Join us on Facebook
What's Happening
Under the Sun: Peter Hansen, media arts teacher
Food & Wine
more >>
Surviving the Guinness Diet
Columnist, Blogs & Reports
more >>
Dr. B.J. Bischoff
Nonprofit Matters
Dr. B.J. Bischoff

Breathing new life into membership-based nonprofits

Thirty two percent of Sonoma Valley residents being 60 plus years old, it’s no wonder that the median age of member-based nonprofits in the Valley is increasing. But our member-based nonprofits, including service organizations and giving circles, won’t be able to sustain themselves if they don’t reinvigorate themselves and start discovering ways to attract a younger demographic. Some local nonprofits are doing just that—they are bringing in new members half the age of the existing members and experiencing an exciting period of growth and renewal. One example of a local organization that’s thriving with a resurgence of new members is the Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club. Founded in 1901 by a group of 11 women, the club formed to beautify our parks and streets and improve the literary interests of the community. The Woman’s Club initiated Plaza improvements with the installation of trees, walkways, and a fountain; established and staffed the first library in Sonoma; conducted well baby clinics during WWII; helped with the restoration of the Mission San Francisco de Solano; and placed the El Camino Real bell in front of the Mission. In 1916, the club constructed its lovely clubhouse that it still occupies at 574 First Street East in downtown Sonoma. Today, the club raises funds to support local charities and youth. At the end of 2016, the club’s declining membership base comprised philanthropic-minded women in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. But in 2017, some of the newer members of the club, including club president (and Sonoma Mayor) Madolyn Agrimoni, decided to breathe some life into the club by launching a campaign to attract younger women to join the club. With a goal to reach a membership of 100 women, the Woman’s Club is well on its way with 91 members already and more joining at every meeting. In a recent interview, Agrimonti said that women in their early 30s, 40s, and 50s are joining and "what's so amazing is that they bring these fantastic skills of social media, so they've taken over our Facebook page, our eblasts, and newsletters." Agrimonti said that one of the ways they are attracting younger women is by adding evening dinner meetings. Previously, all meetings were scheduled during daytime hours on weekdays, times that are prohibitive for working women and stay-at-home moms. They are now scheduling open houses, inviting speakers to their monthly meetings who resonate with a younger crowd, and encouraging new members to invite their friends to join. They are using social media to get their message out and engaging in community events, including the annual City Party and July 4 parade. Another much newer local nonprofit, Impact100 Sonoma, also found itself in a situation of attracting an older demographic with minimal diversity. Impact100 Sonoma is a women’s giving circle that requires each member to make an annual gift of $1,000, of which every penny is contributed to a variety of Sonoma Valley nonprofits once a year. Although the membership surged from 110 members in 2009 to 304 members at the end of 2017, the leadership believed that for the organization to continue its growth trajectory, it must engage younger and more diverse women. As a result, Impact100 Sonoma launched the NextGen Program in 2017 as a way to involve women between the ages of 25 and 35 as members. NextGen targets younger, working women who are looking for ways to further their professional careers, have an interest in philanthropy and civic engagement, live and work in Sonoma Valley, are available to attend Impact100 meetings, and willing join an Impact100 committee or participate in the grant review process. In return, NextGen members get their $1,000 membership waived for the first year. Removing the barrier of the cost of membership has proved to be an effective way for the organization to lower its median membership age and increase its diversity. The number of NextGen members is limited each year and applications are available at for all interested Sonoma Valley women. Here are some additional ways to get younger people interested in joining your membership: (1) make sure your meetings are interesting to a younger demographic by making them interactive and fun; (2) eliminate some of your old traditions and rituals that might turn off a younger crowd--the practice of fining members for whatever reason doesn't always set well with young members; (3) provide opportunities for networking and mentoring to help younger members further their careers; (4) use current technology and social media to reach the demographic you want to attract; (5) make every minute that young people spend with your organization rewarding--they lead hectic lives and don't have a lot of time to waste; (6) be flexible in how and when they can get involved--young people have less control over their schedules than retirees; (7) keep your website up-to-date, easy to use, and be sure to respond quickly to online inquiries about membership; (8) keep your language current--say your organization delivers social change as opposed to saying you do service projects--and tell young people how they will make a difference in the community; (9) keep your event prices down--offer appetizers and free wine instead of a full meal if members have to pay for it; and (10) plan family-friendly activities to appeal to members with young families. For service clubs with weekly attendance requirements, allow members to participate in other ways that count toward attendance, such as service hours, training, or committee participation. Just because Sonoma Valley's population is aging, doesn't mean that our member-based nonprofits have to settle for an aging membership base. It takes commitment, an outreach plan, and a willingness to reach beyond your usual practices to attract younger members, but the results will be well worth it. The more opportunities there are for multi-generational engagement among our Valley's nonprofits, the stronger our community will be. B.J. Bischoff is the owner of Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, a Sonoma firm specializing in building the capacity of nonprofit organizations and public sector agencies. She assists her clients with strategic planning, board and staff training, fund development, grant writing, and community relations. She is Past President of Impact100 Sonoma and serves as a Sonoma County Board of Supervisors’ appointee to the Sonoma County Portfolio of Model Upstream Programs Review Committee. Contact her at [email protected]
Continue Story...
Sonoma Planning Director David Goodison Resigns Sonoma Planning Director David Goodison Resigns

