Nonprofit leaders launch new collaboration

Posted on February 19, 2020 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Leaders from six diverse nonprofit organizations gathered this month to launch a three-year campaign to strengthen one another, and themselves, to best deliver quality programs and services to Sonoma Valley residents.

This grant program, in its second iteration since first launching in 2015, is made possible through Community Foundation Sonoma County’s Sonoma Valley Fund. It’s goal: advance the quality of services for the community. 

The nonprofits selected to participate in the 2020 Strengthening Capacity, Connections and Community program are:

  • Friends in Sonoma Helping:
    Sandy Piotter (Executive Director) and Beverly Seyfert (Food Room Coordinator)
  • Sonoma Community Center:
    John Gurney (ED) and Steven Macrostie (Board President)
  • Sonoma Ecology Center:
    Richard Dale (ED), David Morell (Board Chair), and Ellie Insley (Board Member)
  • Sonoma Springs Community Hall:
    Seth Dolinsky (ED) and Laurie Gallian (Board Treasurer)
  • Sonoma Valley Youth & Family Services:
    Robert Smith (ED) and Karen Smith (Board Member)
  • Vintage House:
    Priscilla Call Essert (ED) and Paul Chakmak (Board President)

The members of this new cohort will work together to share their best ideas, collaborating to solve the stickiest issues in their organizations, and in the community. 

“We have an amazing community in Sonoma – and much of it is represented at this table. Sonoma is a unique microcosm of the larger region in that we have the riches of a ecologically, culturally, and economically diverse place, along with most of the challenges,” said Dale. “That means, if we can solve our problems here, we may well be able to help solve them in other places.”

To support the group, The Sonoma Valley Fund offers hands-on technical assistance and support, provided by organizational development experts. 

Karin Demarest, vice president for Community Impact for Community Foundation Sonoma County, said, the grant is exciting because “it shows our trust in these leaders. As executive directors with decades of hand-on experience, they know best how they can improve their organizations when given the funding to dream bigger. The exact outcomes for each of these organizations are open ended, but the impact is certain.”

In the first year of the program, the nonprofit leaders will conduct a thorough organizational assessment that identifies areas of strength and growth, and they will begin to map out a process to achieve the goals they identify—with continued funding from the Sonoma Valley Fund over years two and three.

Sandy Piotter who serves as the volunteer Coordinator for the all-volunteer FISH, noted, “Being part of Cohort Two is already empowering us. Good things are bound to happen to and for FISH as a result of this, and so good things for those who rely on our services will happen as well.”

In 2015, the first cohort launched with leaders from Art Escape, Boys and Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, La Luz Center, Sonoma Overnight Support, Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, and Teen Services Sonoma. Over the course of the grants program, Art Escape focused on growing their organization and were able to triple the number of youth enrolled in art classes, and double their donations. Sonoma Overnight Support was able to focus on food insecurity in Sonoma Valley, doubling the number of meals served, and donations to support their food security program. 

“I have a profound belief in the benefits that this grant program will bring to the non-profits and the people of our Valley for years to come,” said Simon Blattner, board chair for the Sonoma Valley Fund. “I am not sure that I have ever heard a more enthusiastic commentary on any program in the Valley that could exceed the high notes that were struck from Cohort One. Without exception, they were excited to be included, thrilled by what they learned, united by their new friendships, and looking forward to the opportunities presented by their inclusion.”

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA