In 2005, I retired from a long career in education and lost my husband to brain cancer. Friends suggested I honor him by starting a high school scholarship.

I loved the idea, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I didn’t have enough money to start my own foundation, but wanted to fund a small endowment that would be safe for the long term.

The Napa Valley Community Foundation provided exactly what I needed. It administers my funds, keeps me informed about its investment strategies and oversees the work of my scholarship committee.

You don’t need to be Bill Gates to make a difference. The Community Foundation has so many ongoing projects, it should be on everyone’s list for charitable donations.

You can read regular email updates about local organizations in need and designate a gift directly to a specific project. You can make a general gift to the foundation and it will be put to good use in Napa Valley. Or you can explore your own ideas for giving.

What is your purpose or mission?

Terence Mulligan, president: “Napa Valley Community Foundation works to multiply the impact of individual givers by pooling funds and investing in charitable projects that make a lasting difference. Our mission is to mobilize resources, inspire giving, build knowledge and provide leadership on vital community issues to improve the quality of life for all in Napa County.

“We are one of more than 700 community foundations nationwide, and according to a survey conducted by the nonprofit Center for Effective Philanthropy, we are the top-rated community foundation in the U.S. on two-thirds of the key measures related to donor satisfaction and impact.”

In brief, what’s the history of your organization?

“The Napa Valley Community Foundation has been bringing people, ideas and resources together since 1994. Since that time we have distributed more than $27 million to charitable programs, 90 percent of which are local. We have also consistently addressed significant unmet needs in our community, like launching foreclosure prevention services for 1,000 area homeowners, supporting programs proven to close the achievement gap in our schools, and funding the first-ever local study on changing demographics and immigration.”

Who are the people you serve?

“The real clients of the Community Foundation are the future citizens of Napa County. Every day, we work with our partners to shape the community that we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. With several dozen local donors and several hundred local nonprofits, we identify and address our communities’ critical issues, needs, challenges and opportunities. Some of the donors we work with have passed on, leaving us to carry out their charitable intentions for the broader community with a gift through their estate plans.”

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Is there an anecdote that illustrates the work you do?

“Olivia Everett from Arts Council Napa Valley shared her experience as a grant recipient of the Community Foundation: ‘The funding the Arts Council received was transformative in many ways. It initiated our most ambitious project and took our organization to the next level. In my experience, the Napa Community Foundation doesn’t just give away money; they offer organizational support through a strategic, hands-on approach. The foundation continues to impress me by keeping their finger on the pulse of what is happening in Napa Valley, and by directing resources to the issues and organizations most deserving of attention and support.’”

What’s a current need or upcoming project?

“We just received an extraordinary gift, a $500,000 matching grant to encourage local people to make a donation before the end of the year to our Community Leadership Fund. Last year, the Community Leadership Fund supported cutting-edge local research aimed at encouraging civil dialogue on the changing demographics of our region. It distributed $2.4 million in grants. It supported 200 site visits to better understand the needs of area nonprofits and conversations with more than 1,500 residents.

“Next year, the Community Leadership Fund will invest in programs to enhance civic participation and rates of citizenship for Napa County residents. We hope people who read this article will be inspired to send us a check using the above contact information. Every gift will be matched dollar for dollar up to $500,000.”

Each week, Napa Valley CanDo provides a profile of a Napa Valley nonprofit or service club — what the organization does, what it needs and how an interested person can get involved. For more information on the column, contact Hilary Zunin at To learn more about opportunities for community service, visit