About Pam McAllister
For reasons that baffle me to this day, I began my professional life as a tax lawyer. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that — it just wasn’t a great fit for me.)
Still, I did have a fine run as a lawyer, earning my J.D. cum laude from Northwestern University, then joining one of the oldest and largest law firms in Honolulu (where I’d grown up).
Most of my nearly seven years of law practice was devoted to tax-exempt organizations — hospitals, universities, one of the largest private foundations in the world — and charitable gift planning. Even so, tax law didn’t feel meaningful enough to keep my interest and commitment for a lifetime.
I yearned for more significance, more contribution, more heart than I found in that work. I started to volunteer with environmental and conservation groups and felt a strong pull in that direction.
The firm offered me partnership, right on schedule, but I couldn’t go through with it. So I turned them down, something I was told repeatedly “just isn’t done,” and left the firm the day before I would have become a partner.
After taking a year off to travel with my husband all over North America (highly recommended!), I landed a job in Seattle with a start-up environmental advocacy group devoted to protecting and restoring Puget Sound.
Given my legal background, I was a natural for policy research and analysis — and I wrote slews of policy papers and issue backgrounders. Once I’d proved myself as a more-than-decent writer, I was tapped to write member communications, fundraising proposals, and other marketing pieces.
Then my dream job came along at The Nature Conservancy. I’d wanted to work for the Conservancy since the mid-1980s, when I was volunteering for them back in Hawaii. I worked my way up to be Director of Communications for the Washington state chapter, in charge of marketing communications for the chapter’s ambitious major gift and planned giving programs.
About a decade ago, while still working at The Nature Conservancy, my already-good fortune took a turn for the better: I attended one of Jim’s rare public workshops and got my first exposure to The Philanthropic Quest.
It may be trite to call an experience “life-changing,” but that it was. (I’m sure you’ll see why as you get into the Quest yourself.)
Inspired to put Jim’s ideas into action, I managed to entice him to do some work with the Conservancy’s philanthropy department. That led to collaborating with him on various projects — facilitating workshops, consulting to organizations, writing — and eventually leaving my “dream job” to join with Jim in bringing this work to a wider audience.
And that’s what has brought me to where I am today. It’s my privilege to be here, in support of your success. Maybe you and I will talk sometime soon?