Elizabeth Duggal Raises $100 Million for Philanthropy . . .
as she also raises consciousness of the First Americans
Wharton Club of DC Alum of the Month, June 2005
By A. J. Schuler, Psy. D. (W'88)
Have you ever raised one hundred million dollars?
This month, I met with Elizabeth Duggal (W, 85), who did just that on behalf of the National Museum of the American Indian in downtown Washington, near Capitol Hill.
Lots of us from Wharton know a thing or two about handling money and about building institutions, but Elizabeth has combined those abilities we all share with her passion for giving back to the community, and now especially, to the Native American Community: the first Americans.
After a career in banking and finance, Elizabeth made the switch to development work at the prestigious British Museum in London, and then. . . well, Iíll let her tell you the rest. She does it better than I do!
AJ: What was your graduation year?
ELIZABETH: 1985 as an undergrad.
AJ: And what was your concentration in your graduate studies?
AJ: And your current title here is. . .?
ELIZABETH: Iím the Director of External Affairs.
AJ: What does that involve; what are your responsibilities?
ELIZABETH: It includes all of our development or fundraising work, government relations, and the development and promotion of any special events. It also includes the production and distribution of our magazine, building our membership base and conducting our PR and marketing. Finally, it also includes the management of all of our non-federal business revenue, such as shops, cafes, restaurant and stores.
AJ: I would imagine that this has been a fun job, because youíve been able to create all these things from the ground up. How did you get to this point, this job?
ELIZABETH: My first husband is British, and I met him at Wharton. He was on exchange from the London Business School and we started our life in London. I spent fifteen years in London, and for the first half of that period I was in marketing and strategy with firms like Salomon Brothers, American Express and Fidelity.
Then in the about 1992, after my second child was born, I just wanted a break from the heavy pace of work at Salomon and started some local charity work, that led me to a meeting at the British Museum in London. I was asked to chair what was then called the American Friends of the British Museum, and it was wonderful. I was a volunteer taking on development work, though at the time the British Museum didnít even have a development office.
It was a wonderful opportunity for me to use the skills that I learned at Wharton and through my work experiences.
AJ: Did you have an arts or history background before that?
ELIZABETH: No. Iíve always had a love for the arts, but itís something I never really studied or pursued, and always wished I had the talent. So for me, meeting people who had dedicated their lives to helping artists flourish was wonderful and rewarding. After a little while, this volunteer role turned into a full-time, paying job at the British Museum.
In the late nineties I met Rick West, the director of this museum. We were both in Connecticut for the opening of the Pequot Museum, and I found him to be a very interesting and compelling man. Heís half Native American, and his father was a Native artist, and a professor of art and heís on the Native side. He grew up in Oklahoma and did graduate study in American History at Harvard and then studied law at Stanford.
AJ: This must have been the beginning of your recruitment. He clearly liked you, too!
ELIZABETH: He needed someone back here to complete this project. In about 1998 or 1999, there was a hole in the ground. The groundbreaking ceremony had been done, but there was still quite a bit of money to be raised. When Rick and I started talking about it, the initial target was $30 million dollars, but after Iíd been here a couple of months, it was clear we needed more like $100 million dollars.
I was attracted to the job because this is an institution for the first peoples of this nation. I grew up in Colorado and Nebraska, and while I have no native blood in me, I have known many native people throughout my life. Iíd always felt their heritages were not as well recognized as they should be. I deemed it poetic justice that the last museum on the National Mall really should represent the first people here.
AJ: But thereís more than one location, right?
ELIZABETH: Yes. We have a museum up in New York: the George Gustav Heye Center in lower Manhattan, at the foot of Broadway in the old Customs House Building. Itís one of the largest lower Manhattan cultural institutions, attracting 300,000 visitors per year. We also have a new collections house in Suitland, Maryland, a part of the Smithsonian Campus.
AJ: Youíre clearly enthusiastic! In your work, what do you enjoy most?
ELIZABETH: I enjoy the people, and I enjoy bringing them together to make everything come together, funding our mission. I also manage big public events, and when I see the artists there along with thousands of people enjoying their work, it makes me feel good.
