Dave McGowan, '81, Starts His Own Firm After 40 Years In Non-Profit Business

By Tony Scott

Dave McGowan, '81, recently started his own non-profit consulting firm after 40 years in the business.

Dave McGowan, ’81, started his own non-profit and fundraising consulting firm last year after 40 years in the non-profit fundraising and management business, including the last 25 years as president and CEO of the DuPage Foundation.

But he started out as a proud Huskie who grew up in the Chicago suburbs.

“Helping people experience the joy of giving and assisting not-for-profit organizations in their ability to attract people’s giving is extremely rewarding,” he said.

McGowan, the middle of three sons, grew up in Downers Grove, Illinois, and currently lives in nearby Lisle. 

McGowan said he was comfortable attending NIU because his older brother, Dan McGowan, ’78, attended NIU and met his wife there, Ellen (Granda) McGowan, ’78. McGowan would meet his own wife there as a student, Mary (Leider) McGowan, ’81.

“My parents supported my education and there was no way I was going to let them down,” he said.

McGowan, who graduated with a degree in marketing, originally planned to study accounting.

“I chose NIU for its excellent accounting program although I changed my major to marketing,” he said. “I wanted to take advertising courses that were in the journalism department and, after learning how to write a 25-word lead, I was hooked and ended up with a minor in journalism.”

While at NIU, he was involved in various organizations, including the Lambda Sigma Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma, and the American Marketing Association, held a variety of jobs and took full advantage of intramural sports opportunities. 

“I lived on the third floor in Grant North for two years and was president of the floor my sophomore year,” he said. “I lived in a townhouse on Hillcrest my junior year and at Suburban Estates my senior year. I worked at Rick’s Pizza my freshman year, the Grant North front desk my sophomore year and at the hotel in the Holmes Student Center my junior and senior years. I played a lot of softball, volleyball and racquetball as well as swam at Anderson Hall.”

McGowan said he enjoyed all of his professors and instructors but had a strong mentor in his boss at the Holmes Student Center Hotel, the late Donetta Domina.

"Donetta was a great trainer and took the time to provide context around our frontline jobs," he said. "She gave us opportunities to prove ourselves and expanded our responsibilities as we did. Mostly, she modeled good management skills that I took into my career."

After leaving the DuPage Foundation at the end of 2022, McGowan founded Dave McGowan Consulting, LLC.

“I help area donors, their advisors and the organizations they support to accomplish their philanthropic objectives,” he said. “I focus on outright and deferred gifts of appreciated property from individuals and on demonstrating the lasting contributions of endowed funds.”

He continued, “In my consulting practice, I have guided family philanthropy, led board retreats and assisted in the creation of strategic plans, conducted capital campaign feasibility studies, managed an executive search, and helped organizations with their planned giving and endowment building strategies.”

McGowan said there is something special about being an NIU Huskie.

“A true Huskie works hard and plays hard!” he said. "I met lifelong friends at NIU."

In addition to meeting lifelong friends, McGowan met his wife before beginning his senior year. They have been married for 43 years.

"Mary and I were introduced by a mutual friend, Ann Moran '80, on campus and later by Fern Bass Poulsen '81, at a party," he said. "Then, my buddies and I ran into her and her friends, including the one who introduced us, the Friday night before classes started our senior year at TK's, now Lord Stanley's. We started talking and I followed her to a party. We were engaged at the wedding of fellow Huskies Sue (D'Amico) Nosal, '80 and Terry Nosal, '80, nine months later and married the year after that."

He added, "Here we are more than 43 years later with three kids, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and two grandsons, all who live nearby. I'm so grateful to NIU for my wife, my education, my work experiences on campus and my career."