We had the good fortune of connecting with Brent Wakefield and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brent, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I’ve been in the business of building relationships and not getting rid of relationships. In the nonprofit world, you are only as successful as the group of friends and supporters that you have. If somebody gives your nonprofit organization money/makes a donation, they don’t get a pair of shoes, a new car, or anything tangible. They get to feel good…and they might get a tax write off. In order to create that good feeling, we, the nonprofit, have to come from a place of generosity AND we have to have skin in the game. If we want to get a lot from a donor, we need to be prepared to give a lot. We give good information, important follow up and customer service, and we give the supporter a chance to give to something meaningful. We therefore need to be sure we make good use of their funds and that we can share the impact with them. There is a lot of work in making this happen. It’s actually harder than just giving somebody a nice new pair of shoes. 🙂
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I studied Cultural Anthropology and did not have a plan in life to get behind. I didn’t want to be a doctor, a businessman or anything that might provide me with a clear path. My plan was to do whatever I needed to do to remain independent and to do it at my best. Along the way, many opportunities have presented themselves and I attribute that to my networking tendencies. I love making friends and doing the work to maintain them. I do this because I genuinely like people, and I believe that is what has been the most helpful. When my student visa expired after my last year of university that I completed in Bologna, Italy, I had a network of connections through the English that I taught, and through that was able to transition to a working visa and be sponsored by and Italian publishing company. I knew about 20 Americans that were trying to do the same, but I ended up being the only one who made it happen. I attribute that to the networking I did and the hard work I put into everything. That lead to another 12 years in Italy working and having excellent opportunities. I really want people to know that by really connecting and caring about folks, lots of magic happens. You’ve got to add lots of hard work to the mix too. 😉
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Diego is not like a European city where life revolves around a center. It’s like Los Angeles in that there are neighborhoods and pockets to discover. Daytime activities for my good friend would be: a hike at Torrey Pines to see our most spectacular coastline. Lunch at the Lodge at Torrey Pines is also a must because the building is a masterpiece and the food at A.R. Valentien and at their Grille is excellent. You can’t beat the views. I would also do a day at La Jolla Shores beach to get the beach vibe, and take the kayaks to the cove with the tour groups that are in the area. I think the beach scene that one finds in movies is also appealing. I’d take them to Pacific Beach to walk on the boardwalk, then go to Jrdn in Tower 23 for lunch on the boardwalk. It’s iconic and fun. I live in Kensington, so I’d take my friend on a bike ride from my house, through Normal Heights, over to North Park for lunch. After lunch I’d take them to walk around Balboa Park to see the beautiful gardens and the whimsical Spanish Baroque architecture. It’s really unique. A day trip up to Laguna or Julian area to go on a hike is also a nice way to give them the feel for our local mountains and our gold rush origins. Evenings would be about dining out around the city. My very favorite place just closed due to COVID-19. It was Jayne’s Gastropub on 30th and Adams. It was the perfect restaurant. I’d take my friend to local Kensington restaurants, to North Park places, and also dine on the beach for the view. I will always have a martini at the Valencia hotel’s lobby in La Jolla at sunset. The Spanish revival architecture and the view is a winning combo. I would also take my friend out to Palm Springs for the weekend. The desert is so unique and you feel like your on the other side of the world after driving only two hours to get there.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to give this shout out to my grandmother, Noemi Salazar Wakefield and my grandfather, Raymond Wakefield. At 70 and 78, instead of being retired and travelling around the country visiting friends, they gave us a home and were there for us every day. My grandmother woke me up with a kiss every morning and was there waiting for me when I got home. THAT generosity of giving, even when you have another plan for your life, has always inspired me. They felt better giving to others. In my “Franken-mentor” I would give a shout out to Molly Cartmill from Sempra Energy for her creativity and ideas on how to make nonprofit work meaningful. She would be the brain of my Frankenstein- Mentor. There are some important donors who also showed total generosity of treasure and time that will always be pillars in my servant leader ideas.
These are all from my iPhone, so no need.