Meet Kelly Yagiela!

Kelly comes to Kennari with her most recent experience as Fund Development Specialist at Milestone Senior Services, where she was responsible for their grant portfolio and has also been supporting their capital campaign and annual giving. She has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan.

More about Kelly:

How did you get started in fundraising?

Post-graduation I worked as a case manager for low-income, nursing home eligible older adults and adults with disabilities for about a year.  While in that position, the Fund Development Specialist position opened up within the organization I was already a part of and I felt pulled into that direction (especially the grant writing part). I’ve always loved writing and this coupled with my passions for social justice and community-driven work made this position incredibly rewarding for me. In this position, I replaced our agency grant writer who had been doing this work for 40 years!  I had big shoes to fill but it made for a plethora of learning opportunities with grants AND capital campaign work.  During my undergraduate education at Central Michigan University, I also supervised a fundraising team for a nationally ranked volunteer program and maintained long-term community partnerships across the US.

How do you unwind after a day of work?

The easiest thing I always do to unwind  is a long, hot shower with some good, loud music. If time allows, I also really like treating myself to good food, going thrifting, camping, napping, reading/journaling, and watching re-runs of shows I’ve probably seen too many times already. If I have the headspace available, I also enjoy doing small paintings or teaching myself graphic art on my tablet. I am also signed up for a couple of different email newsletters that bring me joy – Girls Night In, The Good Trade, The Marginalian, The Vintage Seeker, Freelancing Females, etc. Since graduating, it has been my goal of mine to make space for creative things after work and keeping my mind active.

What are you most excited about joining the Kennari team?

I’m most excited to join a team that shares my passions for philanthropy and supporting the missions of nonprofits. When applying for this job, I especially felt drawn to your mission statement’s “changing the face of philanthropy”. I think this can mean a lot of different things, but for me one of my career goals is to change the face of philanthropy as it pertains to diversity, equity and accessibility. For me, this means being aware of the power structures that exist in philanthropy, the racist roots of this field and the nonprofit industrial complex, and understanding how those roots impact the work we do today. I think my career path could go a lot of different ways, but right now I see one of my career goals as making grants and other fundraising opportunities as accessible as possible by eliminating a lot of those power imbalances and equity-issues. I’m excited to work at Kennari to gain experience in the field of philanthropy, but also to gain exposure to a diverse range of nonprofit work in West Michigan (& beyond). I find community-driven work to be so impactful and it is the impact of that work that inspires me to make philanthropy accessible to the wonderful, motivated people doing this work! I’m also very excited about being in a fast-paced environment, this is the type of environment I thrive in and prefer.

Where is your favorite place to go?

This isn’t a specific location, but my favorite place to go is camping. I think it is the one time that I am fully relaxed. I enjoy being outdoors, reading a good book, and having no set agenda.

What is something you’re passionate about?

I touched on this a bit above, but I’m very passionate about the intersections of social justice work and philanthropy. I think there is a lot of room for growth in making philanthropy more accessible, equitable, and diversely-lead.

I am also very passionate about older adults! My MSW was focused on interpersonal practice with older adults and I feel very strongly about advocating for geratriac populations and aging in general! As my mentor always said – aging is a good thing! Ageism is something I am very mindful of in nonprofit work and philanthropy. There are actually not many grantmakers specifically interested in giving to older adults, as their focus is often on children or younger populations.

I’m passionate about social justice issues in general, especially learning about gentrification, antiracism, LGBTQ topics and intersectional feminism. I have a lot of interests, but many of them are driven by my background in social work and love of people! I often make space for these things with reading and webinars.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Random things that may or may not be helpful to know about me:

  • I use she/they pronouns (I am comfortable with both she/her and they/them – for me it is most comfortable to have flexibility and not feel that I am tied to one specific gender norm). I understand that this is a topic not comfortable or easy for many people, so I don’t really have any expectations about this! Just something I like to share 🙂
  • As a queer person, I’m also very passionate about LGBTQ community. I currently serve on the events planning committee for the Queer Women’s group via OutFront Kalamazoo. I am also a regular volunteer at Pride and love being involved in OutFront’s other events.
  • I am a HUGE thrifting/vintage fanatic. I have a small vintage curation business (you can follow me on Instagram @berrylovely_vintage) and I also have a small booth of vintage items at Retroflection Vintage in Portage. I sometimes do small events and am hoping to participate in Vintage in the Zoo next summer. I also enjoy thrifting in the sense that it is sustainable, and I hope to someday have a fully thrifted closet! This side-hustle has been very helpful to me in understanding small business aspects such as sourcing, marketing, etc.
  • I am vegetarian, but will still eat seafood every once in a while (crab rangoons and sushi have a grip on me!).
  • I am currently located in Kalamazoo, but hoping to relocate to GR by early January 2023.

Kelly joins Kennari as a Strategist in grants and campaign support – we’re happy to have her here!