The image shows a male adult Loggerhead sea turtle underwater. The image is taken below the surface. This species is one of the three species that nest every year in Florida’s beaches. It is brown-ish, has a big head, weighs 200 to 350 pounds and measures about 3 feet in length.

Playing for the development team: Career advice from Gui Proença, nonprofit fundraiser

Conservation organizations are a big puzzle. Every piece, whether it is a department, board of directors, staff, or volunteer, has a role to play in the big picture.

But, as a young staff member, what is the best way to discover new roles within your organisation? For Gui Proença, Associate Director of Development at Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC), curiosity and awareness led him into the field of administration and fundraising for nonprofits.

Gui’s fundraising journey started in Florida after he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education. While working at nonprofit art organisations, he developed a career in education, administration, community building and fundraising.

He and his wife also share the same passion for environmental issues, taking green actions in their daily life, like reducing single-use plastics, and volunteering at community clean-ups. Seeing first-hand the magnitude of plastic pollution around their old neighborhood, he knew his next step should involve ocean conservation.

Since 2022, Gui Proença has become an important member of the Development department at Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC), one of Florida’s (USA) most visited nonprofit scientific destinations focused on the ocean and sea turtle conservation and rehabilitation. Gui and his team are leading and managing LMC’s fundraising efforts enabling the centre to further their impact.

Development is a team sport

Leading and managing fundraising efforts include different types of activities. It is never the same day at the LMC facility, which makes Gui’s role more exciting. Some of the activities involve developing fundraising strategies and initiatives, cultivating, and stewarding the relationship with donors, overseeing grant writing and proposal submissions. As well as, doing administrative tasks, organising special events for donors, and finding opportunities to speak to the public about their mission, and more.

As Gui explains his role, there is one thing he stresses and proudly talks about: his team and colleagues. The development team makes sure it conveys every single department mission, programs, and needs. He happily shares he is constantly learning about the ocean and sea turtle conservation, and enjoys celebrating the daily wins of his team and colleagues.

“Development is a team sport. It’s important to have a strong relationship and really enjoy the people you work with, so you make great strides to furthering your mission together.”

And what a year 2023 has been for LMC departments; a record of more than 25,000 sea turtle nests were counted along nine and half miles of beach in Palm Beach County. While everyone was asleep, the conservation team monitored nests’ temperature, location, and health. The conservation team also do research, organize beach clean-ups, and raise awareness to protect Florida’s sea turtle population.

Hundreds of sea turtles have been rehabilitated, rescued, and released by hospital professionals at the centre. And daily, thousands of learners, of all ages, learn about sea turtle conservation at outreach activities, campus tours, seasonal camps, field trips and more thanks to the LMC education and volunteer teams’ efforts. Gui proudly shares that everybody in the team should be on the same page and support each other to further their impact as much as possible.

“The people who I am most proud of are those world class individuals’ working day and night to further our mission. If I can serve as a bridge between the funder, who has a great appreciation and great affinity to the work that we do, and our departments, then, I’ve done my job. That’s really fulfilling to me.”

The image shows Gui Proenca guiding a private tour at Loggerhead Marinelife Centre in Juno Beach, Florida, United States. Gui (on the left) is talking enthusiastically to three ladies (on the right) about a sea turtle patient that is being rehabilitated.

Building strong partnerships with LMC community is at the core of Gui’s work. Credit: Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

Gui carefully fosters and is passionate about LMC’s relationships with donors. Building strong partnerships with the community is at the core of Gui’s work. He explains that communication skills are crucial to build and maintain these relationships and making both individual and corporate donors’ engagement special.

“We are the bridge between LMC and the donor. We make sure they feel valued and informed by providing updates on the center, and additional opportunities to get involved with our mission.”

By doing so, he gets to experience the donor’s side of the story. For Gui hearing why donors got involved with LMC’s mission and how they drive impact within their community, has a strong meaning. In his own words: “I’m amazed each time I’ve heard a donor’s first Loggerhead story. Every single story is different and impactful in its own way. The people I get to meet really drive impact within our organization.”

Fundraising challenges for marine life conservation

As someone passionate about the ocean, Gui believes all conservation efforts are interconnected. The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2022 by Giving USA and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy stressed that just 3% of a total of 500 billion USD giving went to environmental and animal organizations.

After he shares this shocking figure, it is clear there is so much work to do for the only planet we have. Even though it is still a large amount of money, Gui is eager to work to increase that percentage. He strongly believes that spreading awareness and the importance of biodiversity conservation, lead the efforts in the right direction.

The picture shows two Leatherback sea turtles hatchling walking in the sand towards the ocean. Hatchlings are sea turtles that recently hatched from their eggs and are leaving the nest walking from the upper side of the beach to the ocean. The hatchlings in this picture are blue and white, and small. They can fit on a human’s hand.

In 2023 nesting season, LMC professional’s and volunteers recorded 25,000 nests along 9,5 miles of beach, meaning 6,000 hours monitoring Palm Beach County beaches. Credit: Jolo Diaz via Pexels.

Become a valuable player for your Development Team

When advising early career conservationists or career switchers looking for a development role in conservation, Gui can’t stress two things enough:

“If you really want to move towards a career in fundraising, first and foremost, it’s important to have a strong belief for the mission of the organization. There’s nothing worse than to not enjoy or believe what you’re doing at work every day. Also, communication skills are an asset, be able to clearly tell the story of the organization, your own personal story and to express the needs and potential projects to funders.”

As a lifelong learner, Gui relies on many resources to become a better fundraiser such as books, podcasts, courses, and past job experiences.

Also, through your journey it is very valuable to hear advice from your support system of mentors, individuals with a similar role, colleagues, and people you can count on. It is invaluable to be able to reach out to them during challenging times, as they may have gone through similar situations. It can help you find a clear vision.

Gui’s professional mentors and on a personal note, his Brazilian family, especially his father, are the support network that have guided and inspired him through his career and adulthood.

“I truly live my life as a lifelong learner, you learn something new every single day. I hope I continue to make my father and family proud, while furthering the great mission that LMC has within the community to prospective and current funders.”

Listening to Gui Proença talking about fundraising for a nonprofit, one thing is clear: there is more than money involved when pursuing a career in a development team. Hard work, teamwork, passion, admiration, strategic plans for the future, meaningful relationships, and effective communication makes a development team such a special career choice for ocean conservation.


*This Career Advice blog is personal, Gui Proença ‘s opinion are his own, they are not on behalf of Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

If you want to connect with Gui Proença, you can reach out to him via LinkedIn.

If you want to visit and learn more about Loggerhead Marinelife Center you can visit their website here.

To learn more about careers in conservation fundraising, check out this Conservation Fundraiser role profile, one of the 11 Key Conservation Roles.


Author Profile | Giuliana Vomero

Giuliana is a Marine Biologist born and raised in Uruguay, South America. She is passionate about bridging ocean and marine science with society. She has gathered experience in coordinating environmental outreach projects, events, and networking building. In her free time she loves to write and share the wonders of the ocean and stories behind the work of passionate conservationists worldwide.

Connect with Giuliana on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter or Visit her website.

Check out more conservation interviews by Giuliana.



Main image credit: Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), named for its large head, is one of the most common sea turtle in Florida. Weighs 200 to 350 pounds and measures about 3 feet in length. Credit: Lewis Burnett via Ocean Image Bank.


Interviews, Senior Level, Celebrating Diversity in Conservation, Fundraiser