Giver of Time, Guidance, and Mentorship: Tim Rios

To commemorate Hispanics in Philanthropy’s 33rd year, we honored 33 Latino leaders who inspire as our 2017 HIPGivers. Read the story of Tim Rios, Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations at Wells Fargo, below. “You know the way corals are formed? Like microorganisms piling up on each other—it’s kind of like a pileup of many conversations and experiences.” This is how Tim Rios describes the most impactful gift he’s ever received, and the most important gift he is focused on giving back. For a man whose career has been dedicated to community development and philanthropy, the gifts that have most guided and affected his life have been “countless hours of time, countless examples of advice and mentorship and the gift of enlightening conversations.” He is more likely to meet with a young person than a mayor because the value of giving—guidance, mentorship and conversation—is so important to him, Rios said. And when you hear his story, it makes absolute sense. Rios, whose family came to the U.S. from Mexico in the early ‘80s, is one of six siblings and has grown and flourished largely due to the threads of guidance, support, and mentorship woven throughout his life. He recalled that his family could barely make ends meet when they arrived, and they benefited greatly from the generosity and guidance of others. “I’m sure, if I thought hard enough, I could highlight five or six conversations…” he said, but he prefers to think of it as a body of conversations, of the time “people have spent with me as mentors… to show me something different than I thought was the truth.” His mother, he says, was also a key proponent in shaping his sense of generosity. Although they were low-income, Rios’ mother was never low on resources for them. “She was our financier, our bank, there are six of us in the family so when we needed money for school, we went to the bank of Maria Rios—she was very generous.” Now, living in California’s Central Valley, Rios has put generosity front and center in his life. He’s built a career out of it, leading Wells Fargo in its philanthropic endeavors. Three years ago, he and his wife founded the Aspire Fund, which has a strong focus on education, youth, and job creation. “It’s kind of like the fund of last resort” he said, funding important issues that are “really great, but not shiny and cool to others.” And now, he’s created the first giving circle within the Central Valley, having found that many people who want to give but simply don’t know where to start. With the help of the Latino Community Foundation, they raised 15K in just six days to start the initiative. “I think that, in terms of the work of HIP and others, it’s demystifying what it means to be philanthropic—and creating some starting points for people who want to get more involved,” Rios said. He is a leading force for good in his own community—gathering and empowering others to give, all the while following the coral example of building bit by bit, with determination, time, advice, and mentorship.