Cathy Cha has been named president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund. This announcement caps off a two year period of transition at the San Francisco-based fund in which it increased the size of its board, staff and leadership to begin a phase of expansion and change after the departure of its longtime president, Ira Hirschfield, in late 2016.
Cha’s appointment is a promotion from within, having been hired in 2003 as a program officer. She has steadily climbed the ladder since, earning her first promotion in early 2009 when she became a senior program officer and program director focused on the fund’s immigration rights and integration portfolio. Cha then got the job as vice president of programs in January 2017. Now, two years later, she takes over the top spot to lead the fund as it navigates its expansion and transformation.
Cha’s career, even before her long service at the fund, is defined by her work in philanthropy and human services. After completion of her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Washington, Cha was chosen as one of only five young leaders nationwide to participate in year-long management training program at the community and human services nonprofit, United Way.
While the program was only for a year, her exemplary performance saw her hired immediately after as United Way of King County’s human services manager. She would work in this capacity for about three years before returning to college, attending the University of California, Berkeley to earn a master’s degree in city and regional planning.
Soon after the completion of her master’s, Cha was hired by the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation as a project manager working on affordable housing development. She earned recognition for leading the development of the Ellis Street Apartments, a first-of-its-kind housing project for youth transitioning from foster care.
Cha’s next philanthropic position was with the Hyams Foundation, brought on in 2000 as a program officer. She would work there for more than three years managing its community economic development portfolio. A brief period as an independent consultant for nonprofits and private foundations followed before her definitive move to the Haas Jr. Fund, where she has been ever since and will now lead.
“Cathy is a true innovator in advancing new models for how foundations can partner with communities, advocates, and government for greater impact,” said Walter J. Haas, chair the Fund’s board of directors in a letter from the board. “We have absolute confidence in her ability to help us write a bold new chapter in the Fund’s history of collaborative work to advance rights and create opportunities for all people.”
Cathy Cha officially assumed the responsibilities of her new role on Jan. 7, 2019.