her Tales of Hoffmann ticket, moved to Houston, and found her way into the Development Department at HGO.
As the director of development in individual giving, Wijangco has about 120 donors under her wing. Between fostering good stewardship and maintaining a solid retention rate for these donors, Wijangco interacts with people like it’s her job…because it is her job! And it can generally be assumed that in order to be a successful fundraiser, you have to be a “people person.” But Wijangco adds: “You don’t have to be an extrovert to work in development.”
Being introverted can actually be an asset. A self-described introvert herself, Wijangco says she focuses on being a good listener. “You’re doing it wrong if you’re talking the whole time,” she says. By listening, she learns about the person in a deeper way and is able to understand the way they think and make more meaningful connections. After all, her passion for development stems from a genuine interest in people and what motivates them. “No one has to give [money to] anything, but we still do. We all want to help people,” she says. And if Wijangco can help people help others, she considers herself successful.
Her favorite part about working at HGO? Keeping with a common theme at HGO, Wijangco exclaims that the people of HGO are the reason her experience has been so positive. She says that HGO, by far, is the best nonprofit she has worked for: “It’s stable, well-run, full of talented people, and everyone here is so smart! Not to mention that we just have fun.”
And even in the thick of that fun, Jennifer is still a force of nature. If I had my bets, I would say that the 1992 Jennifer, the one sitting in the Wortham Theater about to watch her very first opera, would be extremely proud of the woman she is today.