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Member Spotlight | Satonya Fair

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Satonya C. Fair, The Annie E. Casey Foundation

An Interview with Satonya C. Fair, Director of Grants Management at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and a TAG member since 2010.


In your organization, what shifts are you seeing in terms of technology? What matters most now?

Now more than ever, it’s important that we as technology leaders have the ability to work across the aisle with our partners in communications, programming and more. As our organizations innovate and change, this means we’re going to need MORE technology, not less. Technology is driving our world. It’s not just driving philanthropy; it’s driving the world.

And this means technologists will need to be a partner along the way, earning ourselves a seat at the strategy table or learning how to insert ourselves gently by honing our interpersonal skills.


How have these shifts altered the skillset you look to build for yourself and/or your team?

Building great teams means cultivating a wide variety of skills, but I believe three are especially vital in a philanthropic context whether you're an IT director, grants manager, or database administrator.

  1. EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Delivering technology in a way that achieves high adoption and aligns with our mission requires a great deal of emotional intelligence. These “soft skills” matter more than people think and are vital for the change management needed in our ever-evolving organizations. Even if you execute flawlessly, spending all day in your office won’t lead to success. I always encourage people to get out of their offices, befriend peers and work across the organization in a relational way.
  2. PATIENCE: In our work, patience is required. Even if you walk in the door with the right answer, it’s important to be open to the fact that people won’t show up at the table ready for the answer. It’s a process, and this requires the patience to sit in the room and work through the process together.
  3. MISSION ENGAGEMENT: Partnering across the organization also means that we need to genuinely care about the mission. We need to be present to learn about the mission and demonstrate authentic engagement in our work. People throughout the organization need to see that we care.

Before we go, what are you reading right now that you'd recommend to others?

The Alternative: Most of What You Believe About Poverty Is Wrong
by Mauricio L. Miller

I have been working in community relations and foundation relations for more than 15 years. Funders are never without their own ideas on fixing or addressing society’s major socioeconomic dilemmas, especially as it relates to poverty and creating opportunity for low-income families and their children. Mr. Miller reflects an important fact that often gets glossed over, which is that many of us working at foundations and in the social sector grew up in poverty, so this is not a “them” proposition. Growing up with challenges has a way of sticking with you in this life. But the real gem in this book is changing our mindset (as I did the further I got into it) to engage deeply with individual and families to help them articulate their issues and identify possible solutions — and then to partner with them and let them power toward their own change.

The Foundation: A Great American Secret; How Private Wealth is Changing the World
by Joel L. Fleishman

I am coming late to the party for this book, but am acting like it is a new release. New family and private foundations are being created every year, yet when I tell people what I do for a living, I am generally helping educate them on what a private foundation is and how one comes to work at one. Knowing more about the history of this elusive world is not lost on me, regardless of how long I have worked in the field, and I am looking forward to learning as I read this.

The Technology Affinity Group (TAG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit membership organization that promotes the power of technology to advance the goals of the philanthropic sector.