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Driving Positive Social Impact: Meet Kelly Saturno

By Leilani Yau

September Consultant of the Month

With extensive experience in leadership roles for nonprofit organizations, Kelly Saturno wants to make an even greater impact in the world. Using her consulting role in Facebook’s community partnerships group as a springboard, she plans to launch a new phase in her career to reach more people and improve lives.

What are you currently working on?

I’m at Facebook doing content strategy for the 2020 Community Accelerator Program, for leaders growing meaningful communities and connections, both online and offline. My role is to take existing content, repurpose it for a new audience, and localize the final Keynote decks, speaker notes, worksheets, and videos. The trainings are delivered via Zoom by partners in five regions around the world. For example, the impact evaluation curriculum was written from a very academic perspective. When it was presented last year, it got high marks from community leaders, so we needed to find a balance between simplifying it and keeping what worked. I also identify and fill gaps in the curriculum, such as developing a module on market segments and personas.

Kelly’s Keys to Success

  • Aligning work with personal values
  • Regular check-ins with like-minded professionals
  • Defining her optimal job conditions
  • Cheerful tenacity in challenging situations
  • Being strategic in charting a course for her career

Why did you decide to become a consultant?

I've done a variety of roles in the nonprofit sector from working in environmental policy to social services and disaster relief. Essentially, I have the skill set of an Executive Director or CEO of a nonprofit organization.

I’ve pivoted to working in social impact in the corporate world so I can work on programs reaching people at scale. Even if I were running a $20 million nonprofit, I would not have anywhere near the level of impact I can have compared to working at Facebook or Google — corporations that have great resources and reach.

I see the consulting work I'm doing as a transition phase towards a full-time job in social impact, likely for a larger company in the technology sector, as I’d like to stay in San Francisco. For instance, our department at Facebook touches around 3,000 people who lead communities that touch millions of people across the globe each year, so there is a level of scale and opportunity for growth.

What path did you take to become a consultant?

For about 20 years, I alternated back and forth between doing project-based contract work and being a full-time employee. I did about a third resource development and fundraising, and probably two thirds program management and strategy. If you tell me you want a Jack of all trades, I might be the right person.

I started out in international development and decided to settle in San Francisco where I have a great community of family and friends. My first job here was with Women's Initiative for Self Employment, an microenterprise organization that helped women entrepreneurs.

I found myself in leadership roles but didn't really want to be a CEO because nonprofits are typically businesses that you have to recapitalize every year. That’s a lot of fundraising! I’ve raised over $20 million so it’s always an option to go back to. Right now I’m interested in helping large companies have a positive impact on the world.

I'm a very values-driven person. I would like more opportunities to have a larger impact. I worked on a project where we increased federal funding for early intervention programs for mental illness by $100 million a year. It was the first time there was an increase in federal mental health funding in 20 years. It was meaningful. I got to work on national policy with folks on the Hill in DC and helped move things on state policy.

"I'm a very values-driven person. I would like more opportunities to have a larger impact."

I am grateful that Sarah in Facebook’s Community Marketing Team was willing to take me in the role I’m in now, which gets me closer to my goal of working on corporate social impact. I learned so much about how to navigate the corporate culture and how things get done at Facebook.

What work are you most proud of? Why?

The role that brought me the most joy was working on exchange programs for the US Department of State, specifically the Fulbright Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program, because I got to meet people from all over the world. I led three-week study tours across the United States for professionals and rising stars in politics and other industries. The groups I led were mostly from Africa and studying the US Legal System, Policing in America, HIV/AIDS Education, and more. That was a fascinating job and I learned so much.

On a pro bono basis, I was the first Board Chair for City Slicker Farms. A small group of us secured funding from a state proposition to buy land and turned a grassroots urban farming organization into a sustainable neighborhood institution. It's a 1.4-acre urban farm park in West Oakland that will be there for many decades to come. Working with a few other people as a tight team to make that happen is definitely the thing that I'm most proud of.

What has been your biggest challenge about being a consultant? How have you addressed it?

At one point, I was working out of the corner of my living room. I had a steady stream of work doing board development strategy, government grant writing, and nonprofit work. But I realized if I didn’t step out of that comfort zone and go into the office every day to work with other people on a team, I wasn’t going to grow as a leader.

As I looked to make the transition back into the corporate world, one of the things I looked at was where a job sits in terms of responsibility, meaning, and compensation. For now, I'm feeling really happy about where I landed.

How do you market yourself?

I wouldn't use the word “networking,” but I like being able to peek into other people's worlds and am interested in their goals and the different kinds of companies they work for. I have very broad expertise in management, from running non-profits to an adventure travel company to serving as Burning Man’s Lead Volunteer Coordinator. People often get referred to me for advice. I give everybody a half-hour to an hour. I try to be very generous with my time. I have a broad range of contacts that I’ve cultivated that have been very useful for me.

A consultant who was in my current role at Facebook recommended me as she was transitioning to another job. I've known her for a very long time. Previously, we were in a group of six women who got together every other week for dinner and a round table to talk about what we wanted to do — everyone was looking for a job change or promotion. At the end of the meeting, we committed to what we would do by the next meeting, so we could be accountability partners and help each other. Six months later, every one of us had a new job or a promotion. The mutual support model really works.

What are the things you like to do when the work slows down?

I love hiking. I'm a member of two hiking clubs — the West Point Inn and the Nature Friends Tourist Club — where you can stay overnight on Mount Tam. I’m happiest on the weekend when I’m playing in the dirt, out on a hike or tending to my vegetable garden. I have a big community garden plot on Alameda’s decommissioned Naval Airbase, where I’m growing everything from tomatoes and corn to shiso and basil. You’ll probably guess I also love cooking.

I'm not much of an artist myself, but I love supporting the absolutely amazing artists in the Bay Area. When I first moved to the Bay Area I was part of a really unique arts collective called Fire Garden that put on theatrical events with large fire sculptures, belly dancers, and a Tesla coil. Sometimes I serve as crew for artists who create large kinetic sculptures for the Burning Man Project and Coachella.

Kelly Saturno Garden

What’s one tip you would give to new consultants?

From the perspective of new consultants being placed in organization, it’s really helpful to assess what systems are in place or what’s lacking. At some companies, you may discover what you're supposed to be doing as you go along. There may not be a roadmap or documentation. I am very comfortable in these kinds of situations, but you have to do the best you can with cheerful tenacity. Just keep driving through. Don't stress about it. Don't allow it to aggravate you. Often, an easy way to add extra value is to create a process or simple checklist, especially if that same process will be done again. Create some documentation so the next person who comes in after you can hit the ground running.

About Leilani Yau

Leilani Yau is a digital marketing consultant, specializing in content marketing and social media for small businesses and non-profits, and helps clients L.O.V.E. (Listen, Offer, Value, Engage) their target audiences online.

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