Meet Yuliya Rybalka
Until Feb. 1, 2023, we were Group Health Foundation. This post was written under our former identity. To learn more about our new name, read our announcement here.
After years of experience fundraising for nonprofits and academic institutions, one of the things that caught Yuliya Rybalka’s attention about GHF is one of its values: abundance. She says leading with the idea that “there is enough for everybody here in Washington state,” is an important break from the scarcity mentality. As a program associate for the grantmaking team, Yuliya is looking forward to learning about organizations across the state and ensuring they experience a great grantmaking process.
“I’m so excited to see multiyear funding in high-dollar amounts because it will really make a difference to organizations and allow them to do what’s best for their communities,” says Yuliya. “I’m glad to be part of an organization giving people the resources they need.”
Because of her professional experiences, Yuliya has a keen appreciation for organizations applying for funding and is conscientious of the power imbalance that can exist between funders and grantees. “GHF seems like a different funder than those I’ve experienced. Here, we are accountable to grantees first—they’re the folks we’re serving.”
Yuliya considers herself fortunate to have been given the academic and professional opportunities she’s received and is motivated to help others access similar support. She began her educational and professional journey with the goal of becoming a doctor. Her parents, who emigrated from Ukraine shortly before Yuliya was born, saw the medical profession as a pathway for Yuliya. However, after earning her degree in behavioral neuroscience at Western Washington University and working as a research assistant there— “Mice are not my thing” —Yuliya pivoted to a full-time role in Western’s behavioral neuroscience program as an academic advisor and fundraiser.
“As a first-generation student, I knew how hard it was to work, to be a research assistant, and to just try to balance everything. So, I wanted to support students who historically might not have the chance to access that education or who couldn’t afford to volunteer all their time in a lab. That was big for me.”
Yuliya earned her master’s degree in business administration and continued her career, first with Community Action of Skagit County, then with Whatcom Community College Foundation. Yuliya says, “I loved working [at Community Action] because my parents used similar social services. I saw it as a way of supporting one of the early steps that had helped my parents.”
Along the way, Yuliya has had the support of women leaders who have helped her achieve important milestones. One such mentor is Joan Penney, who Yuliya met at Community Action Skagit County. “She took me under her wing and showed me the ropes in fundraising. I admire her. She’s somebody who encouraged me to always do the right thing and trust my gut.”
Yuliya loves to get outdoors with her husky Ponchik (meaning little donut in Russian) and spending time with her partner and family. Yuliya is the middle of three sisters and loves to try out new recipes and learn about different cultures through their cuisine. Her signature dish—buttermilk chicken and mashed potatoes—is one borrowed from her culinary icon Samin Nosrat, author of “Salt Fat Acid Heat.” Yuliya also serves on the board of directors for Brigid Collins Family Support Center, an organization committed to ending child abuse.