Katy Yoder has had a good ride as the development director for Sisters Folk Festival, Inc. (SFF). Now she’s saddling up to ride out on new adventures after more than a decade working for SFF.
Katy will stay on as development director through this year’s festival in September and until the end of 2017 to help transition in her eventual replacement.
Yoder, who is a freelance writer for The Nugget, plans to use the time she frees up to focus on her writing. “I love writing,” she said. “That’s my creative outlet.” The demands of her SFF job make it difficult to devote the necessary time to her writing, so, she said, “in order to go through that door as a writer, I needed to close this door.”
Yoder came on board with Sisters Folk Festival in 2007, hired as the organization’s events director. She wore a lot of hats in that position, including developing relationships with donors and sponsors. It turned out that that was the aspect of the job in which she thrived. “I was always doing development,” she said. “It’s just what I liked to do.” Within a couple of years, the organization had grown enough to allow her to transition into a position as full-time development director, where she worked with sponsors, donors and members of the organization’s membership program, Sisters Folk Arts Circle.
“I really enjoy taking care of all the people who make the work of Sisters Folk Festival possible,” she said. The key aspect of the job is relationship-building, and Yoder has built relationships that transcend simple financial support of a non-profit. “I’ve met so many wonderful people that I consider my dear friends, and that’s been a huge blessing,” she said.
Being a “basically shy person” in an extroverted position might have been more of a challenge for Yoder if she did not find it so easy to ask individuals and businesses for their support of Sisters Folk Festival’s music events and educational outreach programs. “What the folk festival organization is doing is so worth it,” she said. “It’s not hard to ask when you believe in what you’re doing.” And, she said, her successor will soon discover that “the people you get to work with and take care of are wonderful people.” They are generous, support music and arts and education and “are a heck of a lot of fun,” she said.
During her tenure, Yoder’s passion for building personal relationships with sponsors and donors has helped the organization grow and establish itself as a non-profit with solid financial footing. She looks with considerable satisfaction on what she has helped the organization become and said she will miss “being a part of it. Being associated with Sisters Folk Festival is something to be proud of.” And she will miss her colleagues, who have supported her through thick and thin, including helping her through a breast-cancer crisis. The festival organization and community were “supportive … understanding and loving during the toughest time of my life,” she said.
The music that the festival introduced her to has helped her, too. She recalls a winter concert by Scottish folk music legend Dougie MacLean. “I got to meet Dougie MacLean and have a beer with him,” she said. “That was awesome.” And when she desperately needed strength and fortitude, it was to his music that she turned. “(It) just had a huge, huge impact on me,” she said. “I listened to him when I was going through my cancer stuff, because he had a lot of ballads about strength.”
Yoder is leaving the Sisters Folk Festival organization stronger than when she came to it — and she isn’t going far. She’s looking forward to attending the festival and other concerts as a patron, indulging in her expanded musical horizons.
SFF has begun its search for a new development director. Those interested in learning more about the position can visit www.sistersfolkfestival.org/join-the-sff-team. Questions about the position should be directed to Ann Richardson, Managing Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katy Yoder will be the first to tell candidates that the position is a great deal more than a job. As she saddles up for the challenges of developing a new career as a writer, she can look back on a trail that took her in some unexpected directions and showed her territory she’d scarcely dreamed of. And she can sum things up with a mixture of smiles and tears:
“It’s been a good ride, that’s all I can say.”