Spotlight on Kari Strkoza

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Kari Stokosa is WFAA’s senior managing director of research and prospect management. A native of Greenfield, Wisconsin, Kari earned her degree in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from UW–Madison in 1999. Although she never intended to be an on-air meteorologist, she says, “I’m very thankful for the wide breadth of skills I obtained in the process of working on this Letters & Science degree.”

What does your role at WFAA entail?
I lead three small teams focused on helping identify and provide information about the interests, relationships and philanthropic inclination and capacity of our alumni and prospective donors, as well as managing the flow of prospects in and out of development director portfolios. I also collaborate with advancement leadership on reporting and fundraiser metrics and provide policy and database training for new employees and campus partners.
What led you to the field of development as a profession?
As a UW–Madison sophomore, I landed a job working one day a week at the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s Concerts on the Square (a Madison summer tradition). That summer gig evolved into seven years learning and growing within a small, dynamic arts non-profit. I then worked in fundraising at the YMCA of Dane County and even worked for a while in wealth management for a local bank. It was that final step into the for-profit world that led me to choose nonprofits for good, as I learned that putting my energy behind an organization whose mission motivates me is key to my career happiness.
What three words would you use to describe WFAA?
Transforming, progressive, and amiable.
What is your favorite part about working for WFAA, and what do you find the most challenging?
Due to its size, WFAA is better resourced than the other nonprofits I have worked at. I am grateful for the investments we’ve made in people, technology, ongoing professional development, and our work environment. Having the right tools to get the job done allows me and my team to be more efficient and effective and really makes the difference between good and great.
At the same time, our size has its challenges. The larger the organization has become, the harder it has been to know everyone, their role, and how each team’s work impacts the others. Even though I meet nearly every new employee through onboarding trainings, gone are the days of knowing everyone’s name and their individual contributions. We try hard through social gatherings and our intranet to recognize accomplishments, share strategic priorities, and collaborate, but there are hiccups now and then.
What opportunities for career growth have you had?
In 2010, I began my career here as a development coordinator supporting development directors working on behalf of the College of Letters & Science and UW Athletics. In 2011, I was promoted to senior development coordinator.
The following spring, I applied for an opening on the Research & Prospect Management team. I joined the team in 2012, providing research support to the business, engineering, and medical advancement teams. A reorganization created a vacancy in the role of managing director of my team in 2013. I applied for the interim position and was selected to lead the team, earning the full title in 2014.
Since then, career growth has been less about title changes and more about expanding influence. My team has grown from five to its present 14, and where I used to simply attend industry conferences, I’m now presenting on best practices and serving on a variety of committees with peers in the prospect-development community.
People would be surprised if they knew this about me:
I’d love to drive a convertible, but they seem rather impractical in Wisconsin winters. As a result, aside from my first car, every car I have owned has had a moonroof. Once, when the dealer asked what it would take for me to say yes to a purchase, I mentioned the lack of a moonroof. Before I knew it, they offered to have one installed and wrapped it into the financing for me. My current ride, a Subaru Forester, beat out the competition on its oversized, panoramic moonroof alone.
What is your favorite thing to do in Madison?
I love Madison’s lakes. I enjoy kayaking on Monona or Mendota, running a 10K around Lake Wingra, or taking a ride on the Bucky Pontoon. My commute might sometimes take 30-40 minutes to go 10 miles due to traversing a narrow isthmus, but the water and wildlife make it worth it.
What would you say to someone who is considering working for WFAA?
If at first you don’t succeed, and this organization is where you want to be, try, try again. As my team has grown in size, I’ve done a lot of hiring, and I know that we are lucky to attract a lot of really quality candidates. The decisions can be hard sometimes, and a “no” may not mean “never.” Take the time in between openings to learn more about WFAA and the role you desire, and try again. From cover letter to interview, make it clear that you don’t just want a job, but rather this job.
What is your favorite quote?
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt