This is the second installment in our staff profiles series, a collection of interviews with the people who work behind the scenes here at the Goodman. For this profile we were lucky to grab a moment with one of our busiest staff members, Director of Development Dorlisa Martin. The Goodman is a nonprofit organization, and we rely on independent and government grants, as well as corporate and individual sponsorships, to supplement our ticket sales and keep the theater thriving. That’s where Dorlisa and her team come in, advocating for the art and fostering relationships.
Andrew Knight: How long have you been working at the Goodman?
Dorlisa Martin: I just celebrated my official 20th anniversary at the Goodman. I’ve been here a little over 22 years, but it was part time/temporary at first. I started in telemarketing, then there was an opportunity in the box office, and I was there for a few years. Then I moved into development, and now I’m running the department.
I started in development as a development assistant. I was responsible for processing all of the gifts and for the technology and computer equipment. This was back in the day when you had to write a grant proposal by hand and then sign up for time to get on the computers to type it. Then I was an individual gifts assistant and then a grant coordinator working in the foundation, government and corporate areas. When we were about to build the new building, there was an opportunity to be a campaign coordinator and help gain support for the new Goodman Theatre in the heart of the Loop, so I did that for a while and loved it. Then I was promoted to essentially do two jobs at once: I was the director of individual gifts and I was also running the capital campaign, which I did for a while until the campaign pace escalated and we brought someone else in to run individual giving. I oversaw the campaign effort through its completion and the move into the new building, which was the most phenomenal experience ever. After that I was senior director of major gifts and worked to build our Premier Society and establish the Goodman’s planned giving program, the Spotlight Society. And then when [former director of development] Rachel Kraft left, I was promoted to director of development. So that’s my path.
AK: So what drew you to work in development and theater?
DM: I grew up in theater. I performed in summer stock as a child and majored in theater and communications in college. I knew I wanted to work for a theater; I didn’t care what I did. When I moved to Chicago I did the audition circuit for a year, thinking I wanted to be on stage, but soon realized I wanted a steady job and a paycheck. When I started, I worked at the Goodman during the day and got my Masters in performing arts management at night. I realized that development was about building relationships with people, and I knew I was really good at that, so it was a good fit. And development, for me, is a way to be close to the art and raise funds for something I’m truly passionate about. I don’t think you can raise support for anything you don’t have a direct passion for. I know I can’t, I should say—some people can—but for me I have to be connected to the mission of an organization. The theater’s in my blood, so it makes it easier for me to raise money.
AK: So you have a big job. Can you talk about your primary responsibilities?
DM: My primary responsibility is raising additional funds that supplement ticket sales to achieve our overall operating budget. My other primary responsibility is our endowment campaign. You know, that’s the future of our theater. We are a really strong organization with a rich, vibrant history, and I want to work to build the Goodman’s legacy through the Endowing Excellence Campaign so that we’re here forever: for my children and for generations to come. I’m also a direct liaison to the board of trustees, our governing body that provides essential leadership toward both of those initiatives. Another major part of my role is working with the board to engage new members from the community to get involved with the board. Beyond that it’s the day-to-day managing the department and producing board meetings and several events throughout the year. We work hard to maintain the strongest possible relationship with our donors—the people that care most about this organization—from those longtime patrons and Subscribers that give $25 to those that give seven-figure gifts, and those that want to consider the Goodman in their future estate planning.
There are so many people who care about this place, and it takes a lot of time to go out and talk with them to hear why the Goodman is important to them—but when you do, it really makes working here seem even more important to me. And it’s my job to push the mission of the Goodman forward and look ahead, along with Roche Schulfer and Bob Falls, at what the Goodman should be doing in our strategic planning process as a leading cultural organization in the City of Chicago. What’s our responsibility? What stretches us? What are Bob’s artistic goals and dreams and how can I support him in meeting those? There are a lot of things on our wish list and all those things take funding and support, so my job is finding avenues to secure that support.
AK: In what capacity do you support or interact with the artists?
DM: Our artists are our best fundraisers, and I’m the first to say so. I just wish I had more of their time, but we do have amazing shows to produce and programs to run. My job in development is to be behind the scenes, to set the stage so that artists can shine at our fundraising events. I’m a facilitator, so I’m the one who arranges access to the artist for the board member, the donor and so on. My connection with the artistic staff is also strong—so much that we formalize a weekly meeting, just to even kibitz about what’s happening, because I feel like anything that the artistic team shares with me makes me stronger at what I do and helps me to be able to make connections for the organization. I’d love to get to a place where we can have more artists at more events; they’re all so much more interesting.
AK: What has been your favorite Goodman production during the time you’ve worked here?
DM: I loved The House of Martin Guerre at the old building, directed by David Petrarca. I would have to say the best theater experience of all time was Bob Falls’ production of Death of a Salesman, both here and in New York City. Gosh, I have a lot of favorites. Having the opportunity to meet August Wilson and seeing several of those productions over the years; one of my favorites was Seven Guitars.
AK: Do you work with other theater companies around town? What are your hobbies outside of work?
DM: I used to be much more affiliated with other theaters in the city; I used to help organize Around the Coyote Arts Festival. Now I’m very affiliated with my two daughters and their activities! Beyond that, with the scope of my job and where I’m at with my family—having both young children and older parents—there’s not a lot of time for extracurricular activities. All the groups I belong to are fundraising groups, so they’re not that exciting. But they’re essential.
AK: Who is your favorite Christmas Carol character, and why?
DM: Wow. Probably Tiny Tim. I guess because there’s hope; he’s a symbol of hope. There is nothing we wouldn’t do for our children. To me Christmas is about children and family, and he embodies that. But I love the whole lot of them.