David Sack is the Vice President of Philanthropy for Northwestern Memorial Foundation, in Chicago. David has been in development for over 20 years, starting in the arts, as an Executive Director at the Jazz Institute of Chicago, a Director at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and for the past 14 years, David has been with Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
When I first got into development and into philanthropy in the arts, I remember the first time I was able to pulls off a really cool 30-piece jazz concert. It was my first experience where my efforts to raise money and through philanthropy make something happen that otherwise would not have happened. That has led me to a career in philanthropy. I was able to see the power of people who want to do something charitable and what can be made possible out of generosity.
Choosing Their Profession
When I was graduating from school I didn’t know where I was heading. I was very involved in music in Chicago and fell into a job as an executive director. I should point out that this was a staff of one, so the only person I was directing was myself. It was a great experienced and this position started to move me in the direction of philanthropy. I very quickly found out that if you really want to do anything for public good philanthropy is key!
Nothing is going to happen without money. I just decided that I wanted to wake up every morning and be excited about what I do.
So when I worked for these organizations they would come up with these great ideas for music concerts but wouldn’t have any money to pay for them. And that’s when I realized that there is just so much good in seeing the best side of people and have the opportunity to get support for these events.
Philanthropy isn’t about asking people for money. Philanthropy is about creating possibilities!
Certainty in healthcare research doesn’t move forward by itself and philanthropy is the essential driver of a lot of what’s happening in medical research. Government plays in important role but the government only likes to fund research that’s already been proven, and it is really philanthropy that really supports essential research that is unproven and take risks.
We need to understand that while we call this not-for-profit, every one of these organizations are still a business, you still require business smarts. Yes, nonprofits are a charity but a well-run charity is a business. Maybe you don’t have shareholders, maybe your incentives are different, so understanding that any nonprofit still need skilled business professionals to run and operate as a business.
Career Success Tip
Never miss an opportunity, challenge yourself, and don’t be afraid to fail. You need to be doing more then what is expected of you. You’re not going to get the next promotion until your bucket is overflowing. It’s up to you to fill up your bucket till it overflows with value, then you’ll get that next opportunity! If you’re going to move ahead, you have to be willing to move around.