From Napa Valley Register: 10 Questions: Napa nonprofit executive puts community first

May 5, 2020 by Jennifer Huffman

Julia DeNatale might have worked for any one of the many industries in Napa Valley. Instead, she’s made a personal commitment to a career in the nonprofit world.

“Nonprofits often know our community and its needs better than most,” she wrote in an email.

According to DeNatale, nonprofits “can think strategically and collaboratively about ways that not only help the most vulnerable but contribute to the overall wellbeing and vitality of our community.”

DeNatale joined Napa Valley Community Foundation 10 years ago. Today, she is the vice president of community impact at the nonprofit.

1. Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Amy Poehler.

2. What was your first job?

My first job was as an on-call babysitter for Silverado Country Club. It was a great gig for a 13-year-old – we made $5 an hour and could choose our own hours.

This job also gave me my first view into the value of the tourism industry in Napa County. My family didn’t work in the agriculture or hospitality businesses, and we lived in the city of Napa, so I really didn’t have insight into the economic opportunities and positive local impact of tourism until my teen years.

3. What job would you like to try/not try?

Try: Serving as an elected official.

Not try: Bus or truck driver, I have nightmares about driving large vehicles.

4. What is the biggest challenge community foundations face?

Since they were conceived more than 100 years ago, a community foundation’s primary job was to help a constellation of individual donors, donor families and businesses pursue their own individual philanthropic priorities.

In more recent years, community foundations across the country have often struggled with the choice between working for donors’ interests and focusing on addressing the issues that local nonprofits and foundation board and staff identify as the most urgent in their place. This can result in foundations becoming fearful of addressing more controversial issues that arise in the community.

We’re proud to say that we’ve put this to the test and found that when we invite our donors to join us in tackling the most pressing issues our Valley faces – like immigration, housing and disasters – that we get collective impact. Of course, as a community foundation, we will never cease to help donors achieve their own personal charitable goals.

5. What’s on your to-do list?

Continuing to raise and deploy resources to help the most vulnerable in our community through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Napa Valley Community Foundation has so far granted $3 million to address the public health and economic impacts of this disaster. In particular, a primary focus is to ensure that our low to moderate-income workforce families facing serious financial hardship because of the dramatic disruption of the local economy can pay their rent and remain safe, healthy and housed.

We’re working closely with our nonprofit and government partners and Napa Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) to monitor the emerging and evolving needs of our residents most likely to fall through the cracks in a disaster and making day-to-day decisions on how to carefully support efforts to address these needs.

6. Who do you most admire in the business world?

This is a tough question, because I am constantly finding new people I admire in our field. In the nonprofit sector, women make up 75 percent of the labor force, but have a much lower share when it comes to the top leadership positions. This gender gap is narrowing, and as it does I see more and more women, especially women of color, leading in admirable ways.

7. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

I hope to look back some day and know that my kids (who are now five, 13 and 15) had happy and healthy childhoods and have become happy and healthy adults who are contributing members of society.

8. If you could change one thing about the nonprofit industry, what would it be?

All too often, nonprofits are held to the operational standards of for-profits but without consideration for the capacity and infrastructure needed.

Funders often want results and ask nonprofits to expand programs as opposed to investing in infrastructure or leadership development, which results in nonprofits being constantly under-resourced to strategically plan for long-term growth and sustainability.

In our community, where nonprofits have been called upon increasingly to step up services in times of disaster, it is more important than ever to invest in building and strengthening capacity so that they are able to be at the ready to expand at a moment’s notice.

9. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I am a huge fan of community theater and participate and/or patron as much as I can. As is often the case, during my two older children’s early years, I was devoted completely to raising kids and building my career, without much time left over for self-care. About four years ago I decided that resurrecting my childhood love of performing arts would give me a creative and healthy outlet, and it has! I am perpetually in awe of the performing arts talent in our community and encourage residents to support local arts.

10. If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?

At this point, I would delight in traveling anywhere, but Yosemite or Disneyland would be first choices for our family. Actually, I would be pretty excited to get back to my office Monday-Friday, as well.

DeNatale can be reached at 707-254-9565 ex. 16 or julia@napavalleycf.org.

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