Santa Rosa residents Sam and Betz Miller never thought of themselves as philanthropists. “We are not wealthy, and even though we give a good percentage of our income to charity, my thinking was that philanthropists were people who could write big checks and be on the boards of good causes,” says Sam. But that opinion has changed for the Millers, thanks in large part to their work with Community Foundation Sonoma County.
“Through our conversations with Foundation staff, we have become more focused in our giving. We want to support causes that help people so that they won’t need help in the future—causes that help people ‘learn to fish.’ Through the Community Foundation, we have been able to meet with organizations that are most likely to give measurable results, so that we know our giving is making a difference and that people who are in need now can be given skills or a boost so that they can become more self-reliant, even if they still need help from time to time. The Foundation has helped us with our current and future charitable goals to make Sonoma County a better place to live.”
Sam and Betz had been aware of the Foundation for some time. Family friends had worked with the Foundation on their legacy plan, and the Millers were interested in doing the same. With no children and few family members to consider in their estate planning, Sam and Betz decided, in consultation with their attorney, that the Community Foundation would be a wise partner for their legacy planning. “Foundation staff was able to give us ideas on how to focus our giving so that even when we are both gone, our charitable goals will be met. The Community Foundation will make sure that the goals we set will guide them in providing support to those nonprofits whose missions and priorities match ours.”
With a legacy plan in place, the Millers found the Community Foundation could assist them in their current giving as well. They established a donor–advised fund and began to take advantage of Foundation events designed to help bring donors focus around their giving as well as provide them with information and knowledge about the charitable work being done in the community.