BA, Sociology, UIC 1996 (Minors in Spanish and History)
Dan is currently at Grenzebach Glier and Associates (GG+A) working as the Senior Vice President of Analytics & Director of the Philanthropy Survey Lab. He works as a consultant for the company, advising non-profit organizations and providing counsel on how to excel at raising philanthropic private support. Dan’s clients have included the Advancement offices at UIC and UIUC, as well as hundreds of other universities, healthcare organizations, museums, and national organizations. His consulting with non-profit organizations involves market research, similar to the way that companies research their ideal customers.
How sociology helped Dan find his career
Before beginning his career at GG+A, Dan was applying for graduate school and the U.S. Peace Corps at the same time. The Peace Corps contacted him first and he was soon on his way to Slovakia. He spent two years there and another year traveling around Eastern Europe and Asia. On a flight back to Chicago from Tokyo, he was frantically applying for jobs. He initially started with an interest in journalism or communications, but was called into a job that would channel his statistics skills learned from sociology courses at UIC.
From UIC Sociology to the Philanthropy Survey Lab
He started out as a project assistant at GG+A and worked his way to being the director of a small analytics unit with just two employees. SPSS analysis software, which he first encountered in his first statistics class at UIC, was introduced into the company. Soon, GG+A became known for its approach to “evidence-based” consulting, and it eventually became the Philanthropy Survey Lab. “It’s not enough to be right when you are advising a client,” Dan says, “you also have to prove it, and they have to believe you.”
Why sociology still informs Dan’s work on a daily basis
Dan finds that his job relies heavily on statistics, data, and drawing empirical conclusions; he credits his background in sociology as being critical to his success in his industry. He calls this the nuts and bolts of sociology that pull the larger work together. Understanding social science methodology, such as how to write effective survey questions, or framing a testable research question, is something he values in his job every day. Also important is data visualization and the importance of presenting academic quality research to a non-academic audience. Further, his sociological education helps him to see the “big picture” social issues related to philanthropy. This is especially crucial in the way that his market research relies on analyzing data between different and competing donors for non-profit organizations, and how issues of class, wealth, gender, and geo-demographics affect how charitable gifts are made, which organizations will get them, and what impact that has on society. Dan feels strongly that applied sociology must not be purely quantitative, but a mix of logic, math, creativity, and human interaction, all supported by evidence, and this is what makes his career exciting for him.
Fun Facts about Dan
Dan and his wife, Robin—a fellow UIC alumna, have three incredibly talented children; one is a champion member of the Chicago Middle School Debate League, another is the banjo player in The Basement Bluegrass Band, and the youngest is very influenced by 80’s punk music and yet is still very polite and charming. Last year, Dan traveled to Alaska and in so doing achieved a lifelong dream to visit all 50 states. He is currently working on a book about the history of moonshine and American whiskey, and he admits freely that research on whiskey is more fun than writing about it!
Interviewed by Jocelyn Diaz