Community Foundation Sonoma County executive wins 2020 North Bay Business Journal CFO award

Ann Butterfield

Vice president for finance and operations

Community Foundation Sonoma County

120 Stony Pont Road, Suite 220, Santa Rosa 95401


Read more profiles of North Bay CFO Awards winners.

Having weathered fires, Ann Butterfield and Community Foundation Sonoma County were ready to offer aid when the virus changed the way people live their lives.

The North Bay Business Journal is honoring her with a CFO Recognition Award, one of leaders recognized from a variety of businesses and nonprofits throughout Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties. Award winners were honored Aug. 28 in a Business Journal Virtual Event.

Professional background: Twenty-plus years of executive leadership experience in multi-faceted nonprofit organizations, including Waldorf schools, denominational financial service programs, fiduciary and trust work, and now Community Foundation Sonoma County (CFSC).

Prior to nonprofit work, my corporate experience included tax and accounting, employee benefit services, human resources and retail management.

You ask, what prepared me for all of that? Of course it was spending my teen and early college years exploring a career in theater, including a year in New York City!

Education: Bachelor of Science in finance from Santa Clara University

How has the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic disruption changed how you carry out your job at your current employer?

The biggest change was in moving the entire staff to a work-from-home environment, while maintaining the essential service we provide of generating grants for our Sonoma County nonprofits. Making this transition seamless was particularly important as our organization acted quickly providing grants to support COVID-19 relief efforts. To date, CFSC has made nearly $4 million in grants to COVID-19 programs.

What changes have come because of the pandemic in the industry you work in? Identify which changes are temporary and which, if any, are lasting.

The recent market volatility and the pandemic has an impact on our investments and donor contributions as well as on the nonprofits that are providing essential services.

For the nonprofit industry as a whole, the pandemic has already had devastating financial impacts on fundraising, while the need for services has skyrocketed. To help support nonprofits through this time, CFSC is working closely with our donors to make grants, to keep donors informed of ongoing community needs, and to continue growing philanthropy and encourage giving during this time.

Tell us about a recent success your company has had.

In the past five months, CFSC and our donors have provided close to $4 million in grants to nonprofit organizations providing COVID relief in our community. These grants have helped organizations like the Redwood Empire Food Bank scale up to serve three- to four-times as many clients as normal, have helped mental health agencies transition to offering telemedicine to help their clients who are struggling with increased levels of anxiety and depression, and have helped provide economic assistance to people who have lost work, and to small business owners locally.

Having been through recent disasters (fires and floods) CFSC’s Resilience Fund, and the infrastructure around our disaster grant-making was securely in place and ready to support our nonprofit partners when this new disaster struck.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

Welcome aboard!

You are providing critical financial and operational strength to your organization, acting as the foundation and backbone of the entity. Trusting yourself and your team empowers them to bring their best self forward.

Remember to breathe, bring some fun into your work, join a network of finance colleagues, and don't be afraid to ask for support. (Without my son’s mad Excel skills and guidance, I’d still be pulling my hair out!)

How do you think your business will change in the next five years?

Through remote working over the past six months, it has become clearer than ever that we are living in a digital age. Protocols and policies are shifting and streamlining during this pandemic, and it is paving the way for what will be a new way of functioning and working in the finance world.

Who knew we could have a successful annual audit fully remote?

Looking more broadly at the local nonprofit industry, with the challenges of many nonprofits losing funds right now, we are seeing creative and wonderful collaboration efforts crop up. More nonprofit organizations are working together to share ideas and resources, ensuring that people who need help will be better served when they turn to a nonprofit for assistance.

What is a decision you wish you hadn't made? What did you learn from it?

I do my best to live my life without regrets. Of course there are decisions I would have made differently with knowledge I have today, but everything in my life has led me where I am today and where I need to be.

What is your most memorable business experience?

Utilizing my professional expertise and passion for service to fundraise and join Project Cure on a life-changing medical service trip to Mbita, a village in Kenya.

What is your greatest business success?

Overseeing the foundation’s software conversion and business continuity preparedness last year, which, in turn allowed the foundation staff to transition to remote work five months ago when the pandemic broke out, with no downtime in operations.

What was your toughest business decision?

Leaving a successful job and team that I loved for something new and bigger. Though it was a tough decision that took a lot of family encouragement, joining the wonderful team at Community Foundation Sonoma County was the best professional decision I’ve made!

Now, I get to be instrumental in stewarding the foundation’s assets for the benefit of our donors and the nonprofits in Sonoma County. It’s a joy to see the positive impacts of our work in the community.

What would your friends and family be surprised to find out about you?

They might be surprised to know that (COVID-notwithstanding) I love taking an afternoon walk and enjoying a dirty chai from Badass Coffee!

Personally, what is the biggest lesson you have taken from the events of the last few months?

A big lesson is that working from home is effective, but I still need to remind myself to take breaks and maintain that important work/life balance. So, grabbing some sun in the afternoon and cat-cuddles throughout the day helps keep me focused.

Quick takes

Please tell us about your community involvement: Volunteer service was at the core of my upbringing in the Bay Area; my parents instilled in me at a young age the importance of serving others, and taking action in our community. I’ve been an active member in my community ever since. First working as a volunteer at the Stanford Blood Bank while in high-school, then working to care for those who were positive during the AIDS epidemic and being an activist for LGBTQ rights.

I later served on parent boards and as a camp director at my children’s favorite summer camp - Camp Caz, and serve in leadership committees at our Church - UCC Sebastopol. Most recently, I have been a foster mom to teens for three years. And today, I get to ensure the safety and security of millions of dollars entrusted to the foundation for the benefit of Sonoma County nonprofits and those they serve in perpetuity.

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Oh that was an easy one - Elizabeth Brown… until you specified outside of the foundation!

Someone else I greatly admire is Melissa Kilby, executive director of Girl Up - an organization started by the UN Foundation - which works globally to create safe schools, increase girls' education opportunities, provide access to health services, and cultivate female leadership.

Current reading:

  • “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong
  • “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • “The Beautiful Ones” by Prince

Most want to meet: Michelle and Barack Obama

Stress relievers: Popping on to our daughter’s social media to get inspired and educated on human rights and social justice issues.

Favorite activities outside work: Being sous-chef or go-fer to my wife, Linda for her amazing home-cooking and home-repair projects.

Ann Butterfield

Vice president for finance and operations

Community Foundation Sonoma County

120 Stony Pont Road, Suite 220, Santa Rosa 95401


Read more profiles of North Bay CFO Awards winners.

Show Comment