Your Life, Your Legacy: Service is the Norm

Your Life, Your Legacy: Service is the Norm

A Conversation with Marta Ferro

Marta Gazzera Ferro is the President of Starfish Impact, a philanthropic consulting company founded in 2005. Marta brings her nonprofit, philanthropic and corporate clients the same entrepreneurial spirit, business management skills, and deep relationships she brought to her work at Goldman Sachs and in international business.

What happens when your parents fight the fights that others can’t? What happens when your parents stand up for others who cannot stand for themselves?  What happens when your family sees injustice and doesn’t just talk about it?

Well, what happens is that dinner conversations lead to efforts to change regulations and laws. What also happens is that your parents’ friends are diverse and broad-ranging. And, what finally happens is that you see yourself as a change agent—in a style very similar to your parents.

This is the environment that has sparked Marta Ferro to create multiple opportunities to alter the landscape of unfairness and inequality. Recognizing that she came from a place of opportunity—she is very aware of how lucky she was to be raised in a family that was supportive of her and her sister, but also all young people. “The norm,” she said, “was to be of service, to be aware of others, to be aware of our privilege.”

On her journey as a perpetual volunteer, Marta started her first nonprofit in high school to support people with HIV and AIDS and to increase awareness of safe sex. And then, she volunteered with an organization serving older adults, among other projects. Literally, being of service is in Marta’s DNA. This pattern of helping others has expanded. Now she is interested in building a community of others interested in being of service.

Recognizing that this road is best traveled with company, Marta appreciated that she could better accomplish her various missions by working with others. She did this by becoming more involved with board service, board leadership, advancement committees and fundraising. She eventually chaired the board of Step-up Women’s Network. She transformed this organization by helping clarify their mission, developing a strategy and hiring their first employees. Her commitment was enormous: Marta did all this while working a full-time job. However, “throwing herself into 30 hours of pro bono work wasn’t sustainable.”

Needless to say, she realized that a transition was needed. Marta successfully launched her own successful consultancy firm, Starfish Impact, a firm that guides nonprofits and philanthropists in refining their missions, developing strategies and creating effective fundraising missions.

As you can see, Marta is well versed in the philanthropic space. Her most rewarding experiences have been with organizations and clients who have achieved tremendous success, such as Step-up and L.A. Kitchen. Additionally, it’s the work that builds community and that involves others that really motivates her. “The ultimate reward is about leverage. Not doing things as one-offs or alone.” Instead it’s about “creating movements and change in more systematic ways.” Marta is doing this with her latest venture: GoodAdviseHers, a women’s networking group that supports and empowers nonprofits.

So often, fundraising capacity and success is the core issue of nonprofit organizations. What does Marta think of donors? She sees donors as investors; they are part of the “capital fuel that spawns and invests in the nonprofit industry.” Additionally, she sees “engaged donors as assets beyond their money. They can serve as mentors, strategic advisors, connectors and work together to leverage their resources.” Marta is not only professionally advising Starfish clients through this philosophy, but is also actively and personally engaged as a Social Venture Partners (SVP) Partner and through the launch of her own Starfish giving circle initiative, Supporting Our Sector. 

Ultimately, Marta see nonprofits and philanthropists working together to build better, more inclusive communities. Similar to her parents’ attitudes and values, Marta believes that a wide diversity of people should be at the table: contributing resources and making decisions. This is the path that leads to movements.