If you've come to any of our Grunin Capacity Catapult Institute events, chances are you've met Don Crocker! Don has been with us since the inception of the Catapult Institute and works with us to create the programming that equips nonprofits and nonprofit leaders with the tools, knowledge, and support they need to accelerate their impact.

Although Don says he is "retired," he is also the Managing Partner of CadencePace Partners and continues to serve on many nonprofit Boards. 

If you have not yet met Don, you'll learn all about him, his career path and what he does for fun. If you have met Don, you'll still learn a surprising new fact or two!

Thank you to Don for sitting down with us and giving his input.

  1. Talk about your career path and how you got to where you are today.

Well, it has been a long and interesting career path and I would say I am grateful for every experience. In my earliest days (during college) I was a night manager at Carvel, a produce manager at a grocery store, a salesperson for a vinyl siding company, and – my favorite – a taxi driver. Driving a taxi, I loved listening to people’s stories and driving to places I had never seen before. It gave me the opportunity to see all types of communities and experience many different situations. It was never boring!

After college, my first job was in the actuarial division at Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City. Regrettably, the “every day in the corporate office” was not for me. I lasted there for two years and then decided to go back to school for psychology and education. That led me to work in special education for the Board of Education in New York City in conjunction with North Shore University Hospital. I worked with children (ages three to five) with disabilities and helped them get ready to “mainstream” into public school and start their education. I loved the work in the classrooms, but it was a bit restrictive as we could only work with the kids a few hours during the day. I was then approached to lead Queens REACH, a nonprofit organization that worked with kids with disabilities and their families year-round. This is where my nonprofit career really began.

After leading several other nonprofits – a local development corporation and a disability rights organization - I landed at Support Center/Partnership in Philanthropy and was the CEO there for almost 18 years. At the Support Center/Partnership in Philanthropy, we worked with a wide range of foundations and nonprofits, helping to grow these organizations, plan strategy, raise money, build better boards, and make connections in the community. I “retired” in 2015 which led me to continue to do consulting work in the philanthropic and nonprofit worlds.

  1. You have worked as an Executive Director, CEO, professor, consultant, and board member. Which role has been the most challenging? Which role has been the most fulfilling?

For me, each has had their challenges, and each has been fulfilling. For example, I worked as the CEO at Midwood Development Corporation and, after that, at the New Jersey Centers for Independent Living Association. These roles were simultaneously challenging and rewarding. What made them challenging is, as the leader, you must connect with the members of the community and understand what is needed and how your organization can be effective for them. You must develop and maintain relationships with diverse groups of people with unique needs and wide-ranging viewpoints about what works best. Also, you cannot accomplish things by yourself – you are in partnership with the people in your organization and with the communities you are serving. The rewards came as we made tangible changes for the better and could celebrate these accomplishments collectively.

  1. What has been your favorite part of working with Grunin Capacity?

The Grunin Foundation is doing innovative and cutting-edge programming through Grunin Capacity and the Catapult Institute. We work on equipping nonprofits and nonprofit leaders with the tools, knowledge, and support to accelerate their impact. The Grunin Capacity commitment is to focus upon six key C’s: Curiosity, Conversation, Collaboration, Community, Compassion, Capacity. We believe when our local nonprofits thrive, our community will thrive. Grunin Capacity was created to help nonprofits and nonprofit leaders accelerate their impact. I love the collaboration – both internally and externally and the opportunity to bring new ideas to the table. The team is not afraid to try new and (sometimes) risky or untested approaches to enhancing our nonprofits and communities. It has been one of my favorite things to do in my so called “retirement” (lol). The Grunin Foundation is an agile and flexible family foundation and is engaged with and responsive to our neighborhoods and community. That is what makes my role with them so fulfilling.

  1. What advice do you have for those wishing to get into a career in the nonprofit world?

For those who have the interest in a nonprofit career, I suggest “go for it!” Opportunities in the nonprofit world are vast. Once I jumped into the nonprofit sector, I never looked back. For me, it has been immensely rewarding, fulfilling, and rich with opportunities for continued learning and personal growth. I would suggest they choose something that brings them joy and fulfillment. The sector has enriched my life by providing the opportunity to do good work in my communities, and the opportunity to come home at night and know I did my best to make life better in our neighborhoods. For those individuals just getting started - it is important to understand yourself and what motives you. What gets you excited? I do not think it works well to disconnect what is important to you personally from the work that you are doing in the nonprofit sector – they go hand in hand.

  1. In your spare time, what is your favorite activity?

My favorite solitary activity is cycling. I try to cycle most mornings as it gives me the opportunity to be in our beautiful, well-maintained parks and down by the ocean. Spending time with my family is also extremely important to me. I love to be with my wife, daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids and take advantage of the great recreation, arts, and culture venues in our communities.