Above: Daniel Stiker (center) tabling for New Sun Rising at Pittonkatonk in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Solomon Pugliano)
The combination of passion and profession could be defined as soul work; the feeling of fulfillment through actively contributing to the common good. It’s something that most hope to obtain during their lifetimes and they’re fortunate to find it.
“Looking back at where I had joy and where I thought I could find it, and meaningful soul work, was with nonprofits,” said Daniel Stiker, the Director of Culture + Operations at New Sun Rising.
Originally from the Pittsburgh area, Stiker left for several years in the late 1990s and moved to New York City. While there, he worked for a dotcom and got involved with the Beggar’s Group Theatre Club that primarily focused on underground and political performances. He said it was a life changing experience for him to be involved with a performing group that focused on important issues and “made a difference.”
“Theatre often moves people, sometimes to action, and that’s the theatre that I like,” Stiker said.
Similarly, nonprofit work is about moving people to action. Stiker said being heavily involved in theatre prepared him for his role in the nonprofit world and how to effectively communicate with people to create positive change.
Devin Montgomery, co-founder and executive director of Protohaven, began working with New Sun Rising in 2017 and Stiker was his primary contact. Montgomery said Protohaven was conceived to “preserve a community workshop” that would have otherwise disappeared without the fiscal sponsorship and guidance from NSR. Today, Montgomery said Protohaven is a nonprofit professional space for entrepreneurs and makers of any kind to create and scale their projects, “whatever that may be.”
“It was so helpful to go in as a new nonprofit and talk to someone who had a great deal of experience working with different funders and navigating [grant] requirements,” Montgomery said. “Dan has dealt with so many people in the same position that he really has a breadth of experience working with people in our situation that you don’t see in many other places.”
Stiker brings that cognizance to New Sun Rising, but it’s also what drew him to the nonprofit. When he returned to Pittsburgh in 2001, Stiker started a theatre company with Heather Lynn McNeish Gray and was able to land a tech support position with a large local nonprofit. Wanting to make more of an impact in the nonprofit realm, Stiker went back to university and obtained his bachelor’s and graduate degree in nonprofit management.
He began working with an organization that he loved, but still felt that he wasn’t fulfilling his soul work. So, in 2014 he founded the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival.
It was around this time Stiker heard about New Sun Rising and that it was looking for a board member. He ended up becoming the Vice Chair for the board with NSR Founder and Executive Director Scott Wolovich as Chair, and staff positions opened up as the nonprofit grew.
“At the time, and now, the mission of New Sun Rising is that soul work,” Stiker said. “It’s making an impact and working for the common good.”
Today, as the Director of Culture + Operations, Stiker works closely with Wolovich and Jamie Johnson, Manager of Performance Improvement. They touch base with every project, with Stiker and Johnson being the main contacts for fiscal sponsorships.
Ebony McQueen-Harris, founder and principal consultant at LEVELS Consulting, worked with Stiker around 2016 when she was managing Ignite Northside, a program under NSR that provides emerging social businesses and community project leaders with mentorship and development workshops. McQueen-Harris said what she has appreciated the most about Stiker is his realistic approach and support of those businesses and projects that NSR works with.
“Dan takes an objective stance when working with someone and asks ‘Is this business a viable fiscal sponsorship entity?’” McQueen-Harris said. “Business owners in the startup stage can be sensitive to critiques because it’s their baby, and I understand that, but Dan is kind of off the cuff and says, ‘This is your baby, but this is what I’m seeing and the things you need to consider.’”
Montgomery echoed this sentiment and said that Stiker’s ability to be “approachable and empathetic” makes it easy for others to open up and be frank during difficult conversations.
“That is very valuable and something about his personality that makes him suitable for the role he’s in.”