Meet our Giving Team: Katie Sawyer

As Senior Director of Donor and Community Engagement, Katie Sawyer leads the team that helps The Foundation’s donors, fundholders and giving circles make an impact on the social issues they care most about through their philanthropy.
As Senior Director of Donor and Community Engagement, Katie Sawyer leads the team that helps The Foundation’s donors, fundholders and giving circles make an impact on the social issues they care most about through their philanthropy.

The San Diego Foundation Development & Stewardship Team is here to help you by delivering excellent service and promptly responding to your needs.

In this Meet our Giving Team blog series, we’re interviewing each of our team members so you can learn more about the individuals – both professionally and personally – who are helping you give confidently to make the most social impact.

In today’s post, meet Katie Sawyer, Senior Director of Donor & Community Engagement.


Interview with Katie Sawyer

Katie, why do you enjoy working at The San Diego Foundation?

It’s satisfying and fulfilling to do work that aligns so perfectly with my values and goals for our community. I have a background in direct service nonprofit work, so I love the chance to support and get to know the work of so many nonprofits in our region.

How did you get started working in the nonprofit sector?

I started in direct service work at a women’s community center in Cincinnati during the 2008 financial crisis. The need was great, and resources were scarce. But people came together, like they always do in a crisis, and I quickly learned all the people I could call on to help when someone was in need.

What do you enjoy most about partnering with donors and philanthropists?

I love talking to donors about the issues and causes they care about, and working with them to plan how they can have an impact in our region. And on a selfish note, it’s wonderful to work with such amazing people! Our donors are smart and compassionate; they lead interesting lives and care deeply about the people in our community. It’s a joy to get to work with them.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you like to do?

Pop outside for a quick walk or run in the neighborhood, or grab whatever book I’m reading.

What’s a favorite spot in your neighborhood?

Riki Sushi (North Park).

What inspires you?

I am inspired every day by the life-changing work of our nonprofit partners, and by the dedicated and talented teams that carry out their missions. The challenges of the past year have highlighted what we’ve always known about our local nonprofits: they are effective and adaptable, and a critical part of our region’s response to any crisis. They are crucial to the fabric of our community, and I am so grateful to partner in their important work.

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

I love to hike and camp, and to just spend time exploring beautiful parks and places. I’ll try just about anything that gets me outside – snowboarding, surfing, whitewater rafting, climbing – always enthusiastically but not always successfully!

Why do you think San Diego is such a generous city?

I think many of us realize how lucky we are and want others to be able to share in the same opportunities.

What is your favorite book?

That’s too hard when there are so many that I love. Two books I’ve recently enjoyed are This Is How It Always Is and The Color of Law. And I always welcome book recommendations!

What social impact area matters to you the most?

I think racial justice is one of the most important areas for us to tackle, as institutions and individuals. Now is the time for us to work to correct the lasting impact of historical systemic injustices, and to invest in families and communities that have been left outside of opportunities. I’m proud of The San Diego Foundation’s commitment to this work with the recent launch of the Black Community Investment Fund.

What is your favorite destination outside of San Diego?

The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. I think it’s one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.

Who is your role model?

Nancy Jamison, retired CEO of San Diego Grantmakers (now Catalyst of San Diego & Imperial Counties). When I think of the kind of leader and changemaker I want to be, I try to channel Nancy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.