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Faculty | 2020 Communications Institute

Robert Bray, Director of Communications, NEO Philanthropy

Robert’s career spans more than two decades in the field of strategic communications and social justice. As Director of NEO Philanthropy’s Four Freedoms FundTM Strategic Communications Initiative, Robert helps create and fund strategies designed to shape the immigration debate locally and nationally. Prior to joining NEO Philanthropy, he was Director of Communications for the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in San Francisco. In 1997, Robert founded the SPIN Project, a media training, coaching and strategizing non-profit for social change organizations. In the late 80s and 90s, he played a central role in increasing the media visibility of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, serving as the first Director of Communications for the Human Rights Campaign Fund, and later as Director of Communications for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Robert is the author of several publications on communications including “SPIN Works” and “Winning Wages: A Guide to Living Wage Communications Campaigns.” Prior to his social justice career, he was a public relations executive for the IBM Corporation. Robert graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism and public relations.

Headshot of Vanice DunnVanice Dunn, Vice President of Communications, PolicyLink

Vanice guides the evolution of the PolicyLink brand identity and communications strategy. She leads the organization into its critical responsibility and power as framers; framing issues expansively enough to illustrate the possibilities of a future where we all belong and thrive. True to the PolicyLink approach, Vanice brings a different type of sensibility to her communications work. An admirer of visionary fiction, illustration, and the types of creative that inspire dreams, she believes in the power of story to lift up what works. Leading a team of brilliant strategists, Vanice is honored to collaborate with the many assets of the organization — from platforms to partners — to craft strategies and campaigns that pave the way for a new narrative that dismantles the dominant narrative of the status quo. A new world is possible and Vanice is confident PolicyLink and its partners will lead the way. Raised in the South, Vanice brings her southern charm to Oakland where she’s in constant pursuit of joy, whether it’s in a new pair of kicks or a remix of a favorite song.

Emily Katz, Vice President of Public Affairs, Northern California Grantmakers

In her role as Vice President of Public Affairs, Emily directs communications and supervises policy advocacy and disaster resilience which means she’s one of those people who tries not to let a crisis go to waste. She believes in the power of people to do more together than they can do alone. In her bones, she craves collective action and builds it wherever she can. She’s a sucker for great stories, and isn’t shy about learning from failure.

Emily is energized by bringing people together to tackle tough problems, which makes Northern California Grantmakers’ network of 200 members with $3 billion in grants her happy place.

At NCG, Emily has built a cohort-based communications training program for mid-career professionals weaving emotional intelligence through strategic communications and racial equity. She takes satisfaction supporting the brilliance of others and her team has grown from two to five in her three years at the organization.

Emily landed her first job out of college at a non-profit start-up where she started as a telemarketer and, in six years, became a senior vice president. In her time there, she quintupled the organization’s budget and helped them grow from 20,000 to a half-million square feet of warehousing.

At the Women’s Funding Network, Emily developed and implemented a four-year, multimillion-dollar budget helping members get the right message to the right people on every continent.

Emily is also the lucky mother of overly intelligent twin teens, and enjoys the moments when she takes off her parenting hat and gets to be a real person with them.

Sande Smith, Director of Communications, California Wellness Foundation

Sande Smith is a communicator who combines words and images to tell stories and convey messages that move hearts and minds. During the day she leads communications for The California Wellness Foundation, and has held leadership roles at the Women’s Foundation of California and the Global Fund for Women. As communications director at the Women’s Foundation of California, she designed and led strategic communications efforts and cultivated advocates to take online actions on behalf of low-income women and families. Prior to that, Sande worked at the Global Fund for Women where she developed award-winning publications and generated coverage on issues such as the role of philanthropy in making social change and the disproportionate effect of natural disasters on women. A long-time writer, a few years ago Sande started learning to draw. She is now an avid draw-er who brings art, drawing and visual thinking to everything that she does. 

Sande became certified as a professional coach, and began offering coaching in April 2020. Sande is past president of the San Francisco chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and holds a bachelor’s degree in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies from Brown University.

Alum Peer Advisor

Carlos Aguilar, Chief Content Director, California Changelawyers Foundation

What should a leader look like? How can we restore power and wealth to our communities? These are the questions that motivate Carlos's work.

He imagines a future where leadership is Brown, Black, Queer, Non Binary, and Undocumented; a future where communities have the power to determine their own lives.

At ChangeLawyers℠, Carlos serves as the foundation's primary designer, curates the popular weekly newsletter NEWS BRIEF, and ghostwrites the foundation's opinion essays. In 2019, he co-created the inaugural Leaders Summit, a sold out, day long gathering of over 200 social justice lawyers. In 2018, he co-develop the organization’s new name, brand, and visual identity with Mission Minded.

Carlos is also involved in efforts to redefine what a philanthropist looks like. He's a member of Latino Community Foundation's LGBTQ Giving Circle, where he and his fellow queer philanthropists have funded organizations like Oasis Legal Services, El/La Para TransLatinas, and Somos Familia. He's currently developing a series of panel discussions with Northern California Grantmakers about how to liberate philanthropy. 

Besides liberating wealth and power, his obsessions include baking layer cakes, Mexico City, and the color yellow.