Cato Kraft – NOCO’s 30 Under 30 (2023)

By: Staff


Q: What’s your occupation? Explain your career, your accomplishments and professional highlights.

A: I proudly and passionately serve as executive director of the Estes Park Nonprofit Resource Center, a dedicated support and connection hub for the vibrant nonprofit industry of the Estes Valley. With over 100 nonprofits located in or in service to the Estes Valley community, the center’s work supporting, connecting and inspiring the local nonprofit industry over the last two decades has been integral to the industry’s success. When I was hired at 27, I became the youngest executive director in our community. I’m a self-proclaimed non-profit fangirl who is passionate about sustainable collective community impact.

Q: Tell us about yourself, your history and how you came to be where you are now.

A: I’ve packed a lot of life into my 29 years. Born and raised outside New York City, I took the John Keats quote about “experiencing to learn” to heart and lived in western New York, Brooklyn and Vermont throughout my college years. I then packed up a backpack and headed west to Colorado. I lived in Vail for four years before moving to the Big Island of Hawaii, where I met my husband while he was there on vacation. He got the best trip souvenir when I moved to Estes Park to start this chapter of my life.


Age: 29

Occupation: Executive Director of the Estes Park Nonprofit Resource Center


Q: Tell us something unique about you.

A: I’ve been a magnet for unique and off-the-wall jobs. I’ve done everything from marketing and graphic design for concerts and festivals to assisting with running academic summer camps at colleges across the county, working with manta rays on ocean night snorkels and now leading one of the only nonprofit microcosm community-centered resource centers in the state.

Q: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment, either professionally or personally?

A: Making space for my inner child and making her proud every day, whether that be taking a few extra minutes to stop and smell the flowers or being a boss with all the iterations of that word. I’m extremely proud of the self-reflection I’ve come into throughout my 20s, and I look forward to more growth in the next decade.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years?

A: In 10 years, I’ll be ready to be back on the beach and put my winter boots into full-time retirement. I’m very fortunate that by the time I’m 40, I’ll have almost two decades in nonprofit work, with over a decade in a direct leadership position. My nonprofit retirement job at age 40 will be working for an airline doing a clock-in/out position so we can get travel flight benefits.

Q: What piece(s) of advice would you give to your younger self?

A: 1. Being a fat woman is beyond beautiful. Flaunt it. 2. Dive in and do it all. Figure out the fear later. 3. Love shouldn’t hurt. 4. You’re really allergic to mangos; stop trying to eat them.

Q: What are the main challenges you’ve faced as executive director of a nonprofit?

A: Compared to my BIPOC counterparts and those who identify with historically marginalized communities that are breaking into executive leadership roles in nonprofits, my challenges are minuscule. As a white, cisgender woman who was raised in a privileged environment, I am inherently afforded advantages to be considered for roles dominated by other “white folx.” This is something that, industry-wide, must be changed. It is imperative that we create space, acknowledge and amplify the voices of community members who persistently have to shatter glass ceilings to gain recognition and be on an equal playing field for executive leadership roles.

My biggest struggle has been being young (more so being perceived as young) in my role. An automatic bias comes about when people hear that I’m under 30. There is an authority that comes with age: You have experienced more, have more knowledge, earned your voice, etc. I have been fortunate to pack a lot of life in my short years thus far and earn my place at the table. I encourage other young folks, especially women, to not let their age be a deterrent for occupying or trying to occupy roles not traditionally held by young people. We are the generation of change-makers.

Q: What about nonprofits brings you a sense of fulfillment/accomplishment?

A: Debunking myths about nonprofits gives me an immense sense of accomplishment and ignites my passion for supporting this industry. Nonprofits go well beyond the fluff and feel-good social sessions: They’re a massive multitrillion-dollar economic powerhouse impacting not just local economies but the entire American financial ecosystem. The intertwined financial benefits of nonprofits and a philanthropic-driven economic development model contribute directly to the sustainable communities of today and tomorrow.