Re-Imagineer #2: Donna Kalajian Lagani From SVP, Publishing Director, Cosmopolitan to Senior Program Officer, The Hearst Foundation

After a very long and successful career in magazine Publishing (20 years as the leader of the Cosmopolitan brand), you decided to take a new career direction. How long was the idea brewing before you actually made the move to the Hearst Foundations?

The idea had been brewing for several years. I had a wonderful, fulfilling, incredibly fun career in publishing from the time I was in my early 20s. I had the privilege of overseeing the most profitable women’s media brand on the planet and working with a hard-charging sales and marketing team. After years of focusing on driving revenue and profits for Hearst (which I loved), I wanted a change….instead of driving revenue, I wanted to be able to gift dollars to incredibly worthy philanthropic non-profit organizations through the generosity of The Hearst Foundations.  From the time I introduced the idea to the Executive Vice Chairman of Hearst, Frank Bennack, who also happens to be my mentor, it took three years to make the move.  The timing had to be right given the changes on the editorial side of the businesses and new acquisitions the company made for which I became responsible.  It was worth the wait and I feel blessed and thankful to be able to do the work at The Foundations.  

How did you decide that you wanted to be in the nonprofit sector vs. launching a new for-profit business or some other type of endeavor?

After spending decades in the for-profit sector driving revenue for my brand and company and reaping the financial rewards that are associated with that performance, I wanted to be able to give back. Philanthropy has always been important to me- it was instilled in my brother and me from the time we were young. That was a gift my parents gave us which my husband and I have passed on to our son – instead of birthday gifts from his friends, he asked his friends to donate to the USO.  So, as rewarding as it is to manage and grow a business, nothing is more rewarding than the ability to give back….the ability to improve people’s lives through philanthropy.  And the areas we fund at The Hearst Foundations are very near and dear to me, especially our work in social services, education, and health. 

Now that you have been in the sector for several years, what have you learned?  What can you share about your experience that will inspire others to consider a second career in the nonprofit world?

I learn something new every single day. With the guidance of our leadership and my colleagues who have generously shared their wealth of knowledge, I feel as if I am getting a Ph.D. in philanthropy.  I have the opportunity to focus and learn about areas to which I had previously given very little thought like food insecurity, work development programs, stem cell research, domestic violence and more.  I am inspired on a daily basis by the people and the great work that non-profits do for our country. Learning something new keeps my mind fresh, stimulates my intellectual curiosity, and keeps me thinking that I am younger than I am!!! Stepping out of your comfort zone after decades of success in a given field can either be intimidating or invigorating and challenging…I chose the latter and am thrilled that I did.  I guess you could say after being Fun, Fearless and Female (Cosmo’s mantra for decades), I have become Fun Fearless and Philanthropic. 

ROAR into the second half of your life (before it's too late)

Meet the Author

Michael Clinton is a best-selling author, new longevity expert, thought leader, and keynote speaker on the changing face of what it means to live longer. He is also a writer-at-large for Esquire, and regular columnist for Men’s Health. A former president and publishing director of Hearst Magazines, he now serves as the special media advisor to the Hearst Corporation’s CEO.

He is also a photographer, has traveled through 124 countries, has run marathons on 7 continents, has started a nonprofit foundation, is a private pilot, is a part owner of a vineyard in Argentina, holds two master’s degrees, and still has a long list of life experiences that he plans to tackle.