In her professional world, there is nothing more gratifying for Kassia Nye than playing matchmaker. Except in her case, that means matching people with meaningful causes that align with their core values.
As of early December, Kassia has brought her matchmaking gift to North Coast Land Conservancy as the new development director. She is stepping in as Lorraine Ortiz prepares to retire in January after serving as NCLC’s development director for seven years.
“I can’t imagine anything better than finding people who want to preserve ecosystems and fresh air and clean water and giving them a platform where they can help to do that,” Kassia says.
A native of Canby, Oregon, Kassia describes herself as a “born mountain goat.”
“I grew up climbing everything I could: trees, cliffs, fences. I haven’t stopped,” she says.
Asked what nature means to her, she responds simply: “Sanity.”
“Anytime I’m feeling big feelings—stressed out, dissatisfied with my life—all I need to do is find a forest, and it helps me process, it helps me work through my feelings and my emotions and be able to contribute back to the world again,” Kassia says.
One of her favorite spots on the Oregon North Coast is the Kwis Kwis Trail in Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. In particular, there is one huge maple tree covered in moss that sometimes looks like it’s glowing.
“Sometimes I imagine myself climbing up and falling asleep there,” she says. “I feel so much better being out there and listening to the water.”
She attended the University of Oregon and then relocated to Seattle, Washington, where she lived for about 10 years. During that time, she served on the board of a nonprofit that raised money to send students from underrepresented communities to college.
In 2013, she moved to Astoria and started volunteering for multiple organizations while raising her two young children. She took on her first role as a professional fundraiser in 2018 with the Columbia Memorial Hospital Foundation.
“That’s where I fell in love with it,” she said. “I found a lot of satisfaction in matching people with causes that meant something to them.”
Doing this type of work in a small community, she discovered she could clearly see the impact she was making in the community—something that donors, volunteers and others experienced as well.
Kassia also spent time working as the executive director of United Way of Clatsop County before accepting the job at NCLC. Several things motivated her decision, including NCLC’s leadership under executive director Katie Voelke and the organizational culture. Ultimately, she is passionate about nature and cognizant of the challenges wrought by climate change.
“Humans are in the middle of a crisis, and it might kill our species if big steps aren’t taken,” she says. “I’m scared for the planet and for my kids and the hardship that climate change is going to cause for them. To be able to have a role in holding onto nature is really meaningful to me.”
Of course, she understands “there are a million fantastic causes,” and while most people have something about which they care deeply, it’s not always going to be preserving the environment.
“But for the ones who do care about nature and ecosystems and clean water and fresh air, we offer them a venue to make a change and make the world a better place in this one particular way,” she says.
In serving as the development director, she looks forward to meeting the array of people who contribute to NCLC and building relationships.
“The volunteers are spending their time progressing a mission we all care about—it’s incredible,” she says. “Donors are giving their hard-earned money to progress a mission they care about. These are fantastic people, and I can’t wait to get to know their motivations, and their stories, and what their favorite spot—if they’re willing to share it—is, and what they feel when they are immersed in nature or standing on the edge of a continent with the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean in front of them and the majesty of the mountains behind them. There are so many wonderful reasons that they give, and I want to know all of them. Because maybe they’re mine and I just haven’t realized it yet.”