Javier Alberto Soto and the Denver Foundation keep moving forward, even in tough times
2020 CEO of the Year Finalist: Soto adapts to the challenges of 2020, working with the Denver Foundation to show up in a new way
Javier Alberto Soto, President and CEO
The Denver Foundation, Denver
After starting his career in law and the public sector, Soto gravitated to philanthropy. Before the Denver Foundation recruited him in 2019, he led the Miami Foundation for the previous decade.
A regular visitor to Colorado, Soto, 50, jumped at the opportunity. “It’s a place that makes you feel welcome,” he says. “There’s a real kindness to the DNA of Colorado and Denver.”
It’s been an eventful first year on the job. He began by bicycling to meetings all over the city, but the pandemic quashed that tactic, as outreach moved online.
The Denver Foundation has risen to the challenge of COVID-19 and the ongoing protests with new initiatives. “We realized it was time to throw the rulebook out the window,” Soto says, “and just say, “We’ve got to meet this moment.'”
After a flurry of grant-making, the foundation switched over to recovery mode, advocating for paid family leave, collaborating with Bonfils-Stanton Foundation on relief for artists and launching the Black Resilience in Colorado Fund “to double down on racial equity,” Soto says. “This is unprecedented, so therefore we needed to show up in a new way.”
The “entrepreneurial DNA” of his team drives all else, he adds. “Those ‘intrapreneurs’ are the ones who really hold the key to success for organizations. Those are the folks I’m always trying to identify.”
Soto says continued action is especially important in tough times. “You’ve got to keep moving forward,” he says. “In my mind, standing still is just not an option.”
This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine’s annual CEO of the Year feature. Read more about this year’s winner Kurt Culbertson and the other finalists: