Ron Bartholomew and Sharon Keating have been married for 28 years, having reconnected at their ten-year high school reunion. Although they know each other pretty well after all these years, they didn’t realize actually how well until they played a card game with J Mullineaux, Vice President for Philanthropic Planning for Community Foundation Sonoma County, when they independently selected four out of five identical cards pinpointing their shared philanthropic interests.

The cards, developed by 21/64, an organization that facilitates family conversations around legacies, are a visual way to tap emotional responses to areas of philanthropic interest to donors. Through “playing,” people can discover and discuss their passions as individuals, couples or families. The cards are just one of numerous tools and processes used by the Community Foundation staff to assist donors in creating meaningful philanthropic plans that are aligned with their values and interests.

Ron and Sharon have a strong interest in helping young people succeed. Explains Sharon, “We ask ourselves, ‘What can we do to enable others – especially young people?’ After all, they will be the ones providing leadership in the years to come.  The cards helped us get clearer about youth being a significant way to impact the future. I paid my own way through college with a loan. What if young people don’t have access to similar opportunities?”

Their expanding path to giving, which led to a partnership with the Community Foundation, is part of a long evolution for the couple. “Giving wasn’t part of our growing up. We both came from pretty humble family backgrounds,” says Ron. “Growing up in San Francisco in the sixties definitely impacted us and our lives. We would be different people if we had grown up somewhere else. We’ve been influenced by our long-time circle of friends, some of whom we’ve known for 35-40 years and who tend to be people who strive to make a difference in the world.” Adds Sharon, “Those same people, dear and trusted friends, that we invite to donate to our causes, invite us to donate to their causes”.

“We have been very involved for many years with Ceres Community Project which teaches young people about the importance of healthy eating and community service by having them grow food and cook organic healthy meals for people with a serious illness. We’re thrilled that Ceres is now partnering with Social Advocates for Youth at the new Dream Center to make this amazing program available to many more youth and families in need.”

“Through our connection with Ceres, we met people on the Community Foundation staff. One of our filters is, ‘How credible are they?’ and CFSC kept hitting all the marks. After we did the interests and values cards, we looked closer at organizations we support. They’re all well run, have great leadership, are forward thinkers and are fiscally strong. These all definitely apply to the Community Foundation. Working with the Foundation has given us clarity in action aligned with our values and our interests.”

Ron explains, “The Community Foundation’s resource base is huge and we can pick and choose who we want to donate to with confidence. They’ve done their homework already, which provides us with the information we need to make well-informed decisions. And we’re at a point in our lives where we can afford to give more; we couldn’t do that ten years ago.”

Ron says, “We became even more excited about working with the Community Foundation when we learned about their Community Endowment Fund which responds to emerging community needs which change over time.” These discretionary funds allow the Community Foundation to provide resources to specific critical needs. “CFSC is a group of values-based, intelligent, resourceful people who have done research to know what is needed. We like knowing that our contributions will benefit community needs that emerge over time that we are not even aware of yet.”

“In the past, all the money we were going to donate was part of our own Trust. Every time we changed it, it was a pain. Moving our funds to the Community Foundation made it easier — we can change the percentages, the recipients, etc., very easily,” says Sharon.

Sharon concludes, “When we give we empower individuals and enable families, which strengthens our entire community. We believe the more people have opportunities, the more they will give back — because they have received. Not having children, we asked ourselves how our financial contributions would make a difference in the future. Working with Community Foundation Sonoma County, we feel confidence in making that difference.”




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