Kevin Gay shares his enthusiasm for Zero Breast Cancer in this month’s Get to Know the Board interview. In his second year as a board member, Kevin’s financial management expertise and knowledge of nonprofit governance have been invaluable to advancing the ZBC mission.
Q: Could you tell me about your day job?
A: I’m the finance director at the Yosemite Conservancy, so I prepare all the finance reports, budgeting and planning for the conservancy. We’re a foundation that provides funds to the park and support the National Park Service. Our administrative office is in Downtown San Francisco, but we also have an office right outside of Yosemite. It’s great to be involved in preserving such an iconic park. At this point in time, with all the things that are happening with climate change and some of the attacks on our environment, conservation is so important. We support 10 book stores in the park and have a large group of volunteers that help visitors navigate the park. We also do a lot of appeals through direct mail and have over 50,000 donors to the conservancy, which shows you the power of the conservancy and the park. People love it, of course, so I feel very fortunate that I can be involved in an organization like the Yosemite Conservancy.
Q: What motivated you to become a member of the board?
A: I met Rose, ZBC’s executive director, several years ago when she was in conversation with previous organization, Summer Search. We stayed in touch and she reached out to me. She was hoping to add someone to the board with some financial management experience, so that was really my motivation. When she asked me to join, I had the time and it’s been great. I’m the Treasurer and chair of the finance committee, so that’s been my leadership role in the board. Almost everyone is involved in all of the functions of the organization in the board, but I’ve been able to help with the budgeting, reviewing the financials, and helping think through strategic issues around Zero’s funding and how we move forward. It’s one of the smaller boards I’ve been involved in but it has the same level of expertise and enthusiasm that you need in any nonprofit board. It’s very much a working board. The board meetings are very involved, so we’re a small but mighty board!
Q: What does ZBC mean to you?
A: Before I joined the conservancy, I was very much involved in youth development and education. The conservancy was a change of direction, going into more conservation issues. ZBC added another area of interest for me. Breast cancer is one of the things that touches almost everyone in terms of either a friend, family member or colleague. It’s been fascinating to learn more about science and research that’s supporting ways to reduce the impact of breast cancer.
Q: How has breast cancer touched you personally?
A: Prior to joining the board, I didn’t have any close relations with anyone who had breast cancer, but since I’ve joined my sister-in-law developed breast cancer. It was about a year ago, and I worked through that process with her as she went through treatments. That was the first time I was really touched in a close, personal way. There was no known history of it in her family with her four sisters or her mother. It really brought it home about why there is a need for organizations like ZBC to educate people about breast cancer and talk about different behaviors to reduce the chances for breast cancer. Now, my sister-in-law is doing well. I just saw her last March and she looked great and has really bounced back from it, but it was a touch stretch there.
Q: What is your favorite ZBC memory?
A: I would say being at the Dipsea hike last year and seeing the number of people ZBC has touched. I just love to see the enthusiasm of ZBC supporters. I’ve never had any health issues I’ve had to battle and seeing those hikers who, many of them are survivors, be optimistic was one of my favorite memories. Also, we have great board retreats where we really can talk about what type of impact that ZBC is having. They are a full day of activities, so it’s fun to get away from the technical board meetings and have one that talks about the future. We look at some of the educational materials and talk about strategic planning and all kinds of things about going forward. This year we had a great one at the Cal Academy, so it was nice to be with the board in another environment and really do a deep dive on some issues.
Q: When you talk to friends, family and colleagues about ZBC, what are the three most important things you want them to take away from the conversation?
A: I try to convince them that they need to really change their behaviors in terms of exercise and diet and having the genetic test—the same things that ZBC advocates for. I want to leave them with the impression that there are certain things that they can do to reduce the risk by reducing the toxins that are in their lives in some way. Also, I let them know what ZBC is doing and that we’re reaching populations that don’t always get this type of information. We’re making a difference by getting this out into communities that sometimes don’t learn about improving their diet or exercise or cutting back on toxins. I let them know there aren’t many organizations doing what ZBC is doing in the Bay Area, and we need more support to get into more schools. Then I also I share whatever scientific info I pick up at the board meetings that is top of mind. I learn new things, like the puberty information, and share it. Not having children, it was really something new to me.
Q: What are your hopes for the organization?
A: Certainly that we can continue to operate as an independent group and grow our impact. I think we have a lot of work to do around looking at more creative ways to raise money and to be able to build our programs. My goal for nonprofits is sustainability, and that’s what we really want to push for. We need to keep the organization alive to continue to really make a difference. I’m excited for the next chapter of ZBC. We need to grow our board, and we need more programs and talent to help us grow. I’m excited about the potential for ZBC going forward.
Q: How do you support the mission of ZBC?
A: From a financial standpoint, it’s one of my top 3 organizations that I contribute to. Certainly in being a board member, I try to add value from my experience working in nonprofits and my financial management experience. I spread the word that I’m involved in this. It’s one of the things I talk about when I introduce myself, that I’m involved in this and we need more people to provide some financial support for us. I’m proud of the work that ZBC does.
Q: What is one surprising or fun fact about you that our readers might not know?
A: I like to collect contemporary art prints, so every year I try to find different lithographs. I love very much to go into galleries and buy a few pieces a year.
This interview was conducted and written-up by Lianna Hartmour, ZBC Education Coordinator.