AFP Member Spotlight: Fidel Garcia
AFP Member Spotlights are a recurring series of interviews with AFP members, highlighting the unique individuals and career paths that exist within the fundraising profession. If you know an inspiring fundraising professional who deserves to be featured, please email email@example.com.
In this Member Spotlight, we interviewed Fidel Garcia, director of development and communications at SAGE Eldercare. He shared with us how he turned his passion for volunteerism from an extracurricular to his full-time career.
“Hey, we’d like you to take over development as well.”
4 months after starting at SAGE Eldercare, Fidel’s executive director offered to expand his role to a full-time position encompassing not only his current communications-focused responsibilities, but development as well. He said, “Let me think about it.”
Prior to this position, he had had 20+ years of experience in communications, primarily pharmaceutical advertising and marketing communications. His undergraduate degree was in marketing. He had his MBA. But he had never done fundraising in a professional capacity.
He decided to do some research. After talking to the immediate past president of the AFP New Jersey Chapter Ray Brush and other mentors, he realized that a lot of the skills he already had translated to a career in fundraising — project management, relationship building, writing, understanding what motivates someone — these were the skills of a development professional too.
Needless to say, he took the role.
“You really should go to AFP ICON. It’s a great way to get a solid footing on what fundraising is like.”
It was early 2022 and Fidel had just accepted the role of director of development and communications at SAGE Eldercare. Eager to learn as much as he could about his new responsibilities, he reached back out to the New Jersey chapter immediate past president for advice. “You really should go to AFP ICON. It’s a great way to get a solid footing on what fundraising is like,” the president told him.
AFP ICON 2022 was coming up in Las Vegas. Fidel decided to attend and add on the two-day fundamentals of fundraising pre-conference course to get fully immersed in the fundraising basics. Not only was this course a fantastic introduction to the skills he would be needing in his new role; it also served as an introduction to the AFP community. His course-mates became his on-site lunch companions and later, a sounding board of peers he could reach back out to. He had found his tribe.
“I don’t need to know it all, I just need to know who to reach out to.”
Inspired by the relationships he developed at AFP ICON and at the local level, Fidel became a member of the New Jersey chapter board. It felt like a great opportunity to get more involved, meet more people, and give back.
As he gained experience, Fidel realized, “I don’t need to know it all. I just need to know who to reach out to.” He now had a strong network of people he could turn to in his chapter and at his organization. Even some of the people he had met when he was a volunteer at organizations like the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, his local community theatres, and The Miss America Organization, were now a great resource, and often mentors as his passion for nonprofits went from hobby to career.
He had been passionate about his pharmaceutical career experience because of the important health issues the products addressed, but working at SAGE Eldercare has provided a new type of fulfillment, as he sees his older family members in the people he serves. His donors and the community see that connection as well, making the relationships he’s building that much more authentic.
The Leadership Institute
Fidel was selected to be part of the inaugural cohort of the Leadership Institute, a new week-long in-person program that cultivates leadership skills for fundraisers interested in taking the next step in their careers. Here’s what he had to say about his experience in St. Paul:
“AFP knocked it out of the park when they developed the Leadership Institute. It surpassed my expectations for being an incredible opportunity to learn, network, and develop my leadership skills alongside other talented fundraising professionals. Folks from all over North America met in St. Paul, Minnesota for one week of intense reflection, growth, and planning. It required us to be open, authentic, and vulnerable. I appreciate all my peers for being so. We became a family during this time; sharing our hopes, dreams, and challenges, to reflect on them from a different perspective, leaving behind limitations we had placed on ourselves.
On one of the days, we invested time in career mapping and discussing what we needed to accomplish each of our plans. Best “investment” I’ve made in my professional career EVER; now I just need to put the plan into motion. I left St. Paul energized and enlightened, to implement new leadership skills at work and in my community, with a greater self-awareness of my strengths and abilities, and a community of fundraisers at the waiting to support my efforts like family.”
Fidel’s Advice for Newbies
We asked Fidel if he had any advice for other people who were just getting into fundraising or transitioning in, as he did. Here’s what he told us:
- Troll the AFP website. Fidel recommended taking a look at the resources on the website that you can watch and read that will help with the learning curve.
- Join the affinity groups. The affinity groups will help you develop a network of people that you can reach out to learn more about the challenges that others are having and how they’re solving them.
- Get involved with your local chapter. In addition to the local events, it’s great to meet people that you can go get coffee or a drink with to just vent about the frustrations of the day-to-day.