Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Jackson Cooper

December 5, 2023 | By Hannah Edgar

Major Gifts Manager
Pacific Northwest Ballet

For Jackson Cooper, fundraising means “talking to people who love what you love.” That love has carried him to positions as major gifts manager at Pacific Northwest Ballet and as the precocious 23-year-old executive/artistic director at Chamber Music Raleigh. He reports increased revenue streams and board membership at both organizations.

Cooper traces his interest in arts administration to a production of Grease he saw at age 14 at The North Carolina Theater in Raleigh. He remembers thinking, “‘How do I do that? How do I get 1,200 people to be excited about the same thing I’m excited about?’ I learned that it was producing.”

Bitten by the theater bug, he asked his mom to help him fire off an email to the company, which agreed to take him on as an intern, first in its music department then in fundraising. Other roles at Raleigh performing arts organizations followed, including helping to organize a 24-hour theater festival in the city—and that was even before Cooper headed off to college at UNC Greensboro. There, he freelanced as a critic for a handful of North Carolina papers and pursued his interest in orchestral conducting, graduating with a double major in theater and business. 

UNC Greensboro didn’t have an arts management program when he attended. Now, in a full-circle homecoming, he teaches it at his alma mater over Zoom and at Seattle University. He has also authored a children’s book about the importance of philanthropy (A Kid’s Book About Kindness) and is co-authoring one about sustainable fundraising, which he reports is scheduled to be issued in 2027 by Columbia Business School Publishing. He sees these recent projects as his way to give back to the field. “I equate my journey now to Taylor Swift: This is my Eras Tour, and I’m in a service era,” Cooper quips.




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