Champions Q&A: For Will Strong and Norah Kates, Philanthropy is Part of the Plan

By United Way of King County Posted on February 11, 2020 In Champions

A Champions donor working in wealth management. A county water quality planner with expertise in urban environmental restoration. Together they recently formed the Will Strong and Norah Kates Foundation.

What originally inspired you to give back?

Will: My parents have long supported nonprofits and they instilled in me that sense of responsibility.

Norah: My parents got involved in all kinds of school and neighborhood activities. I grew up feeling that giving back—either financially or through volunteering—was part of being a good community member and a good neighbor.

How has your professional work influenced your philanthropy and vice versa?

Will: In my profession, you see people with a lot of money and charitable intent, and different philosophies of giving and strategies about how to be an effective philanthropist. It sparked an interest in honing my own philanthropy.

Norah: Will is very financially knowledgeable from his work, and his board work gives us a look into the internal working of nonprofits from the grant-making perspective. As a former nonprofit employee, I feel strongly about supporting nonprofit staff with compensation and professional development. That’s why we’re committed to unrestricted giving. It’s part of the long game of building enduring success, and we believe in letting the organizations we support decide how best to get the work done.

“We’re committed to unrestricted giving.
It’s part of the long game of building
enduring success.”

How to you fit volunteering and giving into your busy lives?

Will: I make big commitments, then you’re locked in. For people who have trouble planning their own time, join a board—the schedule is all worked out for you.

Norah: Everyone has a different capacity to give. However much you give is okay. What’s most important is to be participating in important work by giving at the level that makes sense to you. When I was working as a volunteer manager, I was constantly blown away by the generosity of the people who found time in their busy lives to volunteer regularly. I continue to be inspired by them.

Will: United Way of King County does a great job of including opportunities for all levels of giving in their work, and that appeals to us.

Why did you choose to partner with United Way of King County?

Will: I first got involved with ParentChild+. The evidence-based program, its proven success, and United Way’s ability to take it to scale were and are very impressive. They apply the same diligence to solving homelessness.  

Norah: I’m impressed with their programmatic work and how they explain it in good and clear ways. The big outcomes are inspiring. They have made a lot of gains in the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness. Will: We are also interested in moving upstream to intervene before problems take shape. Programs like ParentChild+ and Home Base do that.


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