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Tanya wears a Spirit in Action branded shirt and smiles in front of a thatched home in Uganda.


Executive Director

Hello! I joined the SIA Team as Executive Director in 2007. Before that I was a Board Member of Spirit in Action, following in the footsteps of my grandfather, Jim Thomas. I have long been energized by learning about how people build community in many different situations.

In university, I studied sustainable development and sustainable agriculture. I learned about the many ways communities around the world are resisting top-down development in favor of local solutions that are tailored for their context, culture, and environment.

In 2017, I co-edited the book Smart Risks: How Small Grants Are Helping To Solve Some of the World’s Biggest Problems, with co-editor Jennifer Lentfer. This collaboration with 20 other authors pulled together our collective experiences with shifting to more locally-focused, flexible, long-term, and relationship-based grantmaking.

My formative spiritual community is an interdenominational community, and from that I learned about the breadth of spiritual paths, and came to see that faith is always a journey and an exploration, rather than a thing to be achieved.

As Executive Director, I am responsible for coordinating the grants process with the African Advisory Board and the North American Board, communicating with donors and friends, and do periodic site visits to see how our partners are progressing.

Tanya Cothran: Meet the Team
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