Nonprofit Management with a Magic Touch
For John Guastaferro, becoming a dynamic leader in the nonprofit sector was a combination of marketing, relationship building, a passion for philanthropy — and a touch of magic. A highly successful magician who has toured the world and performed at the world-famous Magic Castle, he feels a strong connection between his stage craft and two decades of experience supporting community causes.
“It’s my life mission to connect people to the extraordinary,” said Guastaferro, an award-winning brand strategist, nonprofit leader, and advisory committee member for the Nonprofit Management Specialized Studies program. “Whether through philanthropy or magic, I bring this mission to life in many ways. For example, when I inspire a donor to make a difference in a family’s life, it’s an incredibly magical moment. Likewise, when I perform magic, it also brings joy and wonder into people’s lives.”
Guastaferro developed an interest in magic when he was seven, a hobby that ended up as a serious avocation. He has performed in 12 countries and is a regular headliner at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, considered the pinnacle of the craft. He has written 10 books on magic as well. Over time, he added art, music, leadership, and philanthropy to his repertoire.
“We all have multiple interests, which might make us feel pulled in different directions at times. I was no different,” he said. “Then one day it just hit me, an ‘Aha!’ moment. I realized that all of my interests were leading me in the same direction. I became crystal clear on my purpose to create joy and wonder for people, making what seems impossible become possible, whether performing on stage or connecting donors to lifechanging causes.”
Guastaferro received his bachelor’s degree in marketing management from Cal Poly Pomona in 1992, launching a career in marketing and communications. Five years later he took a position at Anaheim Family YMCA, a move that sparked his passion for philanthropy and nonprofits.
Today, John serves as executive director of the Anaheim Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization that connects donors to scores of charitable community causes. In 2020, the ACF received $4 million from the City of Anaheim to provide a philanthropic response during the pandemic. The ACF launched a Response and Recovery grant program in partnership with 76 nonprofits to help residents in need for food and basic necessities, as well as virtual learning and counseling services. This is one of the many ways the ACF serves as a hub of philanthropy and collaboration in Anaheim. “We can’t do this work alone. It takes a cadre of purpose-driven donors, partners, and board members. This inspires me every day.”
A true Renaissance man, Guastaferro is also a world-class Spanish guitarist with several albums streaming online. All of this informs his philanthropic vision, a life mission that comes together with creativity, leadership and a fierce passion for helping others.
Three pillars of success
When Guastaferro became VP of Marketing and Development at Anaheim Family YMCA, it was a life-changing moment, the beginning of a journey that brought his talents in marketing and philanthropy together with his creative vision, eventually leading him to become a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE).
Along the way he began serving on several Orange County philanthropic boards, giving keynote speeches and hosting leadership forums, spreading his gospel of Purposeful Leadership. Guastaferro structures his philosophy around a Leadership Triad that he feels is key to success in any endeavor.
“My Leadership Triad consists of Team, Brand and Cause,” he said. “Bringing them all together is a magical process that enhances success on any level, whether you are a nonprofit, for-profit business, coalition, or an individual leader. It can be highly effective in anything you do in life.”
Your Team is the power of how you connect to the world around you — those you surround yourself with to uplift and elevate mutual success. Think of your Brand as the promise you make through all you say and do.” And your Cause is the reason you exist; the problem you are uniquely qualified to solve through your skills and values.
When these align together as one, it sparks a synergistic effect that amplifies and compliments each facet. The best part is that it doesn’t take massive strategies to get there, but rather small, intentional shifts in action or perspective. Just a single degree can be hugely consequential. Guastaferro outlines this approach in his book “One Degree.”
“Achieving the extraordinary is closer than we think — just one degree away,” he said. “Even a small shift in approach or perspective, what I call a micro-shift, can have extraordinary impact, whether it’s life, work or magic. It’s an approach that helps leaders uncover pivotal one degree micro-shifts to connect to Team, Brand and Cause. When these areas are in alignment, it adds wonder to all you do.”
“It’s my life mission to connect people to the extraordinary.”
A career and a cause
The Nonprofit Management Specialized Studies gives students all the tools they need to succeed working with mission-focused and values-based organizations large and small, with a focus on strategic financial management and fundraising practices.
Designed for current nonprofit staff members or anyone inspired to jump into the nonprofit space, the CFRE-approved curriculum provides a thorough understanding of all internal and external factors involved, along with the marketing, communications and strategic planning necessary for this specialized profession.
“It’s an excellent program, and I’m so happy to be part of it,” Guastaferro said. “It especially offers a great opportunity for students to make connections and discover ways to truly make a difference. I am seeing both young people and seasoned professionals exploring careers in the nonprofit sector for that very reason.”
Regardless of one’s background, just about any skillset can be applied to nonprofit work, whether it’s in marketing, communications, graphic design, finance, you name it. “Anyone can be a philanthropist, regardless of your career, income or status,” he said.
A bit of magic isn’t required — but it sure can’t hurt.
Learn more about the Nonprofit Management Specialized Studies Program.