September 24, 2020 Welcoming Kris Van Giesen to our team
We are delighted to welcome Kris Van Giesen to our team as our Senior Vice President for Philanthropic Planning.
Kris was born and raised in Santa Rosa (go SRHS Panthers!) and is a lifelong fan of the Cal Bears. Kris and his wife Holly are soon to be empty-nesters—their son is starting a new semester at UC Davis, and their daughter is starting at Georgetown this fall.
Kris has a vibrant and varied background rooted in his passion for service: Early in his career, Kris held management roles with the San Francisco Giants and San Jose Sharks, then transitioned into public service with a position working in the White House.
After working on the East Coast, Kris and Holly happily returned to the San Francisco Bay, where Kris transitioned into the nonprofit and Foundation world. He served as the Chief Development and Community Relations Officer for the Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma for 11 years. He later worked as the Chief Development Officer for Outward Bound in San Francisco.
At CFSC, Kris will lead our Philanthropic Planning Team in all aspects of development, donor services, and communications.
We sat down for an interview with Kris to get to know him better. Our Q&A is below.
What did you think of when you first saw this job opportunity?
When I first saw the description, it resonated with me: I grew up in this community. The opportunity to work in a role that helps to better Sonoma County and support people in the community was a dream. I’ve been familiar with the Foundation for many years. I knew that the people I’d be working alongside are incredibly dedicated and caring and would be a welcoming group, which has proved true!
Tell us a little more about your background; you’ve had an exciting career so far!
After graduating from Cal Berkley, I began my career working for the San Francisco Giants and then the San Jose Sharks. As much as I love sports, I studied International Political Economics in school, and I began to look for opportunities to get more involved with politics.
I wanted to work with people who shared my values and commitment to service, and I ended up falling in love with that world. I worked on the Clinton campaign in 1992 and spent several years working in the White House after winning the election. It was an incredible experience and one I will never forget—while there, I traveled to all 50 states and over 80 countries and loved the feeling that we were helping people around the country.
It sounds like public service has meant a lot to you. Tell us more about what that means to you?
My career decisions have always been based on finding places with similar values, passion, and empathy for what I feel is important. The idea of helping to better the lives of individuals in our community, who, often by no fault of their own, have been placed in challenging circumstances, is an honor for me. The values that the Foundation espouses are part of the reason I was so excited about the job.
My parents were also committed to this community, serving on boards and commissions, so I grew up with service as a model.
Did seeing your parents be so active inspire you to pursue public service in your own life?
100%. My parents always included us in their service. My siblings and I were raised with this at our core. My mom was involved with the YMCA, the Volunteer Center, and many other organizations. My dad is a physician, and he volunteered at local clinics. Seeing their work was instrumental in grounding me in what is essential in life.
My wife and I have tried to model the same for our kids, we’ve done volunteer work with homelessness and food security with them, and our daughter and son have both pursued service trips on their own too.
How have the first few weeks of working at CFSC been?
It’s been wonderful. I feel very welcome. People have been very generous with their time, which means a lot when you don’t have the opportunity to meet people in person and are working remotely via Zoom.
When you think about your role moving forward, what are you looking forward to?
We’re in a challenging time as a community in so many different areas: the fires, COVID, homelessness, racial justice issues, and many of these issues are impacting us on both a national and a local scale.
So, a lot is going on, and in my role, I welcome it. We know that Sonoma County is an incredibly generous and giving community. The work we do at the Foundation to help support donors in their giving is more important than ever. We also have a call to bring in more resources, raising money for projects like our Sonoma County Resilience Fund or our COVID relief fund. I am excited to advocate for our community and connect with people who want to support our work.
My first role, and my most important one, is to understand the passion that donors in this community have and find out what they hope to achieve through their philanthropy. What differences do they want to make? What is it that motivates them to give back?
As a foundation, we are committed to finding the best ways our donors can put their dollars into the community. I’m looking forward to working with our donors personally to help them make the changes they want to see.