Ten years at GFC: Always learning something new

By Palmer Shepherd | February 9, 2024 | The Americas |

Palmer Shepherd, Global Fund for Children’s Vice President of Operations and Governance, reflects on a decade of powering GFC’s team and the work of partnering with local organizations to support children and youth around the world.

I was initially hired by Global Fund for Children as a temporary worker in August 2013. Since then, I have held eight positions at the organization, from Database and Research Manager to my current position of Vice President of Operations and Governance.

A lot has changed in this time. GFC is now bigger, it is doing important work in more ways, and it is living by its values in a way that brings me to work each day. In these ten years, I have gotten to experience many different aspects of how we operate. Whether it is behind-the-scenes efforts to keep our staff equipped and ready to do their tasks or publicly promoting the great work of our partners and staff, my roles at GFC have given me great insights into the passion and tenacity of the organizations and people I get to work with.

When I first joined GFC, it was less than half its current size and going through many changes. However, the organization already had an amazing mission and model. At the time, GFC had a campaign that summed up our worldview, “Local Is Lasting.” This reflects our core belief that local leaders can make the best decisions for their communities. What they need is the funding and resources to make their visions happen. GFC finds community organizations run by local leaders working with children and youth around the world. We give them unrestricted funding and partner with them to strengthen their organization, expand their networks, and increase the sustainability of their programs to deepen the impact they have on children and youth.

Working for a nonprofit is my second career. I originally went to school for music and was Principal Bassoon in the Irving Symphony in Texas. While working as a freelance musician, I started doing data entry part-time at Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports Texas state parks and wildlife management areas. I really enjoyed the job, and interacting with databases reminded me of my experience with music and languages, as there is a definite structure to how you organize things. Moreover, I liked that my efforts supported a bigger social objective.

After working at a few nonprofits, including the Dallas Zoo, I decided to go back to school for international development. I really wanted to work for a nonprofit with a global mission. I earned my Global Master of International Relations at Webster University, with my classes taking place on campuses in Austria, England, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Thailand. I often chose to focus my studies on nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations, and the international program allowed me to see how charities or nonprofits worked in different countries.

Since I started at GFC, I have worked in multiple departments at GFC, including Development, Communications, and Operations, and in each role, I found new ways to support the work of the organization. I now use the learning from those positions to help GFC take the next step in its growth. Learning is one of our key organizational values, and GFC has given me tremendous opportunities to learn.

From the left, Alex, Palmer, Mohammed and Nicole, GFC's Operations team.© GFC

In 2018, I took on the additional role of Board Liaison and was able to learn about governance and work with Board members from around the world who believe in the work of GFC and are committed to building a world where all children and youth are safe, strong, and valued.

I have had the chance to interact with many of GFC’s grassroots partners, including through opportunities to help run events that featured leaders from partner organizations from places such as Serbia, India, Lebanon, Cambodia, and Uganda. Just this past spring, I got to see our partner Coincidir in action. During a staff retreat, in a small town square in Guatemala, we saw a large group of girls using drums, maracas, and other small percussion instruments and lifting their voices to claim the right to better access to education, safety, and security. Working with partner organizations like this is what drives GFC to do what we do. We have the privilege of partnering with hundreds of organizations that have a positive impact on the children and youth in their communities.

While I love being able to see the work of our partners around the world, my primary focus is helping my team. I support the staff in many different ways to make sure that GFC is a great place to work and that people have the tools they need to succeed at their jobs. Whether I am supporting the staff by creating a healthy work environment, developing policies, depositing a donation in the bank, improving databases, or making sure office equipment is up to date and our networks are secure, I am proud to take care of logistics so my incredible colleagues can focus on working with community organizations around the world to help children and youth reach their full potential and advance their rights.

Header photo: A group photo of GFC’s Operations Team. © GFC

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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