Washington Wine Industry Foundation Welcomes New Executive Director

Effective January 1, Sara Higgins becomes the Executive Director of the Washington Wine Industry Foundation. Higgins brings over 20 years of experience in nonprofit leadership with a focus on planning, program management, and community outreach. 

“Sara’s energy and drive combined with her nonprofit experience and familiarity with the wine industry are an excellent match for the Foundation,” said Bill Shibley, Board Chair, and Senior Agriculture Officer and Vice President at Wheatland Bank, Pasco, “I look forward to working with her to help meet industry needs.”   

Higgins is a Washington native, and no stranger to the Foundation. She has previously supported Foundation programs including the Party + Auction friend and fundraiser.  As the Foundation’s Executive Director, Higgins is responsible for implementing the Board’s strategic plan and developing and stewarding donor relations.   

Since 2002, the Foundation has been awarded over $3 million in grants supporting winemaking and winegrape growing, and awarded $480,000 in scholarships to over 250 viticulture and enology students. 

“The Foundation plays a critical role leveraging its nonprofit status to meet industry needs in ways other organizations cannot.  And, it’s all possible thanks to generous, forward-thinking donors and partners. That’s inspiring. I’m excited to engage with those making this work happen, and grow the Foundation’s network,” said Higgins.      

As only the second executive director in the organization’s history, Higgins follows Vicky Scharlau who led the Foundation since its inception in 2000.  Scharlau will continue in an of-counsel position, supporting federal and state grant management. 

Scharlau observed, “Leading the creation and growth of the Washington Wine Industry Foundation has been a great source of pride. With today’s operating environment vastly different than it was 20 years ago, the Foundation and the industry are faced with new challenges that will benefit from fresh, new approaches.  Sara is the right person to meet those challenges.”       


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