New United Way chief longtime activist |

New United Way chief longtime activist

John HartCarla Bonetti, the new United Way executive director, works at her desk Monday morning.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.

That’s the message that has motivated Carla Bonetti for nearly 20 years as a nonprofit activist.

Bonetti, the new executive director of the western Nevada County chapter of the United Way, learned to take an activist approach as a resident of the Marin County hamlet of Larkspur, when a developer proposed turning 400 acres near her home into a mixed-use project in the mid-1980s.

Bonetti and her neighbors, appalled at the prospect of converting prime open space into a retail and housing development, formed a nonprofit and created an assessment district that eventually raised $3.5 million to protect the land as open space.

“It was a demonstration about how a group of people with a goal, a desire and a determination could make this happen. This was how I got to make a difference,” she said.

Ironically, Bonetti worked as a project coordinator for a developer at the time.

She takes over the United Way’s direction from Jan Bray, who retired last summer after more than 10 years.

“I feel grateful that my predecessor did such a good job of building this organization, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Bonetti said.

“There shouldn’t be quite as much struggles for nonprofits as there are now.”

Bonetti came to Nevada County after serving for several years as executive director of the Northern Sonoma Healthcare Foundation. Longtime locals may remember her as the local American Red Cross’ chapter’s first executive director, a post she held nearly a 10 years ago.

She returned to Nevada County “because I love the area and its natural beauty.” She hopes to raise awareness of United Way through the group’s drive to raise $400,000 this year.

“If you don’t ask, people won’t give. If you do, they will,” she said.

The Chicago native has worked in nonprofits in Marin County, Lake Tahoe and Sonoma County. In Jackson Hole, Wyo., Bonetti was the managing director of the Dancers Workshop, a 280-student dance academy with a $400,000 budget.

Babs Case, the group’s artistic director, said Bonetti helped shape a broader vision for the elite school.

“Carla is a fabulous balance of business savvy, but is well-rooted in matters of the heart,” Case said. Under her direction, the school added a professional adult dance company and junior academy, and increased ties to schools such as the prestigious Julliard Academy in New York City.

“She’s very creative and highly energetic,” Case said.

George Olive, who led the search for Bonetti, called her someone with “a balance of professionalism and a friendly manner.” Olive said she asked to take the unusual step of meeting the staff during the interview process.

“I feel great about Carla because I’m not worried that she won’t figure things out,” Olive said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User