WENATCHEE — Claire Oatey thought she wanted to be a teacher when she graduated from Whitman College in 2011, but life took her on different adventures.
Oatey, 31, works for the Community Foundation of North Central Washington as director of community grants. She is also one of this year’s Wenatchee Valley Business World's "30 Under 35" award recipients. The event highlights community members under age 35 who are making a difference through their attitude or action.
Oatey was nominated by Jennifer Dolge, Community Foundation director of donor services and communications. Dolge describes Oatey as poised, articulate, thoughtful and caring and said Oatey uses her strong work ethic to make a difference in the community.
“She’s a team player, easy to work with and always brings a positive attitude,” Dolge said.
Oatey has worked for the Community Foundation for the past three years and for various nonprofits since she graduated from Whitman College.
For the Community Foundation, Oatey connects nonprofits with grants and donors in Okanogan, Chelan and Douglas counties, she said. A lot of foundations have very specific focuses, but the nice thing about the Community Foundation is the focus is on helping the region and so they get to tackle a lot of different kinds of projects, she said.
“Our work is really about connecting donors with their passions and helping them to be able to make their charitable passions and dreams come true,” Oatey said.
She graduated from Whitman with a bachelor's degree in sociology and a minor in education, she said. She thought at first she wanted to be a teacher, but found herself drawn to broader public service roles through nonprofits.
“I loved writing and I loved analysis and critical thinking and communicating, all those things that sociology really helps with,” Oatey said. “So I wasn’t really sure exactly where that would take me, but it ended up being a really good fit for the nonprofit world.”
Her first job was at Rebuilding Together Seattle, which was a smaller nonprofit that focused on providing home repairs to low-income households.
She then moved to Colorado to work for an animal welfare organization that was much larger, with 1,400 weekly volunteers. Oatey managed all the volunteer onboarding and training.
“So it was really pretty cool, I feel really lucky that I got to work in such varied roles,” she said.
From there she worked for an early childhood program in Colorado doing business operations, which gave her the opportunity to learn the financial side of nonprofits, including grant writing.
She then decided to move back to Wenatchee with her now husband, before getting the job at the Community Foundation. She wanted to come back to be with family and friends, as well as to live somewhere with a connection to the outdoors.
“We actually closed on our house (in Wenatchee), I got a job offer and we got engaged all in the same day,” Oatey said with a laugh. “We’ve been married now for two years.”
As for what the future holds, she feels pretty content in her current position, she said.
“It sounds cheesy, but I really feel like I’m in my dream job in a lot of ways,” Oatey said. “I just love the nonprofit sector and I think that will be my lifelong passion for sure.”