Episode 77: Featuring Megan Thomas and Sara Vaz

Megan Thomas of San Diego Grantmakers and Sara Vaz of Nordson Corporation Foundation

Megan Thomas, Senior Director of Collaborative Philanthropy of San Diego GrantMakers sat down with Rise Up Radio host, James Carmody and special co-host, Derrek Abbey recently to discuss the unique work San Diego GrantMakers is doing in the San Diego area. Thomas, who was born and raised in San Diego attended college on the East Coast and worked for the National Geographical Society for six years. She has 20 years’ experience working in the nonprofit/philanthropic fields. She studied business at Yale University with a focus on how to manage a nonprofit organization. She returned to San Diego and began working for San Diego GrantMakers. She tells Carmody, “It’s a really unique organization. SD GrantMakers is a membership association for organizations that make grants. We’re not handing money out routinely, we are a place of gathering for those who are doing that to learn how to do it better more effectively and in collaboration with one another.” According to Thomas she discovered by becoming part of the nonprofit sector she could be a voice for not only those who are being affected with challenges, but for those who are trying to make solutions happen. Thomas describes how people come to SDGM to learn how to give funds for grants and how to make sure that money is doing the best job possible. She also unpacks the ways SDGM is working with Nordson Corporation Foundation and other organizations in the San Diego area.  

Sara Vaz, Program Officer for Nordson and manager of Nordson’s Corporation Social Responsibility Activities, joined Rise Up Radio host, James Carmody and guest Megan Thomas to unpack what Nordson Corporation does and how she is working with San Diego GrantMakers in their collaborative funding programs. Vaz herself is also on the board of directors with SDGM. Vaz, who grew up in Utah moved to San Diego 17 years ago for graduate school. She started working for the International Rescue Committee helping refugees to find employment. She tells Carmody that although she loved it, she realized she wasn’t equipped to be providing direct service to clients “due to a lack of being able to put up boundaries”. She talks about how discovering that lead her to decide it wasn’t the best profession for her, but that she still wanted to be in a helpful kind of field. Which put her on a path that eventually lead her to Nordson. Nordson, established in the 50’s, has been giving 5% of all their pre-taxed domestic earnings to charity each year, and has given over $8 million back to their communities. She explains, “I work for our corporate foundation which is headquartered in Ohio so I really am a staff of one here even though I have 600 colleagues here in Carlsbad, I am the only one doing the work that I do locally. So I really don’t have colleagues to bounce things off of on a day to day and really a network locally so for me GrantMakers is that network.”


1. Both, Megan and Sara want to help connect people and institutions and to understand the importance of philanthropy. They want to inspire others to contribute themselves and think strategically about how they invest in themselves according to their own passion! If anyone would like to learn more or get involved, visit San Diego Grantmakers or Nordson Corporation Foundation's website. You may also contact Megan Thomas via email at Megan@sdgrantmakers.org