The Members Spotlight logo

Each month, we shine a spotlight on one of our chapter members with a series of questions. We hope you enjoy learning more about our spotlight nominee this month.

SEPTEMBER 2022 - MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

Rebecca Kendall (She/Her)
Chief Development Officer, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa

How long have you been involved in the nonprofit sector? And in fundraising?
I started my career in fundraising in 2006, as a Development Intern at the San Diego Gospel Rescue Mission.  I’ve been raising money ever since – 16 years and counting!

Please describe why you chose to work in nonprofit fundraising.
I have an unshakeable belief that the greatest ills of our time – climate change, poverty, homelessness – are human created and therefore can be human un-created.  People like Nelson Mandela and Harriet Tubman have taught us that seemingly permanent social structures like slavery and apartheid can be overcome.  My responsibility is to serve as a voice of hope and influence to bring people together to resolve the moral failures that my generation faces.

Please tell us about your current role and responsibilities.
In 2008, I was hired by Catholic Charities to do 8 hours a week of data entry. One great mentor after another allowed me to learn and develop my fundraising and communications skills, and in 2019 I assumed the role of Chief Development Officer.  At Catholic Charities, that means overseeing communications and marketing, grant writing, and volunteers, along with annual and major gifts, legacy giving, and a recently completed $53M capital campaign. My biggest responsibility is to support my brilliant and hardworking team of seven people.

How has Covid-19 affected your current role, organization, and career path?
Serving as a CDO during the pandemic was difficult, primarily because I was doing my best to rally the team, finish our capital campaign, and keep the annual fund going, while simultaneously “home-schooling” my then-kindergartener and preschooler.  Thank goodness we made it through that, and the kids are now in second grade and kindergarten.  I’ve never been so thankful for teachers, and my husband was one! Covid had a tremendous impact on Catholic Charities’ clients, as we serve some of the most vulnerable people in the community – unhoused children and adults, immigrants, seniors, disaster victims, and so many others.  We are seeing the ripple effects to this day, and have a long way to go to address this suffering.

What are some silver linings since the pandemic began in March 2020?
I am so grateful for the increased sense of urgency around diversity, equity and inclusion in this country since 2020, and grateful that more people are reflecting, talking, and acting with the intention of eradicating racism and promoting racial justice.

What are some highlights in your current role and in your career?
Catholic Charities’ mission represents the intersection of so many things I’m passionate about.  As a first-generation American who experienced poverty and homelessness as a child, I have tremendous compassion for the challenges our clients endure.  It is deeply gratifying to wake up every day knowing I’m making life a little easier for someone.

A major highlight of my 15 years at Catholic Charities has been the development of Caritas Village, a $53M comprehensive services and housing campus in downtown Santa Rosa.  I’ve been helping lead this effort since 2015, and we are celebrating our grand opening on September 9, 2022.  You can learn more about it at www.caritas-village.org.

What professional knowledge would you impart to other nonprofit fundraisers?
- Passion is the most important element of being a fundraiser.  If you aren’t passionate about what you are raising funds for, it will show.
- Once you have the passion, the next most important thing is your systems.  Fundraising really isn’t that complex, it’s about being organized and systematic about reaching out, keeping people informed, and finding out what makes them happiest about philanthropy.
- Finally, know that you can’t do it all on your own.  Never underestimate the power of motivated volunteers, and a talented staff.  Keep them happy, inspired, and empowered, and you’ll go ten times farther than you could on your own.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the nonprofit fundraising profession today?
I think a lack of diversity in the donor base and in the profession means that until we start to do things very differently, our events, presentations, speakers, and leadership will continue to lack the benefit that people of all races and ethnicities and lived experiences can bring to the table.  And that means that the funds we raise are not going to have the impact that they could.

How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life?
I have been a part of the same organization for 15 years, and there are an incredible number of benefits that come with that type of stability and connection.  I have a huge amount of trust and efficiency built in my team, my organization, and my donor network, and that is key to being able to take time off and really disconnect.  This summer I had the gift of taking a five-week sabbatical to be with my kids and husband, and I recommend it to everyone!

What are some activities you enjoy outside of work?
Mostly I love being with my kids and husband – hiking, camping, having dance parties, or driving to Doran Beach (via WildFlour Bread of course). Every Thursday I get together with a group of four families for dinner, which rotates to a different house each week.  These friends, who I see regularly, are such a gift.  And I am grateful to have family close by, who I see quite often.  I have an amazing village!  I’m learning to play guitar, I love to sing, I’m happily involved in my church (Episcopal Church of the Incarnation), and I wish I had more time for pottery. 

What is the last book you read or movie you watched?
I just finished some great books –How To Do The Work by Dr. Nicole Lepera, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Impact with Integrity by Becky Margiotta, and There There by Tommy Orange.  Now I’m on to Breathe by James Nestor, and Imaginable by Jane McGonical.  I generally have ten or so books on my nightstand at all times.