August Member Spotlight

Meet Sissi Villamizar
Senior Grants and Project Management Associate
Helios Education Foundation

I was born and raised in Cuba and migrated to the US under the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. Growing up in a communist country surrounded by restrictions, scarcity and constant struggle shaped my worldview and informs most of my decisions. I have been blessed with an extraordinary family, a wonderful career, and the opportunity to give back and serve my community. When I’m not at work, I’m volunteering with the Guardian ad Litem program, working with the youth in our church, or planning for the next mission trip.


What is your involvement with Florida Philanthropic Network? What influenced you to join?

"FPN is one of our fabulous grantees and partners. Through their work, they provide communities for funders to learn from each other, challenge grants to build LCAN (Local College Access Networks) capacity and sustainability, and convenings that foster innovation in our field. Helios was already a member of FPN when I joined, but I’ve particularly enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and learn from like-minded changemakers."

Name one thing you find special about the Florida philanthropic community. 

"Their willingness to share, particularly in the Grants Managers Roundtable. This tight-knit group is always ready to share successes (and opportunities), progress improvements, and is always available to provide council and support."

Are there any partnerships or collaborations you have found most meaningful to you in the last year?

"FPN is a great partner overall, but serving on the FPN Summit Planning Committee last year was a great experience. Seeing Ashley and Geula shine, especially behind the scenes, was a delightful bonus. The inclusivity, intentionality and attention to detail were superb!"

What's the biggest challenge you've faced with your philanthropic efforts? How have you overcome them?

"Balancing the desire to provide grantee-centered processes with the need to collect data to measure impact, understand needs and reflect and learn from the successes, etc. I’ve been able to overcome this challenge by actively listening to our partners and bringing their recommendations to our teams. This has led to several grantee-informed enhancements to our processes and online grants management system."

What fuels your cup- in life and at work?

"Acts of service is my love language, so anytime I get to put my gifts and skills into action, my cup is filled."

Can you share one piece of advice you would give to someone considering a career in philanthropy?

"Do it! I was in the public school system for seven years prior to joining the philanthropic community and the lessons I learned from that journey still infuse pieces of my work today. Bring your real-world experience with you, regardless of your background. I encourage you to learn beyond the North American context prior to coming into this field, especially if you have never experienced disparities or lived in poverty yourself…this will help ground you.  For those new to philanthropy, I recommend the book “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett."

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