Sandra Madera – Nonprofit Communications

July 12, 2007 Terkel

Interview: How To Become a Communications Manager at a Nonprofit

My job was okay, but it wasn’t anything that I wanted to be doing. I worked there for almost a year, and then my aunt Patti, who is the reason why I’m working at One Legacy, got very sick. She actually passed away and became a donor.

Aunt Patti had just gotten married. She was 34 years old. She was pregnant. They had just bought a house. It was the beginning of her life. And within a week, it was over. It just stunned me because I felt like…we are not guaranteed another day. You know? I can’t be sitting in this basement doing a job that is so mundane and unsatisfactory, knowing that life has so much potential and I’m just letting it fly right by me.

So I quit that job. I took out loans. I went back to school. I still thought I was going to be a teacher. I got my English degree. I graduated in two years. When I graduated, I realized I needed another year of schooling to get my teaching credential, and I really couldn’t afford it. I looked for internships. I started making my way in the business world, but I was much happier than I was ever before.

So how did you eventually come to One Legacy?

Aunt Patti was a donor, and since she passed away, One Legacy has done several things that my family participated in. We were able to decorate a Rose Parade float with Patti’s picture on it. She was depicted on the Kodak float a few years ago when they had flora graphs. We actually got to put flower petals on her face. So it was neat.

We also hosted a golf tournament in her honor, because her husband is a sheriff. So it was a joint golf tournament with the sheriffs and One Legacy.

So I always had good experiences with One Legacy. Brian always kept in touch with someone from my family because they were both in PR. She got this job opening. I was working at an advertising agency where I got the internship. A Hispanic advertising agency. She forwarded me the job opening and I thought I would be perfect for this.

I read the job description and it just, it was exactly what I wanted to be doing. Working with Latino families. Doing something that benefits other people. Makes me feel good about what I do. Really positive. It just sounded like it was right where I wanted to be. I took the opportunity because I knew there would not be another chance. You know?

So basically you saw the job description for One Legacy and just applied. And today you’re working with Latino families?

I do work with Latino families. I do any kind of speaking in Spanish to the community. I do presentations, volunteer training, things like that.

A little better than shipping in the basement.

I little better than shipping (Laughs).

What makes you passionate about working here?

It’s two fold. Number one, Patti is an inspiration to me, every day. I feel like I’m living my life in honor of her. The fact that she was a donor, she saved five people’s lives. It makes me feel that other people who go through a similar experience, because losing someone that young and so unexpectedly, it’s very tragic. To be able to have something positive come out of that, has been, it has ameliorated some of the pain.

I feel like any other family that might go through something like that, if they only know if you just say ‘yes’ to donation, that in time you’ll see that something good came out of this horrible experience. So that’s one of the things.

The other thing is that there is almost a hundred thousand people on the waiting list. They keep me going. We went to a support group the other day to give a presentation in Spanish. One of the girls who had been previously in that hospital and gotten a liver went to the support group. She was the only recipient there. All the rest of the people were on the waiting list. They said that all the people who get their liver get better and they move on with their lives. But all the rest of the people who are there are waiting. They really feel like their life is on pause. They are an inspiration. They make me want to help raise awareness and get people to say yes to a donation.

That’s pretty cool. Because we were talking with Kathleen about that, that 96,000 people are on the waiting list. That’s quite a bit.

I know. And about twenty percent of them are here in California.

And twenty percent of them are children ten years or younger.

Yeah. Yeah.

Makes me want to go to the DMV.

I know. And we get a morning report every day that tell us of all the cases that are ongoing. When we see declines on there, it really hurts. You know? Because we know that that could have been three more lives, five more lives saved. Removed from the waiting list.

What gives you the most joy in your job?

The most joy? I have to say working directly with the volunteers. The volunteers that we have trained and have gone through the ambassador program, the majority have been touched by donation. Either they are recipients, or they are donor families. Especially during Rose Parade time. We are constantly visiting with them. They come and decorate a float. We’re working with them, and it’s just an amazing experience because it’s almost as if it is unspoken, but I feel like this group of people has this appreciation for life. Because we have been in a position where we have seen it just, dissipate. Before our very eyes. That kind of appreciation for it is very deep. So it brings me lots of joy.

What’s your definition of passion?

Passion. Passion is when you have no choice but to be driven. Because something inside of you just makes you move in that direction. It’s almost like it’s not you. There’s something else pushing you. There’s something else that makes you go for it and put your all into it. And really express that. It’s like, the highest joy.

If you could go back to when you were 22 years old and you could give yourself just one piece of advice to prepare for your life, what would you tell yourself?

Oh gosh. What would I tell myself? At 22 I probably would have told myself, or I would probably tell myself, to always keep the bigger picture in mind. Because life has a lot of ups and downs. But if you keep your eyes on the prize, you’ll get there. You’ll get there eventually.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would say that there is no timeline. I graduated with my BA when I was a few months shy of my 29th birthday. Don’t expect that there is a timeline, that life is perfect and there is some rigid rule about where you should be at what age. I think if you just allow yourself to really come through and listen to that voice inside of you, you’ll get to where you should be.