May 30, 2017

RAYS Staff Spotlight: Kristen Raftis

We are so proud of our staff at RAYS and look forward to introducing you to a few of them over the coming months. This month, I got to sit down with RAYS’ new Director of Strategic Relationships and ask her a bit about herself. We talked about everything from her theater background to her role her at RAYS and what she’s excited about for the future.

Well first things first, why don’t you tell us about yourself and anything you want us to know?
Kris Raftis: Sounds good – well, first of all, I’m very excited to be at RAYS and I’m happy to be working at a partner agency to United Way of King County since I was there for several years. It feels like I’m still a part of the United Way family. I have a masters in non-profit leadership from Seattle U and I feel like the job here will allow me to use both my master’s program and the experience that I gained at United Way. I really believe in the work that RAYS is doing and I want to help RAYS serve even more families and kids.

“I think it’s a privilege doing this work. I think being in development is one of the greatest jobs you can have because I get to connect people who want to give back to the needs of the community. It’s a privilege to have found my career and its super rewarding.”-Kris

So how did your theater background and that interest in your life lead you to where you are right now as Director of Strategic Relations?

K: I think I’ve always been a relationship builder and I’ve always been a naturally curious person. I think that curiosity leads people to be comfortable with me. They seem interested to tell me their stories. Also, theater people are storytellers – it’s about translating stories or sharing them in ways that get people excited. So, yeah, understanding stories and getting those stories to the right people – that comes from the theater background. And the strategic relationship part, I didn’t know that I was good at it until I got to United Way. There I was working on some huge projects involving lots of stakeholders and very complex relationships. And I learned how to move a group forward on a goal and make decisions that still keep doors open.

You mentioned a little bit about what drew you to RAYS. How did you decide to start working here?

K: I think it was that the job required some entrepreneurial skills – build on what you have while creating new relationships and partnerships. Also working closely with the executive director, Richard Brooks, to expand the partnerships that you already have was very intriguing to me. But really, I believe in the mission – helping people and their families. People can be vulnerable – it’s hard to talk about when you are in a stressful situation so I think it’s our job to advocate and to get resources for people in order to have a healthy community.

At RAYS we are big on self-care. We talk about it a lot. So what is your favorite self-care activity?

K: Oh, either taking myself to my friend’s cabin on Lake Sutherland or getting a massage. I think it’s important to have fun and laugh. Other fun facts: I’m a reader – I love reading and I’m also a foodie. I love to support local music, go to events, and check out independent restaurants. And you can see from my picture I’m a big Seahawks fan.

Here’s the million dollar question – If you had a million dollars what would you do with it?

K: [Laughs] What would I do with a million dollars? Finally pay off my master’s program! [Laughs] Ah, I would like to engage in some philanthropy – I’d love to be able to be a larger donor to the causes that I believe in. I think I would set up education funds for my kids and also do some other education donations. I think education is the great equalizer, you know, “if you know better, you can do better.” That’s not my quote that’s Maya Angelou, but I think that’s true.

So education sounds like it takes a big role in your life.

K: Yes, it does. Absolutely.

If you could send out a message to everyone involved with RAYS, what would you let people know?

K: I think I would just want to let people know that I have an open door – so I look forward to meeting the rest of the staff and our donors and celebrate the good work that RAYS is doing. I’d like to hear from people who have known RAYS longer than I have and find out why they are passionate about RAYS and how RAYS has impacted you – they can email me. And also watch for an upcoming fun event. It’s in the works.

Anything else you’d like to add?

K: I think it’s a privilege doing this work. I think being in development is one of the greatest jobs you can have because I get to connect people who want to give back to the needs of the community. It’s a privilege to have found my career and its super rewarding.

Before we ended our conversation, Kris reminded me again that she is looking to hear from you! She wants to hear your stories and get to know you. If you have something to share about RAYS or are looking to get to know Kris a little bit better – feel free to email her at

Interview conducted by Christina Campos, MA, LMFTA/Drama Therapy Trainee