Why I Serve – Diana Newman

Category: News

Diana Newman is the Executive Vice President of Benefactor Group. Her expertise includes fundraising, strategic planning, board development, public speaking, and group facilitation services for nonprofit organizations, specializing in gift planning and endowment building.

She has more than 25 years of nonprofit and philanthropic experience, including distinguished service as Vice President for Development for the Columbus Foundation and as the first Executive Director of the Ohio Historical Foundation.

Read on to learn more about Diana…

Tell us about yourself.

I like people, groups of people, especially those with a warm welcome and a clear purpose. From joining the Brownies in first grade, through choir and sports teams in middle and high school, to service clubs and the women’s board in college, I enjoy interaction and collaboration with colleagues and friends. When my children were young, I volunteered at their schools, taught Sunday School, and served on the boards of the League of Women Voters, Franklin County Juvenile Justice Committee, Crittenton Family Services, and Junior League of Columbus. My work experiences have likewise been with dedicated people doing meaningful work: the Ohio History Connection, The Columbus Foundation, Benefactor Group—and so many wonderful nonprofit organizations of all sizes, shapes, and missions. My specific areas of interest in the office are charitable gift planning, endowment building, and strategic planning—all group activities.

Where can someone find you when not at work?

I can be found at Ohio Health’s McConnell Center on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday most weeks. My favorite activity is the 60-minute water aerobics class, with 15 to 20 buddies in the pool.

How did you get involved in serving nonprofit organizations?

To support my husband through OSU law school, I worked at a stone quarry in the finance department estimating the number of cubic feet of asphalt required to pave parking lots. Whoa! I quickly realized I needed a job with a purpose beyond a paycheck and with more human contact. After several years of serving as mom and volunteer, I sought fulltime work in the nonprofit sector—and have never turned back.

What inspires you to serve the common good?

I learned about community service from my parents. One day in 1956 my father brought home two young men, brothers ages 18 and 19, who had escaped the Hungarian revolution in Budapest and arrived by bus in Toledo the day before. They stayed with us for several months until my brother and I had taught them English and my father had found them jobs at the Willys Overland Jeep factory. This was one of many examples from my childhood about reaching out to help strangers or neighbors. My parents would remind us frequently, “Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time.” Equity and inclusion continue to be core values in my life.

 What everyday thing are you good at that might surprise people?

In the late 1990s, I participated in a research project for the Council of Foundations about private foundation donors and was asked to write a book using the data from the research. I knew I would need to rely heavily on the stories told to me by leaders of nonprofit organizations and foundations. I have always loved to tell stories, but I wasn’t sure of my ability to write stories. I joined a new “memoir group” with seven women from my church in February 2000. We met every two weeks to share written stories of our lives, especially of childhood and growing up. I gained confidence in my writing and, in 2002, Opening Doors: Pathways to Diverse Donors was published by Jossey Bass. And the Memoir Group is still going strong 16 years later.

What is one word that best describes how you work.


What are you currently reading or what do you recommend?

I’m currently reading Cameron Mitchell’s new book: Yes is the Answer. What is the question? which I find fascinating and instructive. Three recent books I have read:

  • It’s All Relative (a very funny and insightful book about family) by A. J. Jacobs
  • Educated (an astounding memoir of a young woman growing up in a Mormon fundamentalist family) by Tara Westover
  • Almost Everything (notes on hope in the midst of today’s angst) by Anne Lamont

Although very different from each other, I recommend each of them. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Two bits of advice come immediately to mind. My mother always said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” And, from the Dean of Women at Oberlin College my freshman year: “You are a people-person, Diana. Use your strength.”

What gives you hope for the future of philanthropy in the next 5 years?

The young people I have come to know through Benefactor Group and a host of nonprofit organizations—staff and board members as well as the people they serve—give me great confidence in the future. Overwhelmingly, they are committed, hard-working, well-prepared, passionate, and smart. They are eager participants and able to learn from experience as well as from others. They do not wait to be asked; they offer their own perspectives and hands-on help. With their world views and deep consciousness, they are poised to enhance our dynamic culture of philanthropy.


My status here at Benefactor Group is changing at the end of 2018—to Executive Vice President Emerita. That means I’ll be doing some work on an as-needed basis, but not working full time. If you’d like to talk about endowment building—or anything else, please leave a message at Benefactor Group (614-437-3000). I’ll return your call.

My ten years with Benefactor Group have been the most gratifying—both professionally and personally—in my career. I thank my brilliant Bene co-workers for encouraging and supporting me (especially with technology) and our amazing organizational clients who have trusted us with their challenges and energized us with their successes.