In my first few weeks, I learned about one of our cash assistance programs that gave $677 grants to people. One of the testimonials read, ‘I know $677 isn’t a lot to some people but I had an unexpected car expense come up and this assistance prevented me from having to choose between fixing my car and getting groceries this month.’ It practically moved me to tears.
Elissa Roy is relatively new to Community Action Marin—she began her role as Director of Development in July of 2020—but she is already a vocal proponent. “I’m so inspired by the community action model. I love how our agency acts as connective tissue between the people and the services they need, from donations to civic processes. We are hands-on facilitating relationships with our community to make sure their needs are met and their voices heard.”
Originally from Louisiana, Elissa is a first generation American—her mom is from Finland and her dad is from India—and she has long been driven by a desire to help people. “I lived in a member-owned student housing co-op that shaped a lot of me. It led me to think about how I could support my community in the Bay Area, which brought me to non-profits and learning how fundraising worked. I then interned in development at Partners in School Innovation, which is where I first met Chandra Alexandre [the current CEO of Community Action Marin].”
Elissa’s admiration for Chandra is what ultimately inspired her to join the agency. “Chandra connects the dots on social change and she’s incredibly practical about it,” says Elissa. “She sets an ambitious vision for our agency in a really heart-centered way. I think all of that is unique to find in a leader, let alone one leading the largest social services organization in Marin county.”
Prior to joining Community Action Marin, Elissa was fundraising at UC Berkeley where the average solicitations were megamillions in gifts from billionaires—a stark contrast to the smaller, individual donations that come into Community Action Marin. “What really impresses me with this agency is the value of $500 for an individual, or $1500 for a family. It shows that small acts really do make a life-changing difference for those in need.”
Elissa shared one such experience that highlighted the importance of Community Action Marin in a tangible way: “In my first few weeks, I learned about one of our cash assistance programs that gave $677 grants to people. One of the testimonials read, ‘I know $677 isn’t a lot to some people but I had an unexpected car expense come up and this assistance prevented me from having to choose between fixing my car and getting groceries this month.’ It practically moved me to tears.”
As the Director of Development, Elissa handles all fundraising, the volunteer program, marketing and communications—and her primary objective is to grow contributed income. “Development is something we’re taking on with renewed passion and investment. In the philanthropic landscape of Marin, I need to bridge local businesses and strategic partnerships with local non-profits and our advocacy efforts (like the census and voter registration).”
So is it challenging fighting for equality in the most demographically disparate county in California? “There’s so much to do that I spend my days off wondering where to start. But I’m inspired every day. I’m honored to be a part of the leadership team and I admire all of the individuals working to support our frontline staff. I may sleep less but I definitely sleep better!”