Theresa Duncan Hired as Burning Man’s Director of Philanthropic Engagement

2014San Francisco, Calif. — Burning Man is pleased to announce that Theresa Duncan will be joining the nonprofit organization’s leadership team as the Director of Philanthropic Engagement.

In this role, Theresa will lead the development and execution of a fundraising strategy which honors Burning Man’s culture of gifting while supporting its global mission. Theresa will manage the fundraising team and related programs, including annual, major gift and capital campaign initiatives.

Theresa is an expert in fundraising development for environmental and philanthropic causes. She comes to us by way of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA, where she worked for 13 years, moving up through the organization to become Vice President of Development. Theresa led her team at the Aquarium in securing $12 million in gifts annually and defining the strategy for the Aquarium’s largest capital campaign to date. A pragmatic optimist and lifelong advocate for social justice, the environment, and the arts, Theresa earned her Masters of Business Administration and her Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from California State University, Long Beach.

In 2014 and 2015, Theresa camped with Camp Monkey Business, known for their soft rock happy hours, an effervescent “bananaphone” setlist, and unpredictable monkey shenanigans. “The spirit of giving throughout the Burning Man community is abundant and imaginative,” says Theresa. “I am inspired by the possibilities that exist with such a philanthropically engaged community especially as the Burning Man culture extends off-playa to communities across the globe.”

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Photo courtesy of Matt Scott.

“As calls for Burning Man’s engagement in the world have outpaced our organization’s capacity, we have had to look seriously at our capacity to respond in different ways including philanthropically,” said Burning Man’s Chief Engagement Officer Marian Goodell. “Philanthropy and giving are inherent to Burning Man and we intend to build a department that supports our culture of giving in a wide variety of creative ways.”

This is a key time for the Burning Man organization to develop a flourishing fundraising operation that provides more support for projects in all of our focus areas, including arts, civic engagement, the global network of regional events and community leaders, and the annual event in Black Rock City. We’re excited to support Theresa and her team as they shape and execute a fundraising strategy that honors Burning Man values while bringing in the resources we need to make an impact on a global scale.

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

19 Comments on “Theresa Duncan Hired as Burning Man’s Director of Philanthropic Engagement

  • Siri Ously says:

    Awesome. I was just thinking Burning Man needed more ways to coddle the balls of the rich!

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    • Jazz says:

      It’s awesome, just convince them (or more importantly, their friends) that the money they’re giving away equals philanthropy, and that they’re philanthropists – so they can check it off their lists.

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      • Nomad says:

        Interesting that 10 years ago, when the event had 30,000 people, it cost about $7 million in hard costs, and less than $1 million in overhead/soft costs. Now with twice the number of people the hard costs are about $10 million but the overheaf/soft costs are about $20 million. And they need more in contributions, yet are still late in their 2014 non-profit IRS filings – something I would want to see if I were handing out money.

        There are lots of free public art events that could stand to get more funding, even their own Vegas Halloween parade that was cancelled at the last minute for lack of support. Maybe the billionaires with cash to spare might consider giving it to free public events like Figment and the very international Bring to Light. Even Night Markets also need someone to pony up for the porta-potties.

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  • You guys are high says:

    Your PR work now sounds like any other major corporation, complete with meaningless jargon, misleading statements, and misdirected importance.

    Count me out.

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  • We're Changing the World!!!! says:

    “We’re Changing the World!!!” Is a common refrain from the GLC (Global Leadership Conference – the original kool-aid factory ran by BMHQ).

    Watching these hires makes me think the world is changing Burning Man.

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  • Mike says:

    I happen to know Theresa personally and professionally and I will say you have brought on one of the most talented and philanthropic people I have ever met. The people (person) who lash out at this are the ones that have absolutely no idea what it takes to run a production like what you guys are doing, nor what it takes to get people involved. I for one will not miss the ones wanting to be ‘counted out’.


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  • Emz says:

    Theresa doesn’t plug n play….just sayin.

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  • Margaret Brewer says:

    I have known Theresa for 13 years. This is a woman who decided to write a poem every day and realized that meant every day had to be worth a poem! This is a woman who knows that in fund development, as in life itself, it is relationships that make the difference. If Theresa is excited about Burning Man, then I want to know more about Burning Man!

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  • Not My Words says:

    Not my words, but worth sharing here:

    “Best of Luck Ms Duncan.

    I truly hope you can right the ship that is currently ineffective: BM Arts was only 18% effective based on the last record I’ve seen. Yep….of every dollar given to BM Arts, only 18 cents made it into the hands of an artist. Criminal…ask artists to donate their time to go to big-ass fundraiser that have tables for $10k and what do they think they might get out of that effort? One of the worst non-profit performances around.

    There is real work to do to fix this so your own credibility is not challenged by those thinking about donating funds. Odd…if they wanted to support artist, it would be 450% more effective if they just gave the funds directly to the artist.

    Ask. Ask where all the money goes and when the phrase “change the world” comes up ask for what it costs to fly people around and put them up in hotels etc to speak for a few moments. Then think about separating support of artists from the “whole global thing”.

    All the best in the new position. I understand you are both experienced and capable.”

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    • JV says:

      This is the crux of the issue. It’s insane that such a small percentage of the BM budget goes towards funding art, and that such a small percentage of the money given directly towards arts funding actually funds art. If this new hire can improve that record, it will be well worth it.

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  • IFellFromTheSky says:

    “philathropic engagement”..
    I think we are going to see alot of these new “positions” start popping up,…
    oh and I see it is yet another female on the latest long list of promotions.

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  • Marat says:

    To my fellow MBA-Cohort! Theresa Duncan I am SO proud of you! You have fallen in love with Burning Man and in turn, I see that Burning Man has fallen in love with you! Change the world hon! I have no doubt that you will bring commitment, deadication and love to this organization! SO Proud of you!!!!

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    • Dear Theresa says:

      Dear Theresa,
      Congratulations on the new position. Interestingly, Burning Man leadership never, ever, not-even-once promotes from within but instead chooses to overlook the large pool of longterm staff, consultants or qualified volunteers who apply for these jobs. Instead the positions are filled with relative newbies with college degrees who are (as yet) un-jaded. These will be your co-workers, so keep a bright smile as you step on their dreams each day and come to understand their frustration and broken hearts.

      Burning Man doesn’t philanthropically GIVE… it collects money. And it wants moar!! You’ll do fine — or they’ll eliminate your position and hire someone else with a new title.

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      • Callin' BS says:

        This is not true. If you look at the staff page you will find that many folks (including several of the Director level employees) have been promoted from within.

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  • Robert says:

    Not to stir the pot, but 18% of Ten Million Dollars is a decent tip for showing up to contribute at Burningman. Most volunteers take nothing for it. We’re happy to do it, competent and able. The pay is the satisfaction of doing our best out there in the field.. . Just piping up from my side boys….’ B. O’B.

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  • Robert says:

    And Thressa, congratulations, you have a lot of support from a lot of people, you must be good! B. O’B :)

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  • Rita says:

    This is amazing!

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