Danielle St. Germain-Gordon, Making Heads Turn

Por: Edward Rueda

23, March, 2022 en Luxury Trending

Danielle St. Germain-Gordon

Making Heads Turn

Interview by Heide VanDoren Betz

Danielle St. Germain-Gordon is a brilliant, dynamic executive with more than 25 years of management and fundraising experience for non-profit arts organizations. Her stunning stature of 6’5 (in heels) makes heads turn when she walks into a room. Her diverse talents include exceptionally effective fundraising and interpersonal skills. She possesses solid expertise and an amazing track record of success in both Annual Fund and Capital Campaign strategy and front-line fundraising as well as strong managerial, sales, and training abilities.

Danielle’s ability to handle high-pressure situations with diplomacy and tact and her sophisticated judgment during negotiations are legendary. Even event planning with logistical skills is second nature to Danielle, all realized with workable budget strategies. When Danielle asks, your head turns and you don’t say “NO”.


Luxury Trending: Tell us about your background.

Danielle St-Germain Gordon: I was raised just outside of Boston, the last of 4 kids. I always had to ask if I wanted anything. Maybe that’s how I learned to ask for money and pledges; perhaps that was the start of my becoming a fundraiser.

LT: You have had quite an illustrious career in management and fundraising. Is this always the professional path you wanted to take?

DSGG: No, not really. I was fascinated by the film—enough to create a short film on my dad’s super 8, called “Escape from Ursuline” which depicted my classmates and me escaping from our girls’ high school just outside of Boston, by climbing over a fence. Then I wanted to be an astronomer or astronaut because I was fascinated with the stars; then I wanted to act but was told I was too tall―I am 6’1”—barefoot. OK then . . . onward . . . I remember seeing the King Tut Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. What a trip, I became fascinated with ancient Egypt. I devoured stories about Howard Carter (in National Geographic) where I could vicariously live the life of discovering treasures through him. I knew for sure that I just had to become an archeologist. I was 7 ½.

As a teenager, I started to love stores―shopping, selling, merchandising—anything to do with a store, so that’s where I worked during my summer vacations. I have always loved work, so I also helped out at cocktail parties on Martha’s Vineyard, where we spent our summers. I never did make it to Bartender.

LT: How did it all begin; what was your first job in your early career?

DSGG: My first job in the art arena was at Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.; I moved to D.C. in 1998 and subscribed to STC. One fateful night, I received a telemarketing fundraising call from them where they garbled and mispronounced my name, they were eating (noisily) on the phone, and there was that awfully long delay between when I picked up and when they spoke. Sounds familiar? Since I lived just around the corner, I went there the next day, asked to speak with someone in charge, explained the liability they have in their organization . . . and I suggested they hire me. Well then, OK! I spent 8 glorious years with STC, ending with a major capital campaign that opened STC’s Harman Center for the Arts! The Harman Center opened in October 2007, and we presented a piece by Trey McIntyre- “A Day in the Life’ which cemented my ever-present love of ballet.


LT: You are a successful fundraiser; what’s the trick? I’m sure there is more to it than just asking for money.

DSGG: There are 2 types of people―those who feel fundraising / asking for money is TAKING from a person. Then there are those who feel that fundraising/asking for money or a ”gift” is GIVING. That’s me. I have the ability to be able to marry a person to their passion; this is truly my personal strength and that is my gift in fundraising. I also genuinely care very much about the people I work with and spend time with, people who love what I love, day in, day out. I think this care translates to a successful work environment.

LT: Tell us about Fundraising for the SF Ballet.

DSGG: Fundraising for the not-for-profit SF Ballet is an amazing opportunity to bring to potential supporters because of the high level of artistic talent, mentorship, and innovation it provides in the San Francisco and larger dance communities. As one of the most highly sought-after dance training institutions in the industry, cultivating the next generation of professional dancers for San Francisco Ballet and ballet companies around the world, and through its work with homegrown and international choreographers, the Ballet brings so much tremendous talent to the Bay area. But it’s not just for professional dancers, it’s also through the work we do in our school and in schools across San Francisco where we really promote dance as a way of learning, and physical practice for all ages and talent levels. As I am sure you can well imagine, all this takes funding.

