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Member Spotlight: Jara Dean-Coffey, Founder of Luminare Group

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Jara Dean-Coffey is the founder of Luminare Group (and previously jdcPartnerships) and a founding member and Steering Committee Member of the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers. As a part of our Member Spotlight series, Jara told us why she appreciates "A-ha" moments and how A Wrinkle in Time changed her perspective on time. 

How’d you get started in this work?

I was 30 when I knew I had to chart my own course. Conversion foundations were popping up all over California and philanthropy was growing. I had worked for three different national consulting firms by that point in my life, each one pursuing a different relationship with foundations. And except for at one, I was the only African American female (actually the only woman of color now that I think about it). I learned much from each of those experiences which shapes how I think of my role and my work. But perhaps the biggest learning was that being a consultant to foundations and nonprofits is a privilege and one I never take for granted. To be able to sleep at night and to really be of service, I had to connect with the human element of my clients. This was something I found lacking in my previous consulting experiences. Now that human element is at the center of everything I do.

What kept you in this work?

I was also particularly aware of the unique position I was in and that I had a duty to those who had come before me that I had to make sure that I what I did made a difference. As I’ve gotten older the client-centered focus remains a cornerstone and my commitment to equity and justice more present.

What’s your favorite part of this work?

My favorite part of my work with Luminare Group (and previously jdcPartnerships) is when I’m working with a client and they realize their instinct was right. Seeing them change the paradigm because someone gave them permission to question it is so rewarding. I also love when people have that “A-ha” moment where they realize that evaluation is not this thing that other people do to you. They see that that have power and agency and a responsibility to think about the relationship among intention, inquiry and information in a different way.

What’s your favorite on-screen guilty pleasure (YouTube channel, Netflix, network show etc)?

I hesitate to share this, but I am going to assume best intentions and kindness from all who read this. I am FASCINATED by Hoarders on A&E and TLC. My husband will walk out of the room if I have it on. There was this episode when rabbits took over a house that makes me have a new appreciation for Watership Down. Don’t judge me.

What talent or superpower would you most like to have?

Hmmm. I have used this as an ice-breaker when facilitating and now have empathy for those I’ve made answer this question. I think I would like to move through time. Not forward and back because I actually believe time is multi-dimensional. Thank you, A Wrinkle In Time.

Who are you favorite writers?

Oh this is hard one. But here goes: Zora Neale Hurston, Gabriel García Márquez, Madeleine L'Engle, John le Carré, Maurice Sendak, Zadie Smith and Edith Wharton.


Do you have questions for Jara or ideas for collaboration? You can contact her at:

Phone: (415) 482-7839 x2

Twitter: @jdeancoffey

LinkedIn: Jara Dean-Coffey

Websites: The Luminare Group