Navigating the Nonprofit Industry: Patricia Wilson

Patricia Wilson, Executive Director, Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area, First Republic Client
September 30, 2014

First Republic client Patricia Wilson, is the Executive Director of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area, one of the country's most well-known nonprofit organization which grants "wishes" to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Patricia has been working in the non-profit world for over 25 years. Having a daughter made her question how she spent her time, and she decided if she was going to be away from her child, she should be doing something she believed in.

1. As a nonprofit, what accomplishment is Make-A-Wish most proud of? 

Our Chapter fulfills 100% of our wish requests, thanks in great part to our Board of Directors.

2. What advice would you give to someone with a few years experience in the non-profit world who is looking to succeed in this space? 

Define what your success looks like. If your definition of success begins or only involves yourself—probably not a good fit. Success is fulfilling the mission. Select a nonprofit organization that has a mission that reflects your passions and beliefs. Always be mission-based, results-oriented and not ego-driven. Maintain an impeccable work ethic and focus on advancing the mission. Everyone is successful in this scenario. And to top it all get to love your job while making the world a better place. 

3. Who has been a role model to you in your life/career and why? 

My Dad was my first and most important role model. His parents died when he was very young and he spent most of his childhood in an orphanage. He got out at 17, served during WWII—then went back to school when I was a young girl and earned his HS diploma—and kept going! He was incredibly self-disciplined, hardworking and a lifelong learner.

4. If you could improve one thing about the non-profit industry, what would it be? 

The trend to create your own (new) charity rather than investing in one that is already in place and focused on an issue you hope to solve.

5. What has been the biggest contributing factor leading to the success of Make-A-Wish? 

The people that surround me (board, staff, volunteers, donors).

6. What's the number one mistake people in the non-profit industry make? 

In my humble opinion, it is not just a career choice. It is a lifestyle and career choice and you need to really believe in what you do. I'm working all the time, but it really isn't work if you love it. The job of a charity CEO is incredibly difficult and the range of skills needed to be successful is mind boggling. Everyone thinks they want your job—until they really see all that you do. I'm an accidental CEO, by the way. I'm thinking of writing a book about that. 

7. What do you think the Make-A-Wish legacy will be?

The thousands of children (and their support network of friends, family and medical community) we've touched in such a profound way that it is impossible to articulate how powerful it is. 

8. What's your favorite quote?

Aldous Huxley: "Experience is not what happens to you ... it is what you do with what happens to you."

The views of the authors of these articles do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.