Sonoma County nonprofits rally around Giving Tuesday

A growing number of nonprofits are soliciting donations through the #GivingTuesday movement. The 4-year-old celebration of philanthropy asks consumers to consider the needs of others after the shopping rush on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.|

If the excesses and commercialization of the winter holiday season tend to bring you down, here’s an antidote: #GivingTuesday.

As a quick glance at Twitter, Facebook or Instagram will tell you, it’s happening Tuesday.

The 4-year-old celebration of philanthropy provides a focused opportunity to consider the needs of others and to donate to their cause.

But participants say the campaign’s impact is broader than merely raising monetary reserves. It helps build understanding and create new partnerships, as well.

“Whether a lot of money comes from it is kind of not really the bottom line,” said Chris Castillo, executive director of Verity, a nonprofit social justice organization and victim’s advocacy group now taking part for a second year. “I mean, of course we always like to get the money, but it’s the opportunity to educate our community about sexual violence and sexual assault, and the impact on our community, but also the work that we’re doing in our community.”

A growing number of local organizations - everything from animal welfare groups to ballet companies, college foundations and medical agencies - are actively soliciting donations this year under the Giving Tuesday umbrella. They are part of a burgeoning movement that has spread around the globe and includes more than 30,000 formally registered nonprofits, government agencies, corporations and small businesses.

Born out of New York City’s renowned 92nd Street Y, a Jewish cultural institution and community center that dates back to 1874, Giving Tuesday began as an effort by the organization’s leadership to pass on to the next generation the importance of giving back, said Beverly Greenfield, director of public and media relations.

Capitalizing on traditional notions of December as a season of giving and the income tax write-offs that come with that, it was patterned after the popularly embraced Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In a modern twist, it was designed to harness the power of social media with a hashtag format that unifies Internet conversation among web-savvy populations.

Participating nonprofits and other agencies soliciting donations can use #GivingTuesday to convey that effort. And those who give are encouraged to take selfie portraits - or rather, “unselfies” - to post online with the hashtag and a few words about the groups they support.

But Greenfield said there was never any interest in defining how people would interact or participate; merely a desire to set the idea loose and hope it would inspire generosity and allow donors to pursue their passions, contribute and volunteer.

The Bird Rescue Center in Santa Rosa is hoping supporters will take a moment Tuesday to donate to its 30 Before 40 campaign, a bid to raise $30,000 before its 40th anniversary in 2016 to help rehabilitate injured, sick or orphaned birds.

At the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, which is soliciting through #GivingTuesday for the first time, each $100 donation will provide a year’s free membership to a family in need. A family membership is usually $145.

At the Living Room, a daytime shelter and service center for homeless women and children in Santa Rosa, they’re raising money to provide new clothing and other items to clients through the center’s Christmas store, executive director Cheryl Parkinson said.

They’re not necessarily asking for much, she noted.

“You’re out running around doing all your shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Do that,” she said, “but just make one small change. Give up the cup of coffee you’re going to buy and donate for someone in need.”

The Petaluma-based Committee on the Shelterless, or COTS, has set a $15,000 goal it hopes to meet so it can continue to fund programs that feed and house those in need.

But the larger emphasis this year is an initiative by the agency, along with county government, to end homelessness for Sonoma County families, according to Sarah Quinto, COTS’ vice president of development.

“This is a problem that is actually solvable, if enough resources are put toward it,” Quinto said. “These are our families. These are our kids. They’re in our schools, they’re in our neighborhoods, and they don’t deserve to be homeless.”

Michelle Head, director of operations for the Sonoma County Family YMCA, said making an active pitch under the Giving Tuesday label does seem to generate additional year-end contributions. But echoing Verity director Castillo, she said the opportunity to reach new supporters and spread the word about the agency’s social service programs is equally valuable.

“It is about education and letting people know the work that you do,” Head said. “There’s a lot of amazing nonprofits in our community, and I think it’s important for people to know the resources that those nonprofits provide.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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