Five Questions with Ashley Miller

Ashley Miller spearheads execution of Catalyst’s comprehensive fundraising plans, manages grants and contracts, supports member services work, and ensures the viability of organization-wide operations. She is also a key partner with Philanthropy California for state-wide resourcing needs. Ashley comes to San Diego by way of Seattle where she served most recently as a grants manager at the University of Washington. Get to know Ashley a little better through her answers below:

In your own words, describe what it is you do at Catalyst:

Someone asked me what my superpower was at work once and (in a very bumbling, meandering way, because off-the-cuff speaking is NOT it) I described my superpower as the ability to get people to articulate their vision for a project and then make it happen. That’s how I see my work as an operations manager: understanding and helping us to articulate our strategic vision for our region and our organization and then doing the tactical, day-to-day work that operationalizes that vision and gets others to buy into it too. It’s a bit of fundraising, contracts management, office management, member relations, working with our committees and board, and contributing to our culture all the time. It’s kind of an ideal spot for someone like me who has made a career of being a generalist and enjoys knowing a little bit about a lot of things.

If you weren’t in the social impact sector, what would you be doing?

Ok, so I have this vision for a business where I raise sheep, sheer sheep, spin their wool, dye their wool, and then knit it into garments. It’s called Sheep to Knits, which is a play on the phrase soup to nuts. I’ve been assured by people in the fiber industry that this is a truly terrible idea because every part of that process is hard to turn a profit on, but I still love the idea. So, to answer the question, maybe I’d be a career counselor.

What is the issue area that you are most passionate about? Why?

Family and medical leave, and centering care in all we do. Whatever our day jobs may be, many of us at some point in our lives are called upon to fill caregiver roles for ourselves or our family, however we define family. But in our society, our economy, it is an enormous privilege to be able to do that without giving up our livelihood at the same time. I’ve stepped away to welcome a child into my family (and I’m preparing to do it again) and experienced how exceedingly difficult it is to care for someone who relies on you to get them through the daily activities of life without also worrying about how to pay for food, housing, insurance, etc. What a gift that was, not feeling the need to choose between a paycheck and a person. Our country falls far short of the protections other industrialized nations offer their caregivers and that shortcoming shows up in our health, work, relationships, you name it. Imagine the people, the community, the nation we could be if we centered care.

Favorite accounts to follow on social media?

Black Coffee with White Friends (for liberation), The Knitting PT (for stretches), The Lazy Genius (for help prioritizing), PL+US (for paid family and medical leave news), and What’s Gaby Cookin (for noms)

Where is your favorite place to go in San Diego or Imperial Counties and why?

I love taking my family to Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center. My daughter feeds the animals, we pick up some favorite snacks, and on many occasions we’ve run into people we know and enjoyed a chat in the sunshine. With the last two years being what they were, I still feel like a pretty recent transplant to this region (I moved in 2019), so it’s a really special experience to organically run into someone I know and just catch up.

What is your favorite part about working at Catalyst?

When we come together, all of us, we’re all trying to build something that serves and sustains others. When we talk about how to do that, I’m deeply humbled by the transparency with which we discuss the challenges we each face and the enormity of the work before us. And yet the momentum does not cease. We don’t let that enormity stop our forward motion. We encourage and nourish one another and work together. Whatever you’d call it, it’s something I see others wishing for more of, and it’s something we create together here.