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Before You Go: Mary L. Dunbar

Philanthropy Ohio Senior Vice President for Operations & Strategy Mary Dunbar to retire at the end of October. We caught up with her before she goes to learn about her career path, advice for those entering the field and what’s next.

mary dunbar headshot

What was your career path to the position you are leaving?

My nonprofit work began in 1999 when I took the position of director of community affairs at the local CBS affiliate in northern Indiana. It was there that I learned of all the nonprofits in Northwest Indiana and the good work they provided to those in need. I then began serving on boards and creating campaigns to raise awareness and funding for the nonprofit sector. At the end of my tenure at CBS, I created a nonprofit organization that supported over 300 nonprofits in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan. The nonprofit, called Make a Difference Michiana, provided marketing, networking and a web presence at a time when many organizations did not yet have their own website.

I was then recruited to be the founding executive director of The Pokagon Fund, a private foundation funded by a tribal casino, where I served for eight years, providing place-based funding for southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. I then moved to South Carolina to start a health legacy foundation when a rural hospital was sold, worked at other health legacy foundations and finally found my way to Columbus, where I’ve had the pleasure of serving Philanthropy Ohio as senior vice president for operations & strategy.

mary in group

What advice would you offer to someone just entering the field? 

Learn your “why” and embrace your passion for the nonprofit sector. You will never find more genuine, dedicated people than those who work in the nonprofit sector. Ask yourself: Do you want to provide direct service and work for a social service agency? Do you want to work for a foundation to support those providing direct service? Find your niche. And keep learning. I didn’t get my master’s in nonprofit management until I was in my 50s!

mary at podium

What would you change if you had a chance for a “do-over?”

Not a thing. Every twist and turn my career took allowed me to understand new things about myself.

What’s next?

I’ll be retiring to Pittsburgh, where my two grown children, their spouses and my seven grandchildren live (ages 2 – 8). I plan to do a lot of spoiling. I’ll also be traveling, mostly abroad, but also to areas in North America where I haven’t yet visited. I also hope to find a meaningful volunteer opportunity to keep me connected to the sector. And if time permits, I’d like to start teaching yoga again.

mary sitting in group

What will you miss (if anything) about your position?

I’ll miss the people, definitely the people! The laughs, the fun, the camaraderie.

staff group photo

We appreciate all you’ve done for Philanthropy Ohio and wish you the very best in this next chapter!

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