LT: You and San Francisco Ballet: How did you “land” here?

DSGG: I received a recruiting call while I was quite happily and successfully ensconced at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis where I was for 5 years, 2013-2018. I got a call from SF Ballet, THE Ballet Company! At that moment the idea of shaking things up and around for myself, of leaving the ease of Minneapolis, where I knew my donors, the streets, the schools, well everything, was intriguing. I thought such a move will keep me on my toes (pun intended). And, come on, being able to work with the world’s finest dancers, athletes, and musicians? My answer HAD to be yes. First, I flew out and enjoyed the opening night of the UNBOUND FESTIVAL in Spring 2018. I was hooked, I was sold, I was ready to sign and get moving. I started in June 2018.

LT: Will you define your role with the San Francisco Ballet?

DSGG: I started as Chief Development Officer in 2018. Then our world shut down on March 6, 2020. So, I had one full season of SF Ballet before we went into COVID lockdown and creative/saving/safety/preservation mode. We launched our Critical Relief Fund in March 2020 and by July, SF Ballet’s astoundingly talented and driven development team exceeded its stated $5million goal. It was a euphoric success and career-high for me!


LT: What do you love most about what you do?

DSGG: My interaction with people, the dancers, the musicians, the production folks, my colleagues, and the Board. Talk about being supportive! This is a group of folks who are not afraid to dream and make things happen.

LT: You have been Interim Executive Director since June 2021. What makes you so effective in this role?

DSGG: Three things: capability, resilience, and responsiveness.

And I care deeply about the people within this organization, that is always what makes a difference.

LT: Can you share a success story?

DSGG: Yes, the great success of the Critical Relief Fund, I mentioned earlier was phenomenal. Then, working with the entire SF Ballet team to get back to live performances, first at Frost Amphitheater at Stanford in August 2021 and then NUTCRACKER at the San Francisco Opera House was an unbelievable success for the company and the public. Never has our ballet meant so much to me and I believe it has never meant so much to our artists, staff, and audiences. While digital performances worked when it was the only option, there is nothing like the thrill, challenge, and uncertainty of a live performance. That communal experience of the weather, the traffic, the world’s events, the dancers’ moods, the complexities, the variations, every single thing affects what you see. That, for me, is success and it is magic!

LT: Do you personally like/enjoy ballet? (Many management professionals do not necessarily appreciate/care for the art form they manage)

DSGG: Yes, I do, I adore it all. I love the performances. I love our artists and their incredible strength, grit, determination, and finesse. Getting to know them as extraordinary human beings they have been a blessing and joy.

LT: Is there a favorite?

DSGG: OH yes! Trey McIntyre’s YOUR FLESH SHALL BE A GREAT POEM and Bill Forsythe’s BLAKE WORKS I, which we just did in February 2022. In addition, Danielle Rowe’s FOR PIXIE, which we did at Frost, Stanford last summer, and ANIMA ANIMUS by David Dawson; and Balanchine’s SYMPHONY INC.

LT: What keeps you inspired?

DSGG: The opportunity to work with the dancers, choreographers, Helgi Tomasson and now Tamara Rojo is such an inspiration. The energy of the live performances is an inspiration. Live performances were really missed by the dancers and artists. Some said it was almost suffocating. I am so energized by every live performance onstage. The audience has been incredible in welcoming our talent back to the stage after two long years.

LT: What are the major challenges in this job?

DSGG: The pace! The pace can be head-turning. I always prefer to look on the bright side, be positive, which sometimes is hard to do. But, my job is to energize, inspire, communicate, and shine a light—a big spotlight- on the talents of the entire team at SF Ballet.

LT: How do you maintain a healthy work/ life balance?

