Michael McDonald

Q&A with Michael McDonald, CEO of Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona


Q: How did you become interested in your career field?

Like so many important and worthwhile gifts that come along in a life, I kind of fell into nonprofit leadership. As a teenager I wanted to be priest, that is until I fully understood what celibacy meant (or wouldn’t mean). So I sort of wandered part-time through too long an undergraduate program at the UA while being a stay-at-home dad and working nights and weekends as a janitor at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Each evening I ran into the same little old nun who crept down the long corridors. She’d always chime out, “Michael, Pray for Admissions. Because without margin, there is no mission.” In well over a century of their healing ministry here in Southern Arizona, those nuns were more successful capitalists than any high-profile businessman I’ve ever come to know. Eventually I’d get a business management degree, work in a for-profit, and when I got laid off, stumble into my first “profit-with-a-purpose” (nonprofit) gig.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of your job?

When a peer of mine at another organization was struggling with the challenging role of being their organization’s titular leader, I thought of how much I enjoy playing the piano, teasing melodies and harmonics out of the instrument while hammering away at some fun and funky rhythms. All of this made possible by the great pressure placed upon the piano’s unseen workaday bridge, over which the sparkling strings are strung pitch-perfect and furiously hammered away at. An effective nonprofit leader should be that bridge.

Q: What is the greatest reward of your job?

The reward is that someone enjoys and benefits from the instrument’s (nonprofit’s) beautiful music. The greatest reward is when other instruments join in. Now that becomes the making of quite the community pachanga!

Q: Do you have any family members in Tucson?

My beloved spouse of 40 years and I are very thankful that our three children and five grandchildren live in Tucson, as well as other extended family across Southern Arizona.

Q: What’s your favorite food indulgence?

Along with an ever-present side of medium-heat salsa, my go-tos — brought to you today by the letter “B” — are beans, beer, and brownies.

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