Claire Oatey, 31

Director of community grants, Community Foundation of NCW

Claire Oatey, who graduated from Whitman College in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, started her “love affair” with nonprofits at Rebuilding Together Seattle, working with corporate sponsors and volunteers to provide critical home repairs for low-income homeowners. She went on to work for an animal welfare organization in Denver, working with more than 1,400 volunteers each week at three shelters, and then led business operations for an early childhood program in Leadville, in charge of budgeting and grant writing.

She arrived in Wenatchee in 2017, accepting the role of director of community grants at the Community Foundation of NCW, facilitating community grantmaking programs that distribute roughly $500,000 each year to nonprofit organizations in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties.

She also develops and coordinates the foundation’s Nonprofit Practices Institute, in partnership with the Icicle Fund, to provide professional development and capacity building opportunities throughout the year for nonprofit leaders.

In 2019, she started teaching a free “Board 101” class across the region to better clarify what nonprofit board service entails for new and prospective board members.

“I had a feeling a class like this was needed but I had no idea what a great response it would get!” she said. “Classes in Wenatchee, Chelan, Okanogan and Twisp have all sold out with waitlists. I love teaching and working with passionate volunteers, so I can’t wait until we can resume these classes when it’s safe to do so.”

Oatey serves on the city’s Homeless Committee and is involved in other activities that build community and raise awareness. Recently that has included spending time learning how to be a more effective ally against racism.

“I love how the author Austin Channing Brown describes the work of anti-racism as the, ‘work of becoming a better human to other humans,’” she said. “It can be messy, uncomfortable, humbling and healing — often all at the same time.”

Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

A: One of my proudest moments early in my career was overseeing a large two-day neighborhood revitalization event during my time as the interim director of programs at Rebuilding Together Seattle. We partnered with the Rebuilding Together National Office, Lowe’s, Carter’s Kids and over 100 volunteers to repair homes for five families and rebuild two playgrounds at a nearby school and park. It was a big undertaking in a new role for me and gave me the confidence to tackle complex projects into the future.

Q: Who or what inspires you to be successful?

A: I am continuously inspired by the nonprofit leaders in North Central Washington! Running a nonprofit is no easy feat. Staff and board members give so much of themselves to the missions of their organizations.

Before the public health crisis, a big part of my job was traveling around the region to talk to nonprofit leaders about the incredible work they’re doing to make our communities better places to live, work and play. While I sadly can’t meet with organizations in person at the moment, technology has been a great way to stay in touch! I love our nonprofit sector Zoom calls (Youth Services, Senior Services, and Food Security/Basic Needs), which give us an opportunity to check in and support each other during these uncertain times.

It is so inspiring hearing about the creative ways nonprofits have adapted to help the community — from virtual musicals for kids, helping homebound seniors with technology to stay in touch, online field trips to the museum, art lessons sent home with school lunches, the creation of the Latino Communications Network to get crucial information out in Spanish, and the many collaborative efforts to ensure that community members in need stay safe, fed and housed.

— Nevonne McDaniels, World staff