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Humans of Fundraising: David Golaner

David Golaner at the Pearlstone Center for Living Judaism, the national headquarters for the Jewish environmental movement.


David Golaner
Director of Planned Giving & The Second Century Campaign
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)

I always wanted to find a career that would make the world a better place, where I could help create something bigger than myself. I’m grateful that I found that in fundraising.

All along the way, I was able to hone that craft in many positions in alumni and development while serving organizations that were important to me, from The Park School of Baltimore which I attended as a kid, to my current role as Director of Planned Giving & The Second Century Campaign at the JDC, the leading global Jewish humanitarian organization. No matter the position, the opportunity, or the goals, it comes back to doing something bigger than myself.

Professionally, there are two areas in which I looked around and thought to myself, “Holy cow. What did I just do?” The first was as Executive Director at the Edward A. Myerberg Center in Baltimore. Like many nonprofits, we’d host an annual fundraising event with an author or speaker. It was an organizational goal to elevate this particular event, to make it even more meaningful and entertaining. And we were able to line up a performance by Diana Ross. It was during her performance that I looked around, and texted my colleagues ”look what we did.”

Another “holy cow” moment was when The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, where I served as Director of the Centennial Campaign, launched the public phase of their campaign after having raised more than $100 million, and was so successful we had to raise the goal – twice. Both milestones were because of collective, incremental, and measured efforts, and it’s important to take the time to celebrate with our community.

Both moments also remind me of my personal philosophy – to do the best job you can in the moment that you’re in. But also, more importantly, to surround yourself with good, smart people who care about the work they do. A boss once told me, “There are two requirements to working here: be nice and don’t lie. Everything else flows from that.”

Building off of that memorable adage, I also tell my team: “Know the goalpost, and know the numbers, milestones, and outcomes needed to move toward that goalpost.” While that resonates with everyone, I am also aware that every member of my team has a different driver: some are motivated by competition, others are motivated by altruism, and many are some mix of both. What it boils down to is being available as a sounding board, a mentor, or as colleagues jokingly refer to me: “the house psychologist.”

When I consider the future of fundraising, I’m reminded that while people still want to support communities and organizations, we are in a much more crowded communications market when it comes to actually reaching them. How do we connect with people? We’ve gone from letters to phoning to emailing and I’m not exactly sure we’ve figured it out, but we have to keep trying. The reason WHY we are doing it is just too important.

Because these efforts will take us through the 2020s, 2030s, and beyond, I am thinking of the next generation of fundraisers. We talk about the donor pipeline and it is also important that we concentrate on the nonprofit professional pipeline.  The inability to keep young talent hinders an organization’s progress, and I find it equally as vital to tend to and grow the younger professionals in this industry as it is to make sure our top, established fundraisers are closing million+ dollar gifts.