Lauren Shoolman

“I feel privileged to get to work on a daily basis with donors because I get to witness the best side of humanity – people’s generosity and compassion.”

Location: New York. New York

Profession: Development Professional

What was the first charitable gift you ever gave?:

Throughout my childhood, I was fortunate to have been exposed to a variety of giving opportunities that ultimately led to my passion for fundraising, a profession in which I have been happy to pursue a career. Primarily, my parents taught me the importance of helping to support those in need, particularly through tzedakah. I would regularly put change in the tzedakah box, so that I could, at least in some small way, help to support others. In addition, when I was a child in Canada, my school provided me and my classmates with many opportunities to get involved with charitable causes such as Jump Rope for Heart and the Terry Fox Run. These presented great chances for my classmates and I not only to begin to make worthy contributions at a young age, but to learn how to work together and to invite others to join in supporting a worthy mission. I loved being able to work with people, especially for the purpose of helping others, and these experiences motivated me to this day.

Tell me about what you are doing to make a difference in the world through your work.:

I feel privileged to be in a profession which dedicates itself to contributing to society, and as a development professional, I have worked for numerous organizations, all of which have aimed to enrich people’s quality of life. Currently, I am the Manager of Membership and Special Events at Big Apple Circus, a company which I am very proud to be a part of as it not only brings the joy and wonder of circus arts to hundreds of thousands of people of all ages, but also enriches the lives of children with various health issues as well as the elderly, among others. Prior to my current position, I worked in development for a number of different not-for-profit arts organizations, all of which aimed to enrich people’s lives through the performing arts. While I was in Canada, the non-profit opera company that I worked for also strived to raise crucial awareness for deeply meaningful causes, such as the plight of the victims of human trafficking.

What inspired you to go into this field?:

I was inspired to pursue fundraising as a profession because it has always given me a great feeling of joy and fulfillment to be able to support meaningful causes. I also really like the fact that I not only get to work to support deserving people, but to work and build relationships with a large cross-section of people. I have found that fellow development professionals share a real passion for giving and their energy is contagious. Additionally, I feel privileged to get to work on a daily basis with donors because I get to witness the best side of humanity – people’s generosity and compassion. It also gives me great joy to speak with and steward new donors because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to the enjoyment and satisfaction that one feels when one helps a particular cause.

What is your personal charity of choice today?:

This is such a tough question. Lately, I have been proud to contribute to various types of institutions and causes. My fiancé and I have really enjoyed volunteering at the United Synagogue of Hoboken and donating food through the synagogue. Over the past few years, we have raised money for rare cancer research in memory of my fiance’s late mother, through Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s annual Cycle for Survival fundraising event. We are so grateful to our family and friends who made donations towards our Cycle team – thank you!

Who inspires you to give?:

I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by inspiring people whose positive influences on me have made me want to give back. Of course, my fiancé, family, friends, and colleagues have impacted me in key ways. For instance, I am driven by the lessons I learned from and examples set by my family, and by my fiance’s generosity, and passion for justice. I am also motivated by my friends. One of my dear friends started a not-for-profit called Shaping Her Esteem (SHE), which works to help young females build confidence, achieve self-empowerment, and lead healthy active lives. As well, those featured on Why We Give, also serve as an inspiration to me. And Finally, I have drawn inspiration from the way in which certain for-profit companies have generously supported charitable causes such as the way in which Shine Dance Competitions has, for years, encouraged people to participate in their annual food drive, which has generated a total of 16,158 lbs of food donations.

What is most interesting to you in philanthropy currently?:

We are living in a world with innumerable worthy causes, but finite resources. It is therefore interesting to me to see how donors choose to spend their limited time and money. Comparing the worthiness of different causes is difficult and perhaps even impossible because weighing the significance of different causes can be like trying to compare apples and oranges. Yet, people are faced with challenging choices all the time because no one has infinite resources or finances to spend. I enjoy trying to understand what drives people to give to the causes that they choose, or more generally, what is it that makes something particularly important to an individual. Indeed, this is why I find it meaningful to contribute to and read Why We Give.

What advice would you have for someone who wants to work in this field?:

Don’t wait until you’re a development professional to start giving! Not only is it a virtue to give, but being a donor will help you to better understand what is important to people when you are working on the opposite side of the table where you are striving to cultivate giving relationships. I would also advise that one not be bashful and instead reach out to and meet those in the development profession to ask them for advice on how to pursue a career in fundraising. Development professionals are all about relationship building in meaningful ways, so do not be afraid to start building those relationships even before you formally set foot into the profession.

Lauren Shoolman


Lauren is a development professional with five years of experience in Canada and the United States in individual and institutional giving, and special events. She is an Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (ELNYA) Fellow, a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in New York, and has been invited to deliver guest lectures at St. Lawrence University, NY, on fundraising. Lauren holds a BA Specialized Honors in Marketing and a Certificate in Management from York University, Canada.

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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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