Kara Inae Carlisle joined McKnight in 2017 as vice president of programs. In that role, she has led a transformation of program strategy and learning, responding to the fast-shifting context for social change and ensuring that an analysis of race, equity, and democracy underlies all program strategies. With her leadership, the Foundation’s programs today reflect more focus and integration, and a passionate commitment to equity and sustainability.
Previously, Kara spent eight years at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, most recently as director of New Mexico programs. She also served on Kellogg’s Civic and Philanthropic Engagement team, developing the first manual to inform its approach to place-based grantmaking.
Earlier in her career, Kara held various positions in Los Angeles, including associate director at Zócalo Public Square, and director of public relations and director of the 4.29 dispute resolution center at the Korean American Coalition. She also served as president of the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission and as chair of the Empowerment Congress. She was a board member of the National Association for Community Mediation in Washington, DC, and a Grantmaker for Effective Organizations’ Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellow.
A current board member of both Living Cities and the National Center for Family Philanthropy, Kara is also the board vice chair and secretary for Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement. She serves on the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Advisory Board and as an appointee by Governor Walz to the Executive Council for the Young Women’s Initiatives of Minnesota.
Kara holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and an MDiv in urban studies and education from Claremont School of Theology.
Favorite quote: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.