Ryan Gallagher loves to talk about raising money for cancer research and treatment. Sure, it’s his job, but in everything he says, you can hear his passion for supporting this life-saving work. He brings this heart and hard work to everything he does in the world, including advocating for LGBTQIA+ issues and currently studying sustainable business as a student at Antioch University’s Master of Business Administration.
With his passion for doing good in the world, Antioch is the perfect fit for Gallagher. But, as it turns out, finding his way to enrolling here was anything but straightforward.
A Perfect Storm Leads to Antioch
When Gallagher was an undergraduate at UCLA, he moved into his first place in Los Angeles: a room in a house. Most of the other tenants were students at Antioch’s Los Angeles campus, as it turns out. One even was a former lecturer there. That was his first intro to the institution, through his friends and housemates.
“At that point, I was like, ‘Oh, this is cool.’” But most of his housemates were studying subjects different than his own path, from teaching to urban sustainability. It wasn’t until years later that he remembered how much the institution fit his values.
That was when Gallagher started looking for an advanced degree that would impart skills that would be useful in a variety of roles. By then, he had established that he wanted to focus on nonprofit fundraising operations as a career path. And he decided to pursue an MBA. “I talked to my partner about it for a long time, and I finally landed on an MBA program because I feel like it can translate to a lot of different fields… It was what spoke to me the most.”
However, he knew he didn’t have the luxury of stopping his life to go to grad school. He needed to continue working and supporting his family. As he researched different MBA programs, many did not align with his personal beliefs. “I wanted to learn about business and leadership principles, but other programs did not speak to me,” he explains. Then he rediscovered Antioch.
“Antioch’s commitment to social justice felt more aligned with what I care about than other programs,” he says. “It was a perfect storm, all of these things that led me to go to Antioch.”
A Passion For Nonprofits
A few years after graduating from college, Gallagher found a job at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, working in development operations and processing donations. His experience at the LGBT Center gave him deep satisfaction, knowing his work was helping build a world where LGBTQIA+ people thrive as healthy, equal, and complete members of society. “That’s kind of where I fell into the operations side of fundraising,” he explains. “I found that I enjoyed it, and I found that I was pretty good at it.”
This led Gallagher to his current employer, a large nonprofit hospital system, where he has now worked for almost four years. He works in the fundraising and development department as an Associate Director of Prospect Development. His role centers around supporting a team of gift officers, and he helps them create strategies around asking donors for gifts. A big part of this work is keeping on top of the progress of these staff members, using data analytics and his own wealth of experience to help them, and in a broader sense, ensuring that the organization hits its funding goals and continues to be able to offer its services.
“My job revolves around trying to make everyone’s lives easier in terms of how they’re doing their work,” says Gallagher. “I like systems and processes and working those things out.”
There are frontline gift officers who focus on breast and gynecological cancer research and officers who focus on hematology, supportive care, bone marrow, stem cell transplant, etc. “They have all kinds of programs to support different patients.” Gallagher strategizes with the gift officers in their service lines, aiding them in managing and cultivating relationships with existing donors and identifying new prospective donors.
In the MBA program, Gallagher is focusing on how business principles and concepts will help him work in the current capitalistic system that exists in our country. This is why his favorite part of the MBA program is the incorporation of triple-bottom-line principles in many of his classes. Under this philosophy, instead of organizations solely focusing on profit (the traditional “bottom line,” so-called), the triple bottom line calls on them to prioritize the three P’s: profit, people, and the planet. This curriculum teaches sustainability and eco-friendly business practices and how to conceptualize running a business ethically.
As he says, “It’s about considering how the work we do affects our communities.”
Because Gallagher finds nonprofit fundraising so fulfilling, he is following the Nonprofit Leadership concentration in the MBA. The Nonprofit Leadership concentration has helped prepare Gallagher for the unique challenges of operating a nonprofit organization toward effective and efficient mission fulfillment.
His goal is to one day head the operations side of fundraising for a nonprofit. “I felt this concentration would serve me well. As a queer trans man, I’d like to help start a nonprofit that serves the LGBTQIA+ community,” he says. “But those plans are very far off.” For now, his passion centers around how individuals can democratize philanthropy and giving in the United States.
Gallagher will be completing the Master of Business Administration program and the concentration in Nonprofit Leadership this May. As for his plans for the immediate future, Gallagher and his partner are hard at work planning their beautiful wedding.