March 13, 2024

This episode offers a powerful example of how funders and nonprofits can collaborate and advocate to reform government contracting, so that it works better for the nonprofit sector and the nonprofit workforce.

You’ll learn how leaders from the Nonprofit Association of Oregon and Northwest Health Foundation teamed up to advocate for state contracting reform, and how that resulted in them serving as members of the Governor’s Modernizing Grant Funding and Contracting Task Force.

Our powerful guests will help you gain an understanding of: how the nonprofit community can educate and influence our state governments; advocacy strategies and tactics for influencing government; and lessons-learned on the challenges and opportunities of legislative approaches to systems change.

* [Editing note: Felicita said ‘Maryland’ in the interview at around 36 minutes in, but the correct state is Illinois.]

Resources from this Episode:

Contact Info:

Guest Bios:

Mercedes Elizalde was born and raised in Hayward California, a small city in the San Francisco Bay Area. She relocated to Seattle, WA in fall of 2010 and then to Portland, OR in the summer of 2018. Mercedes was the first in her family to attend college and earn both a bachelor’s degree in psychology and women and gender studies and a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership. Mercedes started working when she was 14 as a peer educator and summer camp counselor. She was drawn to youth development work because of the great benefits she gained from the inspiring youth leaders who took an interest in her. After successfully building an after school program for over 150 children with a dozen staff and volunteers in Oakland, CA, Mercedes decided to try a new adventure and moved to Seattle, WA. In Seattle, Mercedes continued her work with direct service organizations, moving from youth development to housing and anti-poverty programs. It was during this time she developed a strong desire to address systemic causes of poverty and inequity through policy engagement. Since moving to Portland, Mercedes has had an opportunity to combine all she had learned about direct service and public policy, most recently by joining Latino Network as the Director of Advocacy. 

Felicita Monteblanco joined Northwest Health Foundation in August 2020. As Public Affairs Manager, Felicita supports advocacy campaigns to change public policy, often in partnership and at the direction of community-based organizations. She also manages government relations and leads NWHF’s communications, among other responsibilities.

Before joining NWHF, Felicita was the policy and advocacy officer for Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, which serves Washington and Yamhill Counties and is the largest federally qualified health center in the state. Prior to Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, she worked at Vision Action Network, building a network of connected nonprofits and philanthropic leaders throughout Washington County.

Felicita earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in hospitality management from the University of San Francisco. She was elected to the board of directors for the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District in 2017 and 2021; she was board chair 2019-20 and 2022-23. Felicita is also a part of American Leadership Forum of Oregon’s current Class 43.

You will often find Felicita hosting gatherings for Latinx leaders in Washington County and/or local electeds to connect around social justice issues. She was recognized for her service to the community with the American Association of University Women “Breaking Barriers” award in 2019. That same year she had the opportunity to travel to China as part of the American Council for Young Political Leaders whose aim is to provide a global perspective to local electeds. She made Portland Business Journal’s 40 under 40 list in 2023. 

In her free time, Felicita loves to dance, travel and canvass for candidates she believes in.

Season 6 is sponsored by Loftis Partners. They've launched the Pay Equity Collective, a peer learning experience that provides capacity building, strategic resources, and a supportive community for nonprofits seeking pathways to pay equity. Visit to learn more! Loftis Partners – Empowering organizations and advancing equity, one collective step at a time!