Staff spotlight: Erin Schoenberg connects with Center supporters, cultivates meaningful relationships

Small Towns

Erin Schoenberg is no stranger to the Center for Rural Affairs.

With a history that goes back to fall 2012, Erin has taken on roles ranging from working with Latino farmers to establishing community gardens to facilitating and teaching bilingual cooking and gardening workshops, gleaning a wealth of knowledge along the way. 

After stepping away from the Center for five years while she immersed herself in the worlds of local food distribution and entrepreneurship, Erin found her way back to the organization in 2019.

“I had a unique perspective, having been at the Center, left, and then returned,” said Erin. “A lot of awesome growth happened in that time.”

She enjoyed the work when she returned but felt a pull to do something a little different within the organization and took on a new position as senior development associate. Now, she is a development manager and works from her home office near Lincoln, Nebraska.

Center Development Director Nick Bergin said Erin connects with Center supporters from diverse backgrounds and cultivates meaningful relationships.

“Her work has been instrumental in our successful fundraising efforts,” said Nick. “Her new title comes with additional responsibilities and broader management of supporter relationships. Erin's ability to understand the needs and aspirations of our supporters and translate those insights into effective engagement strategies is central to this role. The development manager position makes fuller use of her leadership and analytical skills.”

Erin communicates with people from all over the country, including Center newsletter readers, individual donors, and folks who are hearing about the organization for the first time.

“Whoever you are, and wherever you fit into our story and our community, I’m here for you,” she said. “I help tell the stories of the Center’s impact, so you know how your donations are making a difference. I relay your feedback to my colleagues, organize online and in-person events to connect supporters to staff members and small business owners and farmers we work with, sit down in person with constituents to hear your ideas and your challenges, and organize fundraising drives throughout the year to keep fueling our work in the future.”

One of the reasons Erin felt drawn to this position is because she enjoys connecting with people.

“I love getting to know people’s backgrounds, how they became passionate about rural America, how they came to know and support the Center,” she said. “I’m one of those people who likes picking up the phone and calling someone I’ve never met. Inevitably, we find something in common and something to laugh about in the first few minutes. Those connections delight and motivate me, and strengthening those relationships means our shared impact across rural communities will be even greater.”

As a native of rural America, Erin feels even more driven to make sure others have a welcoming and thriving place to call home.

“I grew up on a farm and ranch in the north central region of Nebraska and have fond memories of being a barefoot country kid and mowing hay with an old JD 3020 as a teenager,” she said. “Honestly, even the barbs poking through my leather gloves as I rolled wire is a reminder of how lucky I was to grow up where and how I did.”

Because of her upbringing, Erin learned how important it is to support independent, family-owned businesses, and how everyone has to adapt, be kind, and put in the work to create the future they want.

“I am grateful for the care that I see neighbors have for each other in rural communities,” she said. “I think it’s incredibly important that rural communities provide a warm welcome to new residents, and choose to adapt and change to become better, more resilient, more joyful. I want to be part of that.”

In her personal time, Erin is part of a group called Grateful Growers. Members take cut flowers and other nature-related programming to Lincoln, Nebraska-area senior centers, and Erin says it’s “one of the most joyful experiences I’ve ever had.”

Reach Erin at her home office at 402.499.2781 or