President & CEO, Alexa Benson-Valavanis

Alexa Benson-Valavanis, President & Chief Executive Officer of the North Valley Community Foundation; a Northern California based nonprofit public charity, managing more than $11 million in assets.

Alexa took the post of CEO in July of 2005, during the Foundation's 16th year of operations. Under her leadership the Foundation has brought in more than $39 million, and increased assets under management to more than $13 million. During that time the granting capabilities have increased tremendously granting more than $3 million a year to 500 local, national and international charities. In addition to asset growth, Alexa expanded the Foundation’s core services to include community capacity building for the nonprofit sector; establishing the region’s only nonprofit council "North Valley Nonprofit Council”. The Foundation then launched the largest discretionary grant program in the North State, called "Annie B's Community Drive”, and the programs first seven years ('07-'13) NVCF has granted more than $7 million to participating organizations.
Alexa currently serves as the Vice President of the Calacirya Foundation, an international foundation focused on working with the rural poor of Guatemala, specifically in the areas of alternative energy sources and sustainable agriculture. Alexa serves as the Vice President for 3Core a Chico-based economic development corporation. She also sits on the board of Orphan Care International, a US based charity working in Zambia as well as One Media Player per Teacher, an International NGO. And, she is a founding member of TedxChico.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Valavanis founded and was Executive Director of the Seeds of Life Foundation, a Guatemalan-based nonprofit focused on development of indigenous owned and operated nonprofits. Alexa's areas of expertise include business infrastructure development, management and communications. Prior to establishing the Seeds of Life Foundation, Alexa worked in Shanghai, China with international kindergartens.   

Karen White our Chief Financial Officer joined the NVCF in December of 2008.  She comes to the Foundation with more than 15 years of experience in accounting and bookkeeping.
During her time with the North Valley Community Foundation White has  streamlined the back-office functions and utilized her innovative and analytical skills to refine our systems and client services. White not only manages the financial operations for the Foundation she also works directly with NVCF clients in their day-to-day fund needs.

During White's time at the North Valley Community Foundation she has greatly improved the systems behind our accounts payable process, payroll, quarterly reports to clients as well as grant programs, including but not limited to, Annie B's Community Drive. Karen's meticulous work ethic and dedication to benefiting our communities is a tremendous asset to our team. 

In her personal time Karen is an avid outdoors woman - enjoying hiking, horseback riding and, yes, archery!
White is available at the Foundation Monday, Wednesday and Friday 8am-5pm or by appointment. 
Karen can be reached at or 530-891-1150 ext. 30

Debbie Blue the Executive Assistant to Alexa Benson-Valavanis joined our team in 2013. She comes to the North Valley Community Foundation from Austin, Texas where she was the Executive Assistant to the Dean of Human Resources at the University of Texas, Austin. Prior to Debbie's work at UT she was an Insurance Underwriter and Case Advocate for Warner Pacific Insurance in Westlake Village, CA.  


Laura Cootsona is our Director of Strategic Philanthropy. Laura joined the staff of the Community Foundation in 2013.

Laura has lived in the North State with her daughters and husband for almost eleven years having moved here from New York City. Laura has served various roles at NVCF including establishing the Nonprofit Institute from 2004-2007, hosting and facilitating the North Valley Nonprofit Council, and collaborating as the nonprofit expert on various projects. She comes to her new role as Director of Strategic Philanthropy with years of preparation to better serve businesses and individuals to intentionally develop a philanthropic strategy. Her desire is to bring multiple groups to the table to solve real problems in creative ways and make a real difference in the community. Laura is a team player, enthusiastic, and full of energy.

After completing a BA from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Nonprofit Administration from University of San Francisco Laura has spent 19 years working to better the community through training, equipping and consulting with nonprofit organizations. Her consulting practice focuses on fundraising, marketing, CEO coaching, strategic planning, and board development. In fundraising, Laura develops strategies with clients to diversify funding by sharpening their story to garner the most significant gifts and grants. Laura focuses her clients to do good WELL so that her clients operate at the highest level possible to reach their missions over time.

Laura’s interests are varied: the arts, music, social service, teaching, reading, hiking, traveling, and conversation. She served as a founding board member of TEDxChico, serves regularly at the Jesus Center, volunteers at her church and in the schools.

Laura would love to hear from you at



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