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Championing community

  • Elizabeth Brown is the president and CEO of Community Foundation Sonoma County.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

In a way, Elizabeth Brown went into the family business. When she was growing up in Atlanta, Ga., her father was the director of a nonprofit foundation.

Now Brown — most people call her Beth — is the president and chief operating officer of the Community Foundation Sonoma County, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit organization that uses private money to solve public problems.

Her dad, George Brown, now retired, ran The Friendship Force, founded by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, to promote travel between countries for cultural exchange.

Unlike that organization, and many nonprofit groups, Community Foundation Sonoma County, founded in 1983, wasn't created to champion just one cause. It's involved in all aspects of the community — education, health, the arts and much more.

"Community Foundation Sonoma County serves hundreds of donors who want to engage in supporting many worthy charitable causes throughout Sonoma County and beyond," Brown explained.

While the foundation itself has a low profile with the general public, the effects of its work can be seen all over the community. And Brown is at the forefront of the foundation's efforts to help others reach people in need.

"Beth has been working actively behind the scenes to make things happen for us," said Mike Johnson, chief executive officer of COTS (the Committee on the Shelterless) in Petaluma, which offers help for the homeless.

"She's been involved in helping us to get donors to fund our programs," Johnson said. "She was also the emcee at our fundraising breakfast last November, and she really got the crowd worked up."

With a staff of 11 headquartered in downtown Santa Rosa, Community Foundation Sonoma County manages some $160 million in total assets, including 450 different funds.

"Each donor family establishes and contributes to a separately-named philanthropic fund, and the foundation assists them by managing these dollars, and by providing expert program advice and technical support," Brown said.


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