Meet Natalia Straus, Director of Donor Engagement, Women’s Philanthropy

Photo of Natalia StrausFederation is pleased to welcome Natalia Straus as our new Director of Donor Engagement, Women’s Philanthropy. Natalia is a highly experienced philanthropy professional with a long history of working with Jewish communal organizations. She is eager to make an impact in Jewish Greater Washington and to begin working with our region’s amazing community builders.

Tell us about your background.
I was born in Washington DC to an Afghan father and an English mother. I grew up with and embraced the diversity that I represented and that I saw in the community around me. Marrying a Jewish husband and learning about Jewish culture, values, and traditions through him and our two kids has expanded my sense of interconnectedness and brought so much meaning to my life. I began working in Development almost 20 years ago and continue to feel that I have the best profession in the world. I am humbled by the generosity and caring nature of the donors and volunteers I’ve met over the years and am honored to get to work alongside them to make the world a bit better for future generations.

What drew you to working in the Jewish communal world and to this role in particular?
I’ve had the pleasure of holding several professional roles in the Jewish community, and my family has benefited from Jewish agencies that have helped make us feel at home and connected with other Jewish and interfaith families along a similar path. This was true during our 11 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and remains the case here in Greater Washington. I am eager and excited to now step back into fundraising to support Jewish life in my community.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity to grow Women’s Philanthropy?
As I learn more about the work of Federation and Women’s Philanthropy in particular, I am incredibly impressed by their achievements. I am excited to be a part of this work and to help it continue to grow and flourish. I believe women have a unique lens through which to see the world and are just beginning to step into their power within a more just and gender-equal world. Helping people give is a way to exercise their power. By creating opportunities for relationships between philanthropists, our community partners, and the community at large to grow, we’ll find the greatest good. I hope to elevate voices that need to be heard and help focus the compassion and resources of our community to make the world a better place.

What are you most excited about as you dive into your role?
I believe that the DC area has some of the most educated, bright, and motivated philanthropists in the country. I’m excited to meet the donors, lay leaders, and the dynamic and passionate professionals at Federation, and to work together with them in support of the local Jewish community and to respond to critical needs.

What do you like to do in your time away from the office?
I love spending time with my family. I have two sons (ages nine and 15) who are terrific and bring me so much joy, as do my husband and our beautiful border collie/lab mix. I love baking, dancing, yoga, and hiking, and I occasionally convince myself that I’m still a runner. I also have a morning meditation practice that keeps me grounded through life’s ups and downs.

Tell us about an achievement that you’re proud of.
I was lucky enough to work at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, a world-renowned center for Insight Meditation in Marin County (San Francisco Bay Area) for five years. I helped them relaunch and finish an important capital campaign by raising $2.3M in less than 18 months to allow the building of a new Community Meditation Hall. It was amazing to follow this project from its construction to ultimately opening its doors to the community in June 2016. So often it can be hard to see the manifestation of the work we do but seeing the community excited about their new center was exhilarating.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Meet people where they are. It’s simple advice I received when I was new to fundraising and remains a helpful reminder. Be curious and open, listen to understand what is meaningful to a donor, and meet them where they are.