A community with a strong history of philanthropic women requires pioneers. Like Helen David and Marcia Haynes before her, Donna Niester has been a pioneer, in her own right, leading the way for many women in the Blue Water Area.
Holding titles as the first and only female president of the Port Huron Golf Club, the first female chair of the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation of St. Clair County and numerous roles as committee member, volunteer and activist, Niester has a wealth of knowledge, strength and passion to pass on.
As a woman in philanthropy, Niester has found that being a female has been a strength when it comes to compassion and perspective, but notes that it’s a balance of strong men and women alike that marks the success of great organizations. “Some of my greatest supporters have been men. Chuck Kelly, Doug Austin- they have been shining stars in my journey.”
“I always went all in. If I was going to get involved, it was going to be with everything I had and when I think back to my early years of community involvement, I think that’s what set me apart.” Some of those projects Niester has been “all in on” include the development of Studio 1219, Renaissance Zone, Backpack Giveaway, and most recently the Complete Your Degree Program.
“Most recently, it has been so fulfilling to chair the Complete Your Degree program. To see lives being impacted and changed right in front of your eyes is so gratifying,” Niester said. “But, probably the most impactful philanthropic endeavor I’ve seen through would have to be the Breast Cancer Fund.”
“For me, at the end of the day, I don’t want a thank you note or recognition, all that I do and the things I’m involved in are to hopefully see lives changed- to see something being done.” The years of tireless giving of time and talent, specifically in relation to the Community Foundation she says, have been “life-enhancing and increased my awareness of this community’s amazing generosity.”
For the next generation, she would pass on three things:
1. Know you can- Don’t be afraid to try.
2. Surround yourself with people who support you and are more driven than you are.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.