Children watching a worker scoop ice cream at a stall at the Sonoma market

At CFSC, as we worked to innovate our grantmaking in light of the coronavirus crisis, we asked a critical question: How could we inspire more people to give?

We knew our regional affiliates—Healdsburg Forever and the Sonoma Valley Fund—were already doing incredible work in their local communities. And we knew they had great ideas about addressing the pandemic’s challenges. So we offered to give each community a $150,000 challenge grant to help make those ideas real.

We hoped our challenge grants would inspire other donors to give and ensure our collective impact would be stronger.

The result? An outpouring of generosity.

In the Sonoma Valley, volunteers from our Sonoma Valley Fund and the broader community teamed up to create the Sonoma Valley Catalyst Fund. This novel effort enlisted a diverse volunteer team to raise funds, reach out to Valley nonprofits, and fund projects quickly—helping nonprofits meet Sonoma’s overwhelming needs during the crisis.

Starting with the challenge grant from CFSC, the Catalyst Fund innovated a new, collective funding model, raising more than $1.6 million from more than 125 donors.

To date, they have awarded 44 grants, filling gaps nonprofits could not bridge without extra support. Grants helped ensure people affected by COVID in the Sonoma Valley would not go hungry and could access vaccines when they were ready.

People watch a parade float with a sign reading "Healdsburg" at the Healdsburg parade.

In Healdsburg, board members from our regional affiliate Healdsburg Forever, leveraged our challenge grant into a similarly successful fundraising campaign that, with the collective generosity of donors, provided 14 grants for essential services in the Healdsburg and Geyserville communities.

Since 2020, Healdsburg Forever has awarded 34 grants totaling $887,000 to organizations working across six impact areas prioritizing food insecurity, healthcare, housing, support for Latinx communities, senior services, and youth/education.

“We trusted nonprofits to address the most critical needs for the people they serve,” said Carol Beattie, chair of the Healdsburg Forever board. “We also built new relationships with some major donors, who entrusted us to make those grant decisions based on our knowledge of where those dollars would help the most.”

“Sonoma Valley is in such better shape because of the work we did,” said Rebecca Hermosillo, a member of Catalyst’s steering committee. “We changed the community we live in. It’s amazing to impact so many people, and so many people of color, when they really needed it.”

With this track record of impact, the volunteers at the Sonoma Valley Catalyst Fund and Healdsburg Forever are keeping their eyes on the future, continuing to fundraise on behalf of their communities, and continuing to support the nonprofits that keep our communities thriving.

Learn more about Healdsburg Forever and the Sonoma Valley Catalyst Fund.

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