Iím also enjoying the challenge of continuing to build the institution. Nothing really can surpass the grand opening of this museum for fanfare and scale of an undertaking. And yet, now we have different challenges: we have a big operation to run. We anticipate four million visitors this year alone, which puts us in the league of most visited museums in the world. Thatís a tremendous achievement and exactly what weíd hoped, but now weíre moving toward sustaining a consistent operation supported by a multifaceted development operation. Iím enjoying that a lot.
AJ: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
ELIZABETH: I practice yoga. I also participate in something called the Rainmakerís Circle, a part of the DC Womenís Foundation. We collaborate to allocate grant money. I have two school-aged children, so to be honest, my life is probably more about errands!
AJ: I want to get learn more about the Rainmakers Circle, but first letís catch your classmates up on your family life, since you bring that up.
ELIZABETH: Well, I remarried: as they say, itís the triumph of hope over experience (laughing)! Itís great. I have two children who are with me here. My daughter is sixteen and a half and my son is thirteen and a half.
AJ: Itís interesting. Iíve done a few interviews in this series now, and I notice that our classmates really keep learning in the working world, and trying new things that lead to new opportunities.
ELIZABETH: For me it was the change to working in the philanthropic world with the British Museum. It really was a defining moment that changed my whole career. If I look back at what I was doing in London before making the switch, I was good at it, but I didnít really enjoy it. I didnít wake up and feel a passion for it.
AJ: Whom do you admire?
ELIZABETH: I really admire my father. His sense of the importance of education, discipline and hard work has carried me from my early days to where I am now. And he also gave me a strong ethic of giving back to the community.
AJ: Okay, Iím still curious about the Rainmakers. Tell me more.
ELIZABETH: Well, itís part of the DC Womenís Area Foundation, and itís a group of about 20 to 25 women who make a two-year commitment. We pool our money together focus on grants for women and young girls at risk. We manage the call for proposals process, evaluate the submissions and make awards. I first joined three years ago and loved it, so I signed up again for these next two years.
AJ: Okay: youíre a public relations person. I have to let you tell our Wharton alumni audience why they should all come to visit the museum!
ELIZABETH: This is really where everyoneís experience as an American should begin. We all have a shared cultural heritage with the first peoples of this land. I think people will love to explore our exhibitions. We also have a rich array of public programming on an ongoing basis. The visit actually begins when you see the building itself, which makes quite a dramatic statement. Iíd love to welcome any Wharton alumni, and if anyone callís me, Iíll arrange for a tour . Calle me at 202-633-6927, or email me at DuggalE@si.edu. Our terrific cafť, which features native foods, has actually already become the highest revenue earner in the Smithsonian. . . except for the McDonaldís. We have great opportunities for shopping and outings for families. Of course, this doesnít come without help and support: we have opportunities for people to become members for as little as twenty dollars.
AJ: How many members do you have?
ELIZABETH: Our current membership stands at about ninety thousand. Itís increased about forty percent in this last year because we really increased our outreach, but that also shows how people believe in the mission of this institution, for Native Americans to have a place to talk about their art, their culture and their social issues.
AJ: Read anything interesting lately?
ELIZABETH: Oh, I did read a good book! I get my reading done on the airplane when traveling. I just read a book called Good Grief. Itís the story of a Silicon Valley woman who loses her spouse, and it tells how she copes with all the stages of grief, eventually turning her life around and reconciling with her husbandís death. I found it very uplifting. And just as everyone else has, Iíve recently read Kite Runner, which I also enjoyed.
AJ: Well, this has been a real education for me, and Iím sure it will be for our readers. Thanks for taking this time out of your schedule to talk with us.
ELIZABETH: No, thank you.
[Ed./ANS: Everyone who lives in this area, and everyone who visits - whether American or not - should visit the exquisite and moving National Museum of the American Indian. If you live in this area, you will want to return, and maybe even to join. While you are there, by all means, dine on the fine Native American cuisine offered at moderate prices in the cafeteria. Examples: Grilled Salmon with real wild rice (not mainly long grain sprinkled with a few specks of wild), for the people of the Pacific Northwest, or Roasted Turkey, for the Midwest Woodlands.]
A. J. Schuler, Psy. D.
A. J. Schuler, Psy. D. is an organizational development consultant and executive coach. He is the author of the forthcoming book, "Revolution: How to Transform Your Company from Within."