Today, Mission Capital announced its new chief executive officer, Madge Vasquez. Vasquez will be leaving her role as the director of dental operations at St. David’s Foundation to join Mission Capital in January 2018.
“We were certainly looking for someone with deep experience in nonprofits, but they also had to have public and private sector experience,” said John Thornborrow, a social impact investor and the current board chair of Mission Capital. With the departure of 10-year CEO Matt Kouri this summer, the board began a nationwide search, narrowing the pool of candidates from a potential 300 to Vasquez. “Every interaction with her was just fantastic,” he said. “She just continued to shine in each one.”
But in selecting Vasquez, there’s an emerging element that hints to a new Mission Capital. The search intentionally sought someone who could fulfill a vision of diversity and inclusion and help it pursue social equity issues. Vasquez, a bilingual Latina with roots in South Texas, has made equity a long-standing part of her work. “We feel like we really hit the jackpot with Madge,” said Thornborrow.
For Vasquez, the feeling is mutual. “I think what excites me most about the role is that it’s a culmination of my 20 years in community development, banking, and nonprofit and for-profit work. I’ve been building this toolkit for years so I can reinvest back in the community.”
A career in community building
Vasquez’s mix of direct service and community-building skills in the finance field began at PeopleFund, where as community business lender, she focused on underwriting loans for women- and minority-owned business and raising money from local chambers and banks to finance those loans. From there she joined Wachovia Bank as it was entering the Texas market, serving as its community development officer for Austin and San Antonio and implementing Wachovia’s first national program related investment in collaboration with MacArthur Foundation and Opportunity Finance Network.
In 2009, Vasquez joined St. David’s Foundation to manage its largest direct service health program, the Mobile Dental Program, which provides free dental care to children at Title I schools in six local school districts. She grew that program from a $2.5 million operation with 25 staff to an $8 million operation with 50 staff, and Vasquez is proud to add that it’s become a national model in school-based mobile dental programs.
An underlying theme
Growing up in Robstown,Texas, an agricultural suburb to Corpus Christi, Vasquez experienced first-hand the lives of families without equal access to healthcare, education, and opportunity. Vasquez’s parents were themselves farmworkers.
Equity and inclusion have been a cornerstone of Vasquez’s work since the start of her career, an interest that Mission Capital now shares. After graduating from Southwestern University, Vasquez accepted a Fulbright Fellowship, which led her to El Salvador, where she did a year-long stint of international development work with women’s organizations and nonprofits, just a few years after the Peace Accords had been signed. She described it as, “an amazing experience,” and one the fueled her work. Upon returning to the United States, Vasquez worked in Washington, D.C., spearheading a health and community-development project with Hispanic faith-based leaders. She returned to Austin to lead migrant health projects for the National Center for Farmworker Health.
From there, Vasquez was inspired to enroll in UT-Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, which gave her even more experience and knowledge in economic development and public policy advocacy. After a role at Accenture, where she worked on web-based project for clients in Texas, Michigan and California, she joined PeopleFund.
“One thing that really impressed me in the interview process was that the search committee and board were very clear about wanting to focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said Vasquez, “because they understand how important that is to the work in all sectors. I give them credit for the self-reflection they felt they needed to institutionalize that into the work at Mission Capital.”
Naturally, Vasquez’s leadership goes beyond the office. She’s served on the boards of the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, the Austin Campaign for Philanthropy, and the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. She is also a co-founding member of FuturoFund, a Latino giving circle in Austin. Madge currently serves on the boards of the National Mobile Healthcare Association, KLRU-Austin and Jolt Texas, a Latino advocacy organization.
Convening multiple sectors to solve community issues
With is roots in nonprofit capacity-building, Mission Capital will continue to offer those services to the sector, said Vasquez. But it’s just part of the overall mission the organization will pursue.
“I would say at this stage in its life cycle, Mission Capital serves as a hub that can convene and invest in this multi-sector approach,” said Vasquez. “That means harnessing the best of all worlds — nonprofits, for-profits, philanthropy, government — and creating collaboration to solve these huge community problems.”
Thornborrow, the board chair, spoke similarly. “The social sector is changing. Nonprofits will always be the cornerstone of the sector. But there are for-profits and other organizations addressing community issues, too. And we need more solutions, more models that can attach a problem in different ways. And that’s part of the Mission Capital core, that ability to bring people together to work in ways that multiply our impact.”
“We feel like Mission Capital has a key role in the community,” he continued, “and we want to be able to magnify that effectively in the future. That might take us in some additional directions to where we are today.”
While Vasquez doesn’t start until January, she does have a clear vision of what’s important for the organization to succeed. She said, “We want to make measurable and significant progress on some really pressing issues in our community. We want to hold ourselves accountable and be a partner in a larger community conversation. And we want to strengthen the social sector to the point where it’s poised to solve these issues.”
It’s a challenge she inherits but one she may be uniquely poised to accomplish.
“She can work with staff at the program level but she can also execute a strategic vision at the board and community level,” said Thornborrow. “It was clear she’s the right leader for this organization.”