Sonoma Valley needs to rethink its benevolence.
That’s chief among the conclusions of the Sonoma Valley Fund’s recently released, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Sonoma Valley and the Charitable Sector that Serves Us” – a report examining whether the supply side of Sonoma Valley philanthropy lines up with demand.
Or, as the report authors recently explained to the Index-Tribune: Sonoma Valley is incredibly generous in its volunteerism and philanthropy – but even more is needed in the coming years to adequately address the needs and challenges of the local nonprofit community and those it serves.
“The amount of money raised by the 100-plus nonprofits in Sonoma Valley is big,” said SVF board member Katherine Fulton, who oversaw the formulation of the report. “But when you put it next to the problems our Valley faces, it is not big enough.”
“Hidden in Plain Sight” is the first major overview of the Sonoma Valley charitable sector conducted by the Sonoma Valley Fund, a local arm of the Community Foundation Sonoma County, which oversees millions of dollars in grant funding to nonprofits throughout the county.
Describing the widening of inequality in the United States as a “historic moment” for American philanthropy, the report says its aim is to “respond to this moment with original research about both sides of this equation: the growing needs, and the growing philanthropic response to them.”
In composing the study, Fulton oversaw an extensive two-pronged analysis of both the needs of Sonoma Valley residents and the community’s charitable giving.
Sonoma Valley Fund officials last year commissioned the Sonoma County Economic Development Board to provide a five-year update on demographic, economic and social aspects of life for the 40,000 residents of Sonoma Valley, defined in the report as extending from Kenwood to Sears Point.
“We needed to start by getting a better sense of what Sonoma Valley’s needs are,” said Fulton.
SVF board chair Peg Van Camp said that the demographics of the community are changing rapidly, but its habits of philanthropy are not.
“What we found is that our Valley is growing, graying and diversifying,” said Van Camp, “while becoming increasingly unequal.”
Economic Development Board research shows that the Valley’s population is growing faster than the state as a whole – and the population over 65 has jumped 20 percent from 2011 through 2016.
Other demographic information the EDB provided in the report includes:
Hispanics now comprise 28 percent of the general population and 57 percent of the school population. More than 13 percent of all Valley residents are non-citizens (up more than 50 percent) and a third of all students are English learners.
The education gap is also widening, as well. More than 50 percent of Hispanic residents lack a high school diploma compared with only 5 percent of whites. Only 12 percent Hispanics have a college degree, versus 43.5 percent for whites.
Despite a low local unemployment rate of only 5 percent, a fifth of the population in Sonoma struggles with poverty (a 60 percent jump since the last report). Almost 20 percent of families with children live in poverty.
Home ownership is down in Sonoma Valley and in some neighborhoods, like Fetters/Agua Caliente, 22 percent fewer residents own their home today than did five years ago.
Using the updated demographic information, SVF researchers sought to identify areas of growing need in Sonoma Valley.
The community is invited to two presentations of the findings of "Hidden in Plain Sight":
Thursday, May 25: 5 p.m., the Woman's Club, 574 1st St E.
Thursday, June 1: 7 p.m., Vintage House, 264 1st St E.