DSGG: I love my Concept 2 rower – my daughter Sophia is a sophomore at UCSD and is on their crew team, she encouraged me to get this.

I live in Tiburon, so the drive home from work is a really calming 30-60 minute time, depending on traffic. It’s a decompression zone for me. Driving into the office in the morning is the best time to stay in close contact with my East Coast-based family and my Nashville-based fiancé, Steve.

LT: You are about to be married. Congratulations to you both. Can you share the secret of juggling a (bi-coastal) marriage, family, and a demanding job?

DSGG: I always say that my terrific fiancé, Steve is the rock to my kite. You cannot have two kites, you’ll get all tangled up. And two rocks? How terribly boring. It helps that he is a smart, confident, supportive, and all-around fabulous person. Steve loves my son, Chauncey (24) and my daughter Sophia (19) and that love is mutual. Something else about Steve – I adore a man with a sense of humor! When we walked into the home we had just bought in Tiburon, where all of the windows look straight at little Old Saint Hilary’s Church (the church where we are getting married in April), Steve quickly noticed that the view includes the church as well as, just off to the right, Alcatraz. He wryly said with a grin: “How perfect a church and a prison!”

LT: On a personal note: What’s your favorite food?

DSGG: Definitely oysters. It used to be Buffalo chicken wings, but now it is Nashville hot chicken. Hattie B’s “DAMN HOT!”


LT: Your favorite destination for a holiday?

DSGG: Just point me to the entrance of a jetway to anywhere and I am happy. Truly happy.

LT: Favorite way to spend an evening?

DSGG: Enjoying a glass of wine with friends; I love living so close to Napa/Sonoma. I appreciate having dinner at home or a friend’s home. Of course, I love being in a box at the War Memorial Opera House watching a favorite ballet, followed by a celebratory dinner in a restaurant. How much more perfect can an evening be?

LT: Do you have a Favorite Bay Area restaurant?

DSGG: Ooh, that changes often. Right now, Empress by Boon, Cotogna, Presidio Social Club on their deck, and any of the new spots in Tiburon – especially Tiburon Wine for a sip and to buy a bottle or two, then, of course, the fabulous dinners at Bungalow Kitchen, Tiburon.

LT: Favorite international restaurant?

DSGG: Browns Hotel, London has the very best eggs and smoked salmon I’ve ever eaten, but that was breakfast. I love Indian food, so Gymkhana in Mayfair is another favorite restaurant. The Pioneer Saloon in Ketchum, Idaho is terrific in my opinion. I spent most of my 20s living there and still dream of the off-menu baseball cut steak charred medium rare with black pepper.

LT: You have accomplished much for various organizations. What would your dream job be?

DSGG: I have it now. This is it!

I have been honored to helm San Francisco Ballet alongside longtime artistic director Helgi Tomasson. As recently announced, Tamara Rojo will succeed Tomasson after this season. SF Ballet is one of the world’s leading ballet companies. As a commissioner, collaborator, and presenter, the Ballet performs locally, nationally, and internationally with the top choreographers, artists, and dancers. San Francisco Ballet contributes to the cultural richness of the Bay Area as an ambassador for the city globally and a dedicated community member at home. SF Ballet reaches San Franciscans and dance-lovers around the world through performances, training opportunities, and community engagement while celebrating dance as a transformative source of joy and enrichment, a way of learning, and physical practice for all ages.

I help facilitate it all. I cannot imagine a more satisfying challenge. I am living my dream.


HMUA: OZZIE MENDOZA @ozzie_mendoza

Creative Director and Writer: HEIDE BETZ @heidebetz

Hair Assistant: OLGA HELGUERA @olgahm45

Featured Fashion Designer: COLLEEN QUEN @quenlifenews

Art Director: NIGEL JOHN DEL MUNDO @nigeldelmundo

Photographer: VINCENT GOTTI @vinniegotti

Photographed at: The Bungalow Kitchen By Michael Mina in Tiburon, CA @bungalowkitchentiburon