Become a Catalyst

When Katherine Fulton and Katharine Kunst moved into their home in the heart of Sonoma, they knew this community was unique. They were charmed by its beauty and small town vibe. Katharine Kunst explains, “I love that it is so incredibly walkable. As an artist and a cook, I’m delighted to find a great art museum, art galleries, framers, and art suppliers, as well as our beloved Farmers’ Markets, supermarkets and wineries, close at hand!”

While the art and accessibility were immediate draws, the community is what makes Sonoma feel like home. Katherine Fulton brings decades of experience consulting with major foundations, including community foundations, and she immediately knew that Sonoma was a place where philanthropy can make a difference. “[Sonoma] is very knowable, you can meet a lot of people, learn about the nonprofit community, and feel like you can make a difference relatively quickly in comparison to a big city.”

Their desire to make a difference is what brought Katherine and Katharine to the Sonoma Valley Fund. After getting married in 2008, and waiting in limbo until the Supreme Court decision legalized their marriage in 2013, Katherine and Katharine were ready to get their financial lives organized as a couple.

“For many years we made decisions together about how much we could afford to give. We always balanced our giving between local, national and global things, with the larger amount going to things that are local. But we had to have our financial lives completely separate until the Supreme Court ruling.

Once we were legal, we went through the process of putting our finances together, redoing our estate plans and rethinking our philanthropy.”

For their local giving, they decided to establish a donor advised fund with Community Foundation Sonoma County, which allows them to direct their giving in general and very specific ways. They also chose to get involved by volunteering their time. Katharine Kunst served for three years on the board of the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, among other things. Katherine Fulton joined the board of the Sonoma Valley Fund, where she helped lead an effort to support the nonprofit community in identifying needs. The report, “Hidden in Plain Sight”, is an in-depth look at the community’s needs and charitable resources–an integrated view of the “demand” and “supply” side of the Valley’s philanthropy.

“I’m very proud of the Hidden in Plain Sight effort,” Katherine says. “This was an opportunity to do what community foundations are here to do, look at the whole community, raise awareness, and make visible the issues that really need to be elevated.” In 2018, Katherine looks forward to helping nonprofit organizations effectively meet existing needs, those caused by the fires and most of all, longer term needs, “We live in a world that is so short-term focused, and nonprofits understandably focus on the here and now. Philanthropy’s greatest gift is the ability to take a long-term view of a community, look at how to meet its needs, and make investments for the long term. I think that most individual donors can’t do that by themselves. The Community Foundation provides the vehicle which allows all of us to think long term.”

Caitlin Childs