Meet Our New Executive Director!

Laura and Mitzi the cat

Just a couple weeks ago, Compassionate Action for Animals announced that a new executive director had been selected. Laura Matanah will begin working with CAA in December with a one-month training period alongside Unny Nambudiripad, the current executive director.

Unny announced last July that he would be stepping down from the position in January 2017, and since then our hiring committee has been devoted to finding the right person to take his place, someone with a combination of nonprofit leadership experience, fundraising know-how, and good people skills. Plus, this person would have to have an outstanding passion for animal advocacy and an understanding of our diverse Twin Cities community. We are delighted to have found in Laura Matanah a candidate who captures all of these qualities and more.

Perhaps you’ve seen Laura at some of our CAA events over the past few years. She and her wife Sarah have been active members of the community, attending dine outs, potlucks, and our annual banquet. Laura also has experience volunteering with CAA’s pay-per-view outreach, sharing our message of compassion for animals with members of the general public. Her motivation to apply for the position was based on the impact CAA’s work had on her. She says, “CAA’s incremental approach is what enabled me to fully acknowledge the depth of farmed animal suffering and become a committed vegan. CAA also led me to become an animal advocate in my personal life.”

Laura (on the right) and Sarah at Twin Cities Veg Fest 2016

The majority of Laura’s nonprofit experience comes from her tenure as executive director for Rainbow Rumpus, an organization that began as a small group of volunteers who wanted to create great stories for kids from LGBT-headed homes and grew to be the primary publisher of LGBT family fiction worldwide, run by a combination of paid staff and volunteers.

To achieve this remarkable growth over a period of eight years, Laura recruited, trained, and inspired volunteers; worked with the board to create and implement individual donor fundraising plans; and ensured the organization consistently achieved its program goals. She worked with board and staff members to expand their impact by developing strategic plans, logic models, and systems for evaluation; built and maintained relationships with institutional partners; managed finances; and supervised staff.

In addition to this extensive nonprofit experience, Laura also has experience as an elementary teacher in the Minneapolis Public Schools. Of special note, during her time at Pratt School, Laura was a member of the Instructional Leadership Team, which provided vision and support for high-quality instruction through a racial equity lens. She played a key role in initiating a program to begin centralizing the voices of families of color at the school and in leading professional development to help teachers address their own unconscious bias.

And now what does Laura envision for CAA? We’ll let her tell you in her own words:

I think the change in leadership is a chance for all of us to look at the organization with fresh eyes. Here are some questions I’m considering:

  • How well do our programs and mission align?
  • How effective are we at getting people to change their diets?
  • Are there new strategies we want to incorporate?
  • Do we want to engage in other types of animal advocacy or talk more about the impacts of animal agriculture on wild animals, people, and the earth’s ecosystems?
  • How much do people from a range of racial and cultural communities feel welcome, participate, and share their talents?

I think it’s my job to support the community in developing processes to examine these questions, gather data, and make plans. That, of course, is a longer-term project. In the short-term, maintaining and growing CAA’s wonderful programs is my highest priority. It’s clear to me that in order to do that we need to expand our donor base, our board of directors, and the Twin Cities Veg Fest planning committee. Also, in light of current events, the welcome of our multicultural community seems more important than ever.

From the moment my wife Sarah and I got involved as volunteers, I was struck by CAA’s number of programs, volunteer commitment, and community energy. Participating in CAA’s events and becoming part of the vegan community has been a huge source of joy to me.

During Twin Cities Veg Fest, I was delighted to meet a 2nd grader Ivy who goes to Folwell, which houses the International Fine Arts Program I taught in, and to see 4th-grader Johanna, who was one of my students at Pratt. I’m excited to connect with families who are part of CAA.

I can’t wait to become a full-time animal advocate and get to know everyone in the community better.

We are excited to welcome Laura to the team. Her genuine warmth, collaborative spirit, and passion for the movement are the ideal ingredients for the future success of CAA.

Laura and family
Laura (on the right) with Da’Jon, Sarah, and Tajah

So what does Laura do when she’s not advocating for animals?

You’re likely to spot me walking our dog Houdini in the Seward neighborhood where we live. I bike, cook, read, play board games, and work with Sarah on turning our yard into a pollinator-friendly perennial garden. My spiritual life is supported by involvement with Twin Cities Friends Meeting (Quaker), Friends in El Salvador, and the Common Ground Meditation Center. I enjoy time with our 18-year-old twins, Da’Jon and Tajah, who are moving into the world of work and independence. I also enjoy snuggling with our six-toed cat Mitzi.

Laura will be at our 14th Annual Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck on November 19. You can meet her there and at the same time join in our annual celebration of gratitude.

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