We had the good fortune of connecting with Kendra Puryear and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kendra, can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned over the course of your career?
Don’t be afraid of your emotions. Instead of always trying to keep your emotions in check, use them to guide your career and the choices you make along the way. Working for non-profits, I have had to come to terms with the fact that crying is a normal part of the job and nothing to be ashamed of. I try to channel my emotional energy into making change and connecting genuinely with people who care about this work as much as I do.
Getting in touch with your emotions and allowing yourself to show up, emotions and all, in your professional interactions can help you to forge stronger relationships with teams, to make important decisions about how to move forward on a strategy or even help you to know when it is time to move on from a role or organization.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I like to say I am a professional difference maker. Since I was young, I’ve always had a strong calling to make things better for people around me. Luckily, I happened to fall into the non-profit space right out of college. I had planned to go to law school and pursue politics, but after being introduced to CASA of OC, I realized what actually made me tick was using my voice to make a difference. It’s tough to leave one non-profit for another and it wasn’t easy for me to leave CASA after 5 years. But I had a growth strategy early on in my career. I’d constantly look at job descriptions for roles I’d want in 3-5 years. I would note the skills and experiences that I lacked and I’d try to get my boss to give me projects that would eventually help qualify me for those roles. I only took roles at organizations whose missions aligned with my passions and values but I also kept in mind the size and type of organizations that I thought would give me the most diverse professional experiences. I’m passionate about so many issues facing our community, but I was always most emotionally engaged when I was working on behalf of youth who had experience in the foster care system. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to come full circle in my career when I was offered the role of Chief Development Officer at Orangewood Foundation.
The most challenging part of my career path has been managing change in new roles. I am a builder and I am always looking for ways to do things more efficiently or effectively. Once I see an opportunity for improvement, my instinct is to move forward fast, assuming that people will be as excited as I am about the changes we’re making. This isn’t always well received and I’ve had to learn some hard lessons about how to approach change. A wise mentor, Vivian Cleclak, once told me that, “all change begins with loss.” This was a revelation for me and has helped me to slow down and take the time to bring people along when changes could improve our outcomes.
One of my proudest accomplishments throughout my career has been engaging younger generations in philanthropy. I’ve started young professionals groups at 4 different non-profits and have seen many of the folks who have joined those groups over the years go on to become loyal donors, volunteers, Board members and even start working for non-profits. One of the most rewarding aspects of my career is getting to connect people to their community in meaningful ways.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would start with a Bar Method class before a walk through Lido Marina Village. Grab a matcha latte at Herst Coffee Roasters to sip during a mani/pedi at Magic Nails. Then, check out the newest selections at Lido Village Books and Alchemy Works. Top the afternoon of a gorgeous cocktail at Fable and Spirit. Durty Nelly’s is a favorite spot for Karaoke and loaded potato skins.
Orange County is more than just shopping, cocktails and coffees on the water. In 2021, to beat the COVID blues, I hiked a new trail with a friend every Sunday. I’d highly recommend checking out OC Hiking Guy’s guides for a local “getaway.” Every trail offers something unique and its incredible how diverse Orange County’s landscape really is. We are so lucky to call this place home.
Back to the ocean, an afternoon of paddle boarding or kayaking in Newport’s harbor is a great way to unwind and get some sun. I always like to round out physical activity with some intentional downtime. Lido House has a great spa for a relaxing massage and a poolside snack. Their rooftop has amazing views and vibes for a sunset glass of wine post massage.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
More than 15 years ago, I met my friend Jairek Robbins. After a brief conversation in which he recommended the book The Soul of Money by Lynn Twist, I gave him my (brand new) business card and we parted ways. I had just started working for my first non-profit, CASA of OC, at the time. A few days later, a package was delivered to my office with the book he’d recommended. Though we’ve never lived in the same city, we’ve been friends ever since and often run strategies and ideas by each other to get honest feedback. I now give that book to at least 5 people each year because it transformed the way I think about money and professional fundraising. I’ll always be grateful he went that extra mile to make sure I read the book.