Capacity Building Powerhouse: Jenna Stauffer

02 Nov, 2023

Capacity Building Powerhouse: Jenna Stauffer

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November 8, 2023

Written by Rhonnel Sotelo, Chief Executive Officer 

Building a talented, cohesive team and unleashing them with the flexibility and freedom to own and lead their work is one of the Rogers Family Foundation’s core values. Throughout the remainder of our timeline, we will share our appreciations and reflections on the distinct qualities, accomplishments, and contributions of each Rogers Family Foundation team member. Next in this series is Jenna Stauffer who joined our team in 2020.

I’d heard of Jenna Stauffer long before we’d ever met. 

In the mid-2000s, I was working at another foundation when a colleague came back from a site visit effusive about the instruction and learning they’d just witnessed at Lighthouse Community charter school. They lauded the amazing work Jenna and her late, great husband and co-founder of Lighthouse, Steve Sexton, were doing not only with students and families but for the community they were building in Oakland. When Jenna stepped down as Lighthouse’s CEO, we recognized that her institutional memory of the local education ecosystem, mutual respect among community leaders, and wealth of accumulated public education knowledge made her ideally suited to join our team as our Entrepreneur in Residence as we reached our most significant moment of inflection: the Foundation’s spend down. We asked how we might leverage and keep the talents of an exceptionally experienced school leader, nonprofit/fund development expert, and fierce advocate for Black and Brown students and families right here in Oakland. Concurrent with the adoption of our final strategic plan in 2020, we chose to strengthen our commitment to grantees with more intensive support beyond the grant. 

If our team was a Fast & Furious car, we envisioned Jenna as its NOS button. Jenna’s arrival added a supercharged burst of time and talent that could be offered to grantees in technical assistance, coaching, and capacity building. “It was immediately apparent that her deep well of knowledge was something grantees were eager and excited for,” reflects Senior Program Officer Sara Levine. “Jenna smoothly stepped into her role at the Foundation, and promptly made it her own.” Jenna’s list of achievements over the past three years is long and varied. She has helped several grantees craft strategic plans. She managed a six-month school merger for one of our cornerstone charter school partners. She has delivered numerous 360 reviews and coaching sessions for nonprofit and school leaders. She has facilitated staff retreats. With our program team, she executed small, specific grants to deliver strategic communications, leadership development, and professional learning opportunities.

Among her many impressive accomplishments, Jenna’s greatest influence may have been her impactful support of Selena Wilson, who rose from VP of Organizational Effectiveness to the role of CEO for the East Oakland Youth Development Center within the last two years. Jenna utilized her entire toolbox: strategist, critical thought partner, compassionate coach, governance guru, and full-service team builder. “Jenna has been there each step of the way, from supporting my predecessor in developing an in-depth knowledge transfer plan, to designing and facilitating our first staff retreat under my leadership, to conducting my 360 review and facilitating feedback sessions with my team,” shared Selena. “As a Black leader who leads a team that is 100% comprised of Black, Brown, and Asian team members, I also appreciate the way in which Jenna acknowledges and navigates dynamics specific to power and privilege.”

We are grateful that Jenna joined us on our journey and supported multitudes of our closest partners along the way. We look forward to seeing how Jenna continues to impact schools, nonprofits, and communities.