Meet Us Monday: Kristen, Director of Development and Community Engagement

For this week’s Meet Us Monday, we are introducing you to our Director of Development and Community Engagement: Kristen Johnson! After volunteering with us for a while, Kristen became a part of the team in July 2020. Director of Development and Community Engagement is no small job — her primary job is developing relationships with donors, volunteers, and other community organizations. She raises money, writes grants, brings in donations such as furniture, linens, and kitchenware, builds REAL LIFE’s social media presence, and creates volunteer opportunities. She is also a fantastic photographer and has been drafted as our unofficial REAL LIFE photographer. 

When she’s not working in her role at REAL LIFE, Kristen loves building Legos, reading a good book, powerlifting, and cheering on her beloved Washington Capitals.  She is also active with the Junior League of Richmond

One of her favorite parts of her job is when she can make a connection happen: for example, finding a potential donor or volunteer who is passionate about workforce development and introducing them to the opportunity to make a difference with the Quick Start to Employment Program. 

Kristen also loves the time she gets to spend with our Lifers on various projects. She says, “I really enjoy getting to know our Lifers, particularly hearing their stories. We are truly giving them a second chance at life, and as a result, changing their lives as well as the lives of their children and generations to come.” 

Growing up, Kristen aspired to become a Commonwealth Attorney. She attended William & Mary for her undergraduate degree and University of Richmond for law school. She then became a magistrate in Hanover County, but after a few years, Kristen knew she needed to switch careers: “I am a helper. I get my energy and feel most fulfilled when I’m helping and making a difference. I wasn’t doing that as a magistrate.” 

Prior to making a career switch, Kristen spent time volunteering and fundraising for organizations in need, including CancerLINC. She then made her career switch official by accepting a position with the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education. She was thrilled to join the REAL LIFE team in July 2020. She says “it’s a great feeling when you enjoy going to work everyday for an organization you’re passionate about!” 

In 2020, Kristen was recognized for her accomplishments when she was named one of Style Weekly’s “2020 Top 40 Under 4o”

If you’re looking to make a career switch like Kristen, she recommends doing volunteer work in an area that speaks to you. Volunteering for important causes is a great way to get your foot in the door and learn about how nonprofits work. For Kristen, it led a path to her new job at REAL LIFE, which she now loves.

If you need to get in touch with Kristen Johnson, her email is