Minerva’s core team has decades of experience working with nonprofits, foundations, and social enterprises. Minerva also partners with experts – trusted designers, web developers, and global media relations professionals – who share our excitement for communicating to support positive social change. These partnerships provide clients with a team that is tailored to their needs.



Joy Portella

Joy leads the Minerva Strategies team, providing senior-level direction to every client experience has been honed through 18 years of experience helping organizations more effectively communicate with media, donors, policymakers and other key audiences.

Prior to establishing Minerva, Joy spent five years as director of communications at the international humanitarian organization Mercy Corps. She guided Mercy Corps’ messaging, media relations, and crisis communications, and traveled extensively to document work in global hotspots including the Horn of Africa, the Gaza Strip, and North Korea. Previously, Joy worked for a decade at leading communication firms – Burson-Marsteller, Ruder Finn and SS+K – in New York and Washington DC.


18 years of experience

B.A. from Yale University; M.A. from Johns Hopkins SAIS

Yogi, runner, singer, chef wannabe, aspires to live up to her name

Sara Veltkamp

Sara Veltkamp takes a lead role in all aspects of Minerva Strategies’ smart communication strategies and implementation. She loves a challenge and is obsessed with learning new things, from how to use new platforms and tools for storytelling to languages like Amharic, French, or Farsi to mastering a difficult yoga pose. She applies this energy and curiosity to all clients’ communication challenges.

Before Minerva, Sara established the first-ever communications position at Global Washington, a statewide membership organization for groups working globally. She also lived for nearly two years in pre-war Syria teaching English to Iraqi refugees, building communication capacity of a Syrian microfinance nonprofit focused on unemployed youth, and further developing her Arabic language proficiency.


Field-experience international development professional

M.A. in Development Studies with distinction at the University of East Anglia; B.A. in Linguistics, magna cum laude, University of Washington

Former bartender, current badass

Johnny Merolla

Johnny supports the creation, development, and implementation of communication strategies for Minerva Strategies’ clients. He recently joined Minerva after a year as a Global Leaders Fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research where he conducted foreign and domestic policy talks, and executed public policy events with their International Policy Center.


Johnny spent three years overseas with the U.S. Navy as a project manager in the combat systems department onboard the Navy’s only forward-deployed, nuclear powered aircraft carrier. He is a jack-of-all trades with extensive experience in politico-military operations, research and analytics, and global development. In addition to his Naval deployments in Southeast Asia and Oceania, Johnny has lived in both Spain and Peru where he perfected his Spanish.


Johnny earned an MS in International Relations from Northeastern University, and a BA from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.


Politics and travel junkie

BA and MS in International Relations

Won 2nd place in a meatball-making competition