Five Questions: Kristan Spear out to make an impact

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 2, 2019 at 4:55 PM

Now in her second year as president and CEO of the United Way of Washington County, former bank vice president Kristan Spear is loving her job and working hard to take it to a higher level.

In August, Spear was selected to participate in the international United Way organization’s accelerated development program for high-potential United Way leaders designed to improve the organization’s sustainability and ability to effectively serve unmet needs of people in every community.

Underneath all that, the Jonesborough native, David Crockett High School, East Tennessee State University (BS) and King College (MBA) graduate is equally busy as mother of her 10-year son, Reed, and newlywed bride of her husband, Jody Spear.

Just a few weeks into the local United Way’s $1.5 million fall fundraising drive for 23 local nonprofit agencies, she is out and about daily introducing and attempting to engage as many potential supporters as possible to the life impacting work of those agencies.

If there is a workplace Spear is not already scheduled to visit, she is eager for the invitation. And just in case you’re wondering, she took a few minutes last week to share a little about her motivation.

What led you to make the career jump from banking to nonprofit fundraising?

“I spent 15 years in banking and I absolutely loved my job. But what I found was what I loved more was making an impact in the community volunteering. I served on many (nonprofit) boards. An opportunity came available. And it just made sense to change and do something I was passionate about every day.”

What has been your best day at the United Way so far?

“They are all good days. But I would have to say probably my best day was when we did our Vello (volunteer online reading enhancement) party and all our volunteers got to meet their reading partners. Because that program is virtual, they never see each other. After I finished talking, I had five little kids run up and hug me and tell me, ‘You are my reading buddy; you read to me,’ because they recognized my voice.”

What is the most difficult aspect of United Way leadership?

“The hardest part is working with our allocations team, trying to decide where our money goes because there are so many needs in our community and there is never enough money to go around.”

What is the most rewarding part of your work with the United Way?

“The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that every day we are accomplishing things for people in our community who need it the most and would never be able to pay for what we are doing.”

What is the local United Way attempting to accomplish in the ongoing transition that has so far added five new partner agencies, direct service programs such as Vello, and various direct impact activities by the campaign teams?

“Simply, we are trying to impact more people in the community and make sure the investment we are making is impacting the most people and all of our community needs are being met, either through our partner agency programs or our direct programs.”

Fun Facts:

Pets: Two dogs — Goldie, the Goldendoodle, and Chuck, the German Wirehaired Pointer

Favorite day trip: Sevierville/Gatlinburg, because there is so much to do and it’s close.

Favorite movie: “The Blind Side”

Favorite book: “To Kill a Mockingbird”

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