Kara Inae Carlisle
President and CEO
“How do you bring people together that don’t necessarily see common cause — help them see each other, listen to each other, get unstuck? Our work is creating a culture of connection and action.”
Kara’s whole career has been place-based, with chapters in southern California, rural New Mexico, Minnesota, and now in Oregon and Siskiyou County, California. Starting out in nonprofits, she served in numerous roles – writing grants, leading communications, human resources, evaluation and more. Much of her work focused on nonprofit sustainability, the mediation of economic and cultural conflict, and on seeing and understanding how communities effect change. “How can I help someone if I haven’t done it myself?”
Joining philanthropy, Kara held fast to building community and getting things done at a time when many funders sought the next evolution of service, strategy and civic engagement. She authored the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s first guide to place-based philanthropy and dove into deep listening with community to align strategy with greater impact at the McKnight Foundation. “How can funders be seen as transformational partners? Money doesn’t always change the equation. We have to figure out our right role and where we can have the most positive contribution.”
Part of what drew Kara to The Ford Family Foundation is its commitment to place – and to rural places, which are largely overlooked by national philanthropy. Kara believes that Oregon and Siskiyou have stories and solutions to inform those across our nation who have deep hunger for meaningful, community-driven change. “Having spent much of my childhood in a town of fewer than 500 people in Indiana, this work is a homecoming for me. Engaging the strength, creativity, voice and vision of rural communities is essential to shaping a hopeful future for all of us.”
Kara holds a master’s in business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, as well as a master of divinity degree in Urban Studies and Education from Claremont School of Theology. She earned her bachelor’s at Anderson University in Indiana. She serves as board secretary for Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement and on the board of the National Center for Family Philanthropy.
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