15 May, 2023
May 15, 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. This piece celebrates Kate Ray who joined the Foundation team in 2019.
One of my early mentors in philanthropy liked quoting Yoda from Star Wars: “Do or do not; there is no try.” It was her way of pushing me to “not come back until it’s done.” I appreciated it; I needed that. But I’m also here to tell you, there is a try. Trying unleashes exploration. Trying allows for creativity. Trying unlocks possibilities.
Kate Ray personifies try. Nearly four years ago, Kate came to the Rogers Family Foundation eager to build new skills to bolster her career. She has since advanced from Program Assistant to Associate while also taking on Program Officer responsibilities for select grantees and research projects. Without Kate’s willingness to try new skills, roles, and responsibilities, the Foundation would not have the ability to strategically communicate and celebrate the accomplishments of grantees. “Partnering with Kate to start strategic communications at the Foundation has been an incredible experience,” said her colleague Bonnie Look, who together with Kate comprise our Comms Team. “When I think of Kate four words come to mind: ready, willing, capable, kind. I get to see her taking ideas from action to actualization, all while grounding work in supporting grantees.”
We have thrown every kind of project at Kate, from jump starting social media platforms, to coordinating a small convening center that hosts grantee partners, to emerging in the Program Officer role for Oakland nonprofits such as Girls Inc. of Alameda County and East Oakland Youth Development Center. Her curious nature, easy-going disposition, and capacity to balance multiple operational and programmatic tasks make her both respected and beloved by her colleagues. “It is great fun and a great honor to be Kate’s teammate,” says Greg Klein, the Foundation’s Senior Director for Innovation and Learning. “She’s everything you want in a colleague: dedicated to the mission, responsive and detail-oriented, follows through, and a fabulous collaborator. If I was leading a Foundation, I’d be lucky to scoop up Kate as she grows into the Program Officer role.”
I’ve had the privilege of working with some brilliant young people over my 20 years in philanthropy. I’m grateful to count Kate among the very best rising talents I’ve encountered. Her capacity to process new knowledge and build trust with our team and grantees is impeccable, as is the earnest determination she brings to every project. Our grantees laud Kate for her willingness to help, her ever-growing toolbox of skills, and her aptitude to seamlessly fit on each project she joins.
There is another quote from Yoda that seems more fitting: “Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also…We are what they grow beyond.” And that is Kate right there. We – her colleagues – are what she grows beyond. We will watch Kate’s career with great interest to see what amazing thing she does next.