Staff Profile: A Conversation with Development Director Mary Ott

3 min read. Mary Ott talks about what it means to be the Healthcare Foundation's Development Director.

Mary Ott joined the Healthcare Foundation in 2020. Today, as its Development Director, she is responsible for building relationships that support the work of the organization. This includes not only creating and managing the necessary fundraising campaigns but engaging and collaborating with donors, sponsors, Board members, and the full range of community partners who make the pursuit of health equity a tangible reality. 

Significantly, Mary is also responsible for managing the organization’s various community events, including the annual Wetzel Awards and the annual Noche de Amor community celebration and fundraiser.

“Our goal this year is to raise the majority of funds prior to the event,” she says of 2024’s Noche de Amor, which will take place on June 8, “so that guests can truly enjoy their time together, mix and mingle with friends, and make new friends — not to mention the good food, locally sourced wine, and fantastic live entertainment!”

Mary spent her early childhood in San Francisco, but her family has had roots in Healdsburg since the 1970s. She herself moved to Sonoma County in the 1980s, completing middle school and high school here. After college at Penn State and raising three children with her husband Bruce, she returned to Sonoma County in 2020. Today, when they’re not working or volunteering, she and Bruce enjoy traveling, bike riding, hiking, fly fishing, and spending time with their children and grandchildren.

The variety of her day-to-day activities on behalf of the Healthcare Foundation makes a summary description of her job a little challenging—although when asked to describe what a development director does in ten words or less, Mary says, “Simple: ‘connects people and resources.’”

As both an accomplished nonprofit professional and an engaged member of her community, Mary brings broad experience, local knowledge, and deep commitment to her work on behalf of the Healthcare Foundation’s mission. We spoke with her recently to learn more about her unique perspective on that mission.

What first drew you to the Healthcare Foundation?

It was during the pandemic. I came in to assist in planning the virtual gala that year. Having worked in direct service nonprofits, I was instantly drawn to the impact the Healthcare Foundation was having and its commitment to health equity. I got to see firsthand how the Foundation provided emergency grants to local nonprofits whose clients were suffering a disproportionate range of impacts, including job loss, a lack of culturally appropriate information, and frontline exposure to Covid. The Healthcare Foundation provided immediate funding to help to stabilize these grassroots organizations at that critical moment.

“Health equity is at the forefront of most of the conversations. Many of our supporters have moving personal experiences or stories that inform their commitment to addressing systemic health disparities.”

Mary Ott, Development Director

What do you see as the particular strength of the Healthcare Foundation in advancing health equity?

There are several, but I would point in particular to our role as a convener for our community partners—from facilitating Community Response Teams across Sonoma County to providing support for collaborative grant requests, developing community listening sessions and convenings, and, most recently, hosting an advocacy workshop for local nonprofits. The Healthcare Foundation is uniquely positioned to build coalitions to support and advance primary and mental health programs and services in our region.

What does health equity mean to the people you engage?

Health equity is at the forefront of most of the conversations I have as Development Director. Many of our supporters have moving personal experiences or stories that inform their commitment to addressing systemic health disparities. At the same time, part of our role is to provide articles and educational resources around the topic of health equity so that more people are informed and can relate to those words in a meaningful way, grounded in their own values and experiences.

What do you most enjoy in your role?

The people. I truly love learning about their lives, their passions, and how they want to make an impact. I believe our region’s greatest strength is its residents. Our region is rich with different cultures, lived experiences and perspectives. I am honored to play a small part within the ecosystem of organizations and individuals who work tirelessly to uplift their neighbors.

What motivates you as you look to the future? 

It’s the opportunity to further expand our partnerships with stakeholders to ultimately meet the vision of eliminating health inequities in our region. Thanks to our generous community of supporters, many of whom have been truly visionary, we have made significant investments in health and mental health initiatives that have taken us closer to that goal, and made a difference in the lives of thousands of people as a result. But there is more work to be done. I invite all who read this to join us in meeting this bold vision.

Mary would like us to add: If you are interested in sponsoring June 8’s Noche de Amor community celebration at Bachus Landing in Healdsburg, you can learn more here, or contact her directly at

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