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A New Year, and a new time for giving

I’m hoping this new year will bring you both personal and professional success as well as a deepening appreciation for all the good things in life. Indeed, there are so many good things here in the North Bay—and a caring spirit toward the plight of the less fortunate is at the very top of this list. Statistics are rather fuzzy, but it’s believed that the North Bay’s generosity, on a per capita basis, is among the highest in California and the nation. And some communities are especially noted for their high percentage of giving. Who could possibly downplay the generous spirit found in the West Marin community of Inverness? Its population of 1,500 gracious souls donated over 8.5% of their combined income to charitable causes. Put differently, these residents donated an average of over $8,500 each to recognized nonprofits in their community, county and country. And how do you begin to account for the generous “coffee can” donations they’ve likely made on top of all this?

Equally impressive as the amount of money we give to others is the breadth of giving here in the North Bay. Just spend a few hours “ringing the bell” for the Salvation Army or facilitating a collection plate at your local house of worship. You’ll be amazed, wonderfully so, how folks you might mistakenly think should be the recipients of this generosity are the actual donors for these causes. It’s a fascinating contrast to the moralizing often demonstrated on social media—where countless people seek recognition and the “moral high ground” by merely pointing out the wrongs in our society. This North Bay population actually attends to these needs; what a joyous point of pride we should share in this contrast.

And they do this by investing in the thousands of nonprofits right here in our neighborhoods. This issue is dedicated to these stalwart 501(c)(3)s, which fight to feed the hungry, clothe the unclothed, care for the sick, shelter the homeless, guide and teach the uneducated and provide hope to the hopeless. And let’s not forget our beloved animal population they serve, or the inspiration and training given to feed our children’s souls with art, music and dance! The list of nonprofits seems endless—and that’s a good thing. The needs seem endless, as well.

This month’s issue features three distinct angles on nonprofits. (And, below, I’ll mention how one young man can inspire others with his own passion for caring.)

First, writer Judith Wilson offers a crash course on nonprofits, by taking a look at what it takes to become a nonprofit and what outside organizations are available for support—including the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, the Marin Community Foundation and Schools Rule, to name just a few. As the story points out, the ultimate goal for a nonprofit is to solve a problem and then go right out of business. Yet the number of U.S.-based nonprofits has increased fourfold since 1980. Her reporting presents ideas behind why and how fundraising has softened over the years and how organizations can overcome obstacles to make the biggest positive impact.

Writer Janet Perry, meanwhile, dives into three nonprofits that share two commonalities: a mission to grow the arts education that children so deserve, and the difficulty in doing so. Fundraising and community commitment to the arts is a major challenge as their long-term benefits to society are too often overwhelmed by the immediacy that other problems present. And writer Jessica Zimmer demonstrates the North Bay’s “animal magnetism”—as she homes in on rescue nonprofits working behind the scenes (and often in the streets and alleys) to ensure the deserved health and homes for our four-legged friends.

And, finally, let me encourage you to find your own inspiration by looking no further than young Cannon Meiers. No, this 16-year-old doesn’t run a nonprofit. With behind-the-scenes help from his sister and parents, Cannon oversees a “cookie and hot cider operation” on the sidewalk of his family’s Santa Rosa home each year.

While I’ve known Cannon since he was a toddler, I must admit that his generosity to help others—and ability to ignore whatever his own needs might be—both surprised and inspired me this Christmas. Amaturo Sonoma Media Group’s flagship radio station, KZST, in association with the Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership, is Cannon’s springboard for delivering toys, clothing and truly needed things to hundreds of families. What began as a small sidewalk stand raising a few hundred bucks turned into a massive project for Cannon that raised well over $34,000 this past Christmas alone! When I see Cannon zipping around my neighborhood on his “suped up” beach cruiser from time to time, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to know him and that I am better off because of it. What an inspiring individual.

May your 2024 be filled with joy, happiness, new friendships and an inspired commitment to help others.


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