Meet Cara Mathison, our new director of philanthropy, who joined us at the end of October 2017. Cara, 41, tells us a little about herself, and why she is so excited to join The Nature Conservancy here in Washington.
Q: Welcome to Seattle! Tell us how you came to The Nature Conservancy and from where:
I came from the University of Miami, in the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and before that I was at the University of Washington in the College of the Environment. In both places, I worked in philanthropy and fundraising. So I’ve been working with environmental scientists, supporting scientific research and teaching, nearly my whole career.
When the opportunity came up at the Conservancy, the mission, the skill set and the location all made it a perfect fit. My family is excited to get back to camping here where it’s cool and mountainous. My own particular interests are paddle boarding and birding.
Q: How did you develop such a strong connection to nature and conservation?
I grew up in a rural area, heavily agricultural, in Minnesota near the South Dakota border. I spent a lot of time in nature and solitude, with absolutely no bounds on where I could go — and it was amazing.
The fact that my community depended on agriculture was really influential. That ties into what I love about the Conservancy and how we leverage strategic preservation of natural systems with human and economic impacts.
Q: What do you do as director of philanthropy?
I oversee all the philanthropy efforts for Washington state. That means everything from ensuring our trustees are fully engaged to overseeing our philanthropy team, and making sure it’s all integrated with the top priorities of the Washington state chapter and the global Nature Conservancy.
Q: What excites you most about working with our trustees?
The trustees are a fantastic group of intellectual, strategy-oriented people who also bring their hearts to this work. What strikes me about the trustees is that not only do they have a deep passion for the Nature Conservancy, but they really understand our vision and are helping shape our strategy.
Q: How has your first month been? Highlights?
I have been struck by the level of commitment to The Nature Conservancy, on every level, from donors to staff to volunteers. That commitment was deeper and stronger than I realized it would be. It’s infused throughout every single thing that happens here. It makes me feel extremely motivated.
We have an absolutely terrific philanthropy team in place, and strong infrastructure and processes and relationships are already present. I’m excited to be coming into something that is so well-formed.
It’s always a learning curve moving from one large organization to another, so I know how much I still have to learn.
Q: As you settle in, do you have some particular goals?
My goals now are to make sure that our trustees are as engaged and fulfilled as possible, that they have a really deep relationship with the organization. And I want to be certain that my staff has every tool they need to go out and build more relationships for supporting the Conservancy, to make sure we always have new people learning about and financially contributing to our work.