Catalyst Fund, a temporary emergency fund launched in 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic, will become a permanent philanthropic entity serving the Sonoma Valley. The effort was launched with a $500k gift from Community Foundation Sonoma County
The initiative is an example of how philanthropy is re-inventing itself in response to a world transformed by growing challenges and more frequent crises.
“We’re at a critical moment in the Sonoma Valley—a time when more people than ever are turning to nonprofits for support,” said Sheryl Alexander, interim CEO of CFSC. “The Catalyst Fund is innovating how we can best support our community.”
Responding to the pandemic, Catalyst raised more than $1.6M and made 44 grants to fill critical gaps.
To create the new entity, Catalyst has merged with Community Foundation Sonoma County’s (CFSC) longstanding regional initiative, The Sonoma Valley Fund, and forged a new partnership with the Community Foundation. CFSC, in turn, has made a $500,000 founding gift to the re-constituted Catalyst, which will operate a permanent set of funds targeted for Sonoma Valley.
“We’re proud to partner with the local Valley volunteers leading this effort and will work to lend the Community Foundation’s philanthropic knowledge, infrastructure, and grantmaking expertise where it’s helpful,” Alexander said. “We’re excited to see the promise of this evolution of our Sonoma Valley Fund and look forward to continuing our longstanding Valley relationships.”
Catalyst’s work in the pandemic demonstrated what is possible when Sonoma Valley’s donors and community leaders work side-by-side in imaginative ways. The new Catalyst aims to mobilize philanthropic support and innovative approaches to better address urgent, emergent, and chronic challenges facing Sonoma Valley. Another goal is to partner with other funders such as Impact100 and Rotary to create synergies and accomplish more for the community.
Catalyst will evolve using the same approaches that worked well during the pandemic; it will stress inclusiveness, flexibility, and creativity. Initial grants will continue to respond to the pandemic’s “long tail,” with funding remaining from Catalyst’s initial phase. Meanwhile, the new fund will reach out to donors to match the Community Foundation’s $500,000 founding gift while devising new strategies for the next phase of its grantmaking.
“So much more is possible if our already generous philanthropic community rises to this moment,” said Dub Hay, co-chair of the new fund. “We want to be a catalyst for helping our community unite and better tap our Valley’s deep and generous financial resources, talent, and heart.”
Catalyst’s next phase will involve outreach, listening, and experimentation—a continuing effort to better understand the community capabilities that are needed in this new moment. As in the pandemic, complex challenges often require pooling resources and coordinating strategies in ways that no donor or organization can pull off alone.
To this end, Catalyst launched a Food Security Initiative in May, to assess how and why the demand for food assistance remains high and how the Valley community is responding. The leading food-providing organizations — serving all Valley populations, supplying everything from groceries to prepared food — are now meeting to build understanding and potential coordination.
“You can’t fill gaps you can’t see,” said Katherine Fulton, Catalyst’s other co-chair. can only see what the whole community most needs by coming together, not just working on challenges in isolation. As funders, we can provide the extra resources needed for responding to emerging challenges early, imagining new ways of working, and strengthening our vital organizations.”
To learn more, donate, or get involved, visit www.sonomavalleycatalystfund.org.