Compassion in action: Alumna Diane N. Nguyen leads with love through her philanthropic firm

Diane N. Nguyen (College Nine ’11, sociology)

Diane N. Nguyen (College Nine ’11, sociology) has dedicated her career to philanthropy through her organization, Lead with Love Consulting (LwL Consulting), a philanthropic and strategic engagement firm. With a steadfast commitment to fostering positive change, Nguyen exemplifies the true essence of compassion and service, leaving an indelible mark on various communities. 

“At LwL Consulting, every action is imbued with the principle of Leading with Love,” Nguyen said. “It is a constant reminder that each moment presents an opportunity to infuse our interactions with kindness, empathy, compassion, and humility, to strive for meaningful and enduring change.”

Nguyen is inspired by the impact that philanthropy can make. Her decade-long tenure at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation as the vice president of donor engagement served as the catalyst for that inspiration. 

“Whether it's the joy of selecting a student to receive a scholarship that enables them to pursue their educational dreams, ensuring a family has a safe and warm place to stay through last-minute funding interventions, providing nourishment and comfort to shelter residents through hot meals, or directing resources to organizations addressing pressing social needs, each experience underscores the profound difference we can make when we come together with purpose.”

Nguyen was motivated to pursue philanthropy as a career through her experience benefitting from programs as a young child. She recalls her family relying on government support programs like Section 8 housing, free and reduced school meals, and food stamps. A pivotal moment in the third grade set the foundation for Nguyen’s desire to help others. 

Her elementary school transitioned to a digital lunch system requiring a six-digit pin and she found herself unable to access meals. One day, a friend joined her on the playground and offered half of her sandwich, no questions asked. 

“This selfless act left an imprint on my soul, illuminating love in its purest form.” 

Founding LwL Consulting came from Nguyen’s desire to fuse her expertise in relationship management, strategic planning, development, philanthropic advising, and nonprofit engagement with her core passion: fostering positive community impact. 

This intrinsic drive culminated in the establishment of LwL Consulting, guided by a profound vision to empower both individuals and nonprofits in amplifying their philanthropic endeavors and nurture their love for community.” 

As a first-generation Vietnamese American from East San Jose, Nguyen says her journey to UCSC was influenced by economic and educational hurdles she faced while attending De Anza Community College. She lauds UCSCs application process for providing her with a platform to candidly share her ongoing challenges, adversities, and fostering a sense of recognition. 

Many of her cherished UCSC memories include College Nine's Oxfam Hunger Banquet; studying bureaucracy and organizations through the UCDC program; discovering new hiking trails across campus; and volunteering at the St. Francis Soup Kitchen in town. 

For current first-generation students at UCSC, Nguyen emphasizes the need to embrace your identity, seek support, get involved, set goals, and believe in yourself. 

Be proud of your status as a first-generation student,” she said. “Your unique experiences and perspective can be valuable assets.”

One of her current roles is with the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute (APALI)—a nonprofit based in the Bay Area— as the chief impact and alumni relations officer. 

Nguyen’s responsibilities within APALI include crafting the organization's sustainability plan, orchestrating events and collaborative opportunities, engaging with esteemed public figures, nurturing connections within the APALI alumni network, and fostering meaningful relationships with influential funders.

In her free time, Nguyen enjoys going on runs along the scenic trails of the Bay Area, such as the Guadalupe, San Tomas, and the Bay Trails. She loves discovering new camping locations with her husband and cherishes quality time spent with her nieces and nephews. She also serves as a councilor and diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging committee member on the UCSC Alumni Council. 

Nguyen is grateful for the invaluable opportunities she received as a student at UC Santa Cruz. 

“Supported by compassionate professors and teaching assistants, I was guided in my studies and also inspired to remain curious, ask challenging questions, and advocate for what I believe in.”