Karen Conway brings her strong leadership, incredible acumen as a lawyer and deep experience in nonprofit governance and fundraising to Park City Community Foundation. She practiced intellectual property and antitrust litigation in both New York and London, and her other philanthropic involvement has included serving as the Global VP of Philanthropy for Right to Play as well as several leadership roles at Brown University. She joined Park City Community Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2019 and is now the Vice-Chair. She is also a Women’s Giving Fund member and serves on the Solomon Fund Advisory Committee and Development Committee. We asked her a few questions to better understand her love for Park City.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and first skied in Park City as a young girl back in 1972. I remember there being only one traffic light in the whole town! I lived in New York City as a young lawyer; and a few years later my husband, Greg, was offered a great opportunity to work in London, so we moved abroad—initially for only two years, but it turned into 24 years! I practiced law in London for several years before turning my focus to the nonprofit world, first at my children’s school, and then volunteering for my college, joining boards, fundraising, and helping with governance. I still sit on the board of Right to Play, a global nonprofit that protects, educates and empowers children to rise above adversity using the power of play.
How did you end up back in Park City after so many years?
While living in London, we decided that we wanted to have a home in the US, where our family and friends would want to visit, so we bought a vacation home in Park City in 2004. We had skied in Utah for many years and loved all that it had to offer. When Greg retired in 2017, we moved to Park City full time. Now Park City serves as a wonderful central location for our family to meet and enjoy the greatest snow on earth. We have two adult children who also love the outdoors, and we all love skiing together and hiking with our puppy, Frankie.
How do you fit giving into your life here in Park City?
It’s important to me that I give back and that I’m able to put my energy into nonprofit work with a local focus. I was lucky enough to know a few people in Park City that were involved with Park City Community Foundation who introduced me to Women’s Giving Fund, the Crest Speaker Series and Live PC Give PC—all programs of the Community Foundation. It quickly became clear that I wanted Park City Community Foundation to be the focus of my efforts given its incredible impact. I really wanted to support the Foundation’s work in a deeper way by becoming a champion, so I joined the Development Committee, joined the Board, and most recently, I was delighted to be asked to become Vice-Chair of the Board!
I’m excited to represent the Community Foundation as Vice-Chair, because it is very important to me that we leave our communities better than we find them, and to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to prosper as best as they can.
One question I’ve often asked myself is: why was I born into a more fortunate situation than others? None of us get to choose where we are born — birth is a lottery that leads to different pathways. People in our community that are at a disadvantage, many of whom work in the service industry, make this community what it is – they make Park City our happy place. How can we not look out for them given all they do for this community? Those of us who won the birth lottery have the responsibility to help those that didn’t.
Why do you think Park City is a unique place to give?
What’s unique in terms of giving in Park City, is that you can really feel and see the impact of your gift in a way that you can’t necessarily feel or see in a bigger city or giving through a global organization. Sometimes you may be in contact with the people benefitting from the support, and in Park City, you have the ability to get involved and help make change at a granular level.
Is there a Park City Community Foundation program or initiative that you find especially inspiring?
There are many! My very first connection to the Community Foundation was through its Women’s Giving Fund, which is funding high-impact nonprofits. Then, when I learned about the Solomon Fund, it really interested me because it has a lot of parallels with Right to Play. The need for children to be able to participate and play is fundamental to their development and crucial, especially here, where feeling like a true “Parkite” is so centered around recreation. Solomon Fund is the seed for further integration in our community through sports and recreation for youth.
Also, I know that funding early childhood education gives our community a fantastic return on investment. If someone must choose where to give, it is great to invest in the trajectory of someone’s life early on to avoid more need and costs down the road, and the Early Childhood Alliance is making that happen.
Finally, we are at a critical place in our timeline for solving the existential crisis that our planet (and ski town) is facing due to climate change, and the Park City Climate Fund is important to making that happen locally.
The bottom line is that it’s hard to identify one single initiative that Park City Community Foundation is working on that is a favorite for me. All the initiatives are critical to the well-being of our community.
As you know, Park City Community Foundation, in partnership with Park City Municipal Corporation, has taken a leading role to further the vision of a complete community where everyone has access to opportunities and is respected, included, and empowered. What do you think community members can do to actively participate in the Social Equity initiative?
As I mentioned earlier, those who have the ability to help have a responsibility to rise up and do what they can. The most important thing you can do to support equity work is to learn more about the gaps that exist in Park City. It is important to be aware that there are significant needs in the community, just as there are significant differences between us all. It is important that we educate ourselves. Find the area that you most care about and get involved and support the Community Foundation! We are a great group of people working to inspire local and lasting change together.