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Finding Your Way

Second Act: Putting Street Smarts to Work

Luanne Zurlo, from Wall Street to philanthropy.

As the executive director of Worldfund, I’ve had to grow a Teflon carapace and not take everything personally. I hear the word “no” all day long, but it doesn’t undermine the positive things we are doing. When I first started out, I found myself riding an emotional roller coaster; the highs were great, but the lows were awful.  Now I just try to stay on mission and keep an even approach. Still, it is incredibly up lifting to travel to Latin America and watch our efforts toke shape and improve lives. I love interacting with the people—that’s what really recharges me.

I’m hoping to build Worldfund into a $10 million-a-year organization. I feel it has the potential to become a major NGO. One of my biggest challenges—and not an uncommon one in the nonprofit world—is encouraging the organization to grow beyond its founder. I don’t want Worldfund to be “The Luanne Zurlo Show.”  At some point, we may need to bring in a more experienced leader.  When that day comes, I’ll be willing to accept it. The cause is more important than my ego.  (I’m a practicing Catholic; without some kind of calling, or a feeling that there’s more to life than the material world, I can’t imagine exchanging a career on Wall Street for the problems of the developing world.)

I’ve never been one to develop a five- or 10-year plan. So even though I can’t imagine doing this for the rest of my life, right now I am doing what I love.  I feel as though I’ve been endowed with the skills and personality to help Worldfund develop, grow, perhaps even flourish.

This is the place where I can add the greatest value. I consider myself fortunate to have discovered my identity.

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