Whether it’s bringing health care to impoverished countries or promoting ocean exploration and marine conservation, David Whalen has spent the last 25 years helping nonprofits raise the funds they need to accomplish their missions.
His next stop is Perkins School for the Blind, where he will become the organization’s first chief development officer on December 12.
In his new role, Whalen will oversee the Perkins Trust, which raises funds from a variety of sources to support Perkins’ programs and initiatives. He will also work with the Perkins leadership team to develop new funding opportunities that will allow Perkins to expand its mission both in the U.S. and internationally.
“David Whalen has a proven track record of building relationships and helping organizations expand their reach,” said Perkins President and CEO Dave Power. “We’re excited for him to bring that expertise to Perkins.”
Whalen previously served as vice president of development at the New England Aquarium, which is a global leader in ocean exploration, education and conservation. Before that, he was chief development officer at Partners in Health, which provides health care in many of the world’s poorest countries, and at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a national environmental organization.
In each position, Whalen’s focus has been on connecting the institution with individuals who are passionate about its mission. Often, that means getting to know people on a personal level.
“For me, that’s what I love about fundraising,” he said. “You hear about people’s lives and what brings them to the cause. It’s an incredibly privileged position.”
A former history major at Georgetown University, Whalen was drawn to Perkins in part because of its compelling past. But when he visited the campus, he felt an energy more common in start-ups than with an organization with a long tradition of accomplishments.
“As I got to know Perkins more, I was especially impressed with the history of innovation, of adaptation and of change,” he said. “Any organization that’s going to survive has got to stay on the cutting edge.”
When he’s not working, Whalen is busy educating the next generation of development professionals. He’s taught the course “Strategic Philanthropy and Development” at Brandeis University’s Heller Graduate School for Social Policy and Management for the past 15 years.
More than anything, Whalen wants his students to understand the powerful role a development officer plays in shaping an organization’s future.
“Good philanthropy can be truly transformative,” he said. “For organizations that are ready to pivot in a new direction or ready to bring a specific strategy to scale, good philanthropy can make that happen. And that’s incredibly inspiring.”