David Goodison, long time Planning Director in the City of Sonoma, surprised the Planning Commission... Continue

Hoppy hunting grounds Hoppy hunting grounds

The Annual Soroptimist International Sonoma Valley Easter Egg Hunt hops into Sonoma Plaza on Saturday,... Continue

• Teens busy with Senior Projects
• Lights, Camera, Corkscrew: The Sonoma International Film Festival
• Sonoma man guilty of child molestation
• Hanna Boys Center keeps license
• ‘March for Our Lives’ rally set for Saturday
• The goal: good jobs, zero waste
• No papers? You still have rights
• Historic Sonoma horse farm for sale
• SV Chamber of Commerce names new CEO
• Buzzing about the film fest
Letters & Opinion
more >>
Local Movie Trailers and Videos of Interest - more >>
SUN Columnist & Blogs
more >>
Public Citizen - Larry Barnett
Before It's Too Late - Eric Gullotta
The Sonoma Garden - Karen Boness
Progressive Majority Coalition - Ben Boyce
Snark Infested Waters - Bob Edwards
Board Walk - Susan Gorin
Nonprofit Matters - Dr. B.J. Bischoff
What's Up With That? - Katy Byrne
Connecting the Dots - Fred Allebach
Voices of the New Majority - Mario Castillo
Creative Arts - Deb Carlen, Editor
Sun In-Depth Report - Sonoma Valley Sun
Under the Sun: Interviews -
Rude Awakenings - Catherine Sevenau
Taxpertise - Bonnie Lee
The Green Tara - Serialized Novel - Sonoma Valley Sun
Reality Check - Logan Harvey
Find What You're looking For


Events & Entertainment
Automotive chaos theory
Sign up for our free daily email with the latest news, events and opinion.
What We're Following
Stories of interest from around the Web
How Facebook knows and tells everything about you
> KQED - March 23rd, 2018
UCs and CSUs reject tens of thousands of qualified California kids  
> KQED - March 23rd, 2018
A brief history of surveillance in America
> Smithsonian Magazine - March 22nd, 2018
Only one candidate for governor supports stronger rent control
> Sacramento Bee - March 22nd, 2018
In New York City, a restaurant where Italian grandmothers take turns cooking
> Civil Eats - March 22nd, 2018
How to lobby Donald Trump: Buy an ad on his favorite TV show
> Modern Farmer - March 20th, 2018
Unkillable toxins: don’t eat Sonoma County shellfish 
> Ca. Dept. of Health - March 16th, 2018
Sad: Wife of Donald Trump Jr. files for divorce 
> New York Post - March 15th, 2018
$6 million and counting: how much each member of Congress gets from the gun lobby 
> Politico - March 15th, 2018
40 wines that changed the way we drink
> Food & Wine - March 15th, 2018
Sonoma County health study: Who lives longer, why and where
> Sonoma County - March 14th, 2018
ICE spokesman resigns; unwilling to lie about numbers affected by Oakland mayor’s warning to immigrants
> KQED - March 14th, 2018
Royal scam: Queen actress paid less than TV husband in ‘The Crown’
> Huffington Post - March 14th, 2018
This 3-D-printed house costs $10k and can be built in 24 hours
> The Verge - March 13th, 2018
How the rise of the ‘Lifestyle Vintner’ has changed wine country
> The Atlantic - March 13th, 2018
Scammers face 90 years in prison for prescribing hearing aids to people who didn’t need them
> NPR - March 13th, 2018
Suspects in multiple Petaluma home invasions early this morning still at large 
> Sonoma County Sheriff's Office - March 12th, 2018
Napa planners push back on winery plans to expand events business
> - March 12th, 2018
Five facts every Oreo lover should know
> Popsugar - March 11th, 2018
Dawn of the YIMBY? The push for smart-growth housing
> East Bay Express - March 10th, 2018
More Following Stories...
Live Traffic
Link to Live Crime Map