Kay Sohl ’70 MAT went to Reed to become a high school teacher. Unable to land a classroom job after graduating, she wound up going into a kind of teaching anyway.
Sohl helps nonprofit community organizations, ranging from established social service agencies to fledgling neighborhood groups, learn to succeed in business.
She sees it all the time. A group of smart, passionate people identifies a rallying issue, comes up with a great action plan, then fizzles out because it lacks savvy.
You might support a worthy cause, she says, but “if you don’t attend to these mundane things like accounting and bylaws, your cause isn’t going to go forward.”
The organization Sohl co-founded in Portland 25 years ago, Technical Assistance for Community Services (TACS), trains nonprofits in subjects such as financial management, fund-raising, and strategic planning. TACS works with groups as small as a charity started by a local immigrant to raise money for a school in his native village in Afghanistan.
Sohl’s first job after Reed was creating a childcare center in the blue-collar St. John’s neighborhood of north Portland. A group of women saw a need to provide safe, affordable childcare for single and working mothers— a radical idea at the time.
“It was the experience of a lifetime to work with these women who had a vision for their community,” Sohl says. “I had to learn all these things I really had practically no experience with, like budgeting, raising money, managing people.”
The center survived its rough early years and today is a neighborhood institution.
“I still feel so proud about that,” Sohl says of the achievement. “It grew from an idea to a reality and over the years has affected thousands of children and families.”
The experience inspired Sohl to help other nonprofit groups avoid the same pitfalls and find success. TACS works with more than 1,000 organizations a year in the Northwest.
“To me community really transcends place. . . . I see it as people who share cultures, values, dreams,” she says. “It is wonderful to help make dreams happen.”