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  • Barzella Papa

    Barzella Papa
    President and CEO of Community Foundation of North Central Florida

    Describe your role as President and CEO of the Community of North Central Florida.

    As President and CEO, I manage the day-to-day operations and long-term strategic plan of the community foundation and its 26-member board of directors. During my 11 years in this role, we have increased the foundation’s assets from $5 million to more than $17 million, launched a planned giving program that currently has more than $7 million in bequests and oversaw the distribution of more than $10 million in grants local, regional and national programs. Our mission is to promote and sustain philanthropy in North Central Florida.  Some of our initiatives include the Women’s Giving Circle, the Amazing Give, the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and the Legacy Awards—all of which have been launched under my leadership.

    Describe your leadership style. How do you lead and how do you tackle challenges?

    I would describe my leadership style as “the innovator.” I’m always looking to spark change and create new thinking to avoid getting stuck in a rut.  I prefer to empower my staff and volunteers and help prepare them for leadership roles. I love to see others succeed! As for challenges, I tend to find a creative approach—either an out-of-the-box suggestion or change the way of thinking. I I have never refused outside input, and I am not afraid to ask for help when I need it.  

    What do you think your strengths are and how did you identify them?

    I have strong communication skills that I didn’t realize I had until I was in college. I enrolled in news reporting, political rhetoric and debate classes, and I enjoyed them so much I decided to pursue a degree in communications. Those skills have helped me in both the corporate and nonprofit worlds. Being able to express your ideas and garner the support of others has helped me tremendously especially when pitching a new idea or product.

    How have your setbacks and weaknesses made you stronger?

    I think setbacks are essential to growing stronger and learning resilience. You have to dust yourself off when you fall and get back up.  I’ve been rejected for job opportunities in the past, but I never gave up. This is what I tell my two teenage children: It’s how you handle the setback that defines who you are. It’s also O.K. to make mistakes. However, in order to grow you must learn from your mistakes. Don’t make same mistake twice.

    As a leader, how have you learned to build up confidence?  

    By challenging myself and others. Step outside of the comfort zone and try new things. And don’t just try it once then stop. To build confidence, you have to work at it and experience successes even small ones. I had never fundraised until I joined the Junior League and volunteered for a fundraiser. I knew nothing about fundraising, but I was willing to learn and try. By trying something new, working hard and experiencing success, I learned a new skill and ultimately changed my career path.

    How do you want to make an impact through your career?

    I consider myself incredibly blessed to work with amazing people. Our donors, board members, staff and volunteers are all dedicated to our community and making it the best that it can be. For me, I want to continue to help donors achieve their charitable goals and nonprofits build and strengthen their capacity. I want leave behind a bigger and better foundation that is here to support North Central Florida forever.

    How do you define what it means to be a fierce woman?  

    To be a fierce woman, don’t be afraid to try new things and take calculated risks.

    As a teenager, I left for New York City and spent two years in the city working as a professional model. During that time, I made lifelong friends, accomplished my goals and had amazing adventures. After leaving New York, I continued to model for almost 20 years while also pursuing other career paths. In college, I accepted all leadership roles that were offered to me from editor of the school newspaper to director of the student news bureau. By taking on these challenges, I developed skills I didn’t know I had, which then led me to a career to one of the biggest publishing companies in the world. When we moved to Gainesville and I left my corporate career, I immediately got involved in the community. Accepting leadership roles, even in a volunteer capacity, eventually led me to where I am today at the foundation.