Stephen A. Meacham of Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Professional background: Small Business owner, Creative Audience Research, a national media research company located in Sonoma.
Education: Bachelor of Science, Radio & Television, Southern Illinois University, 1977
Describe your organization: The Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation helps sponsor park programs for under-served communities, seniors and youth; supports the development of environmental education programs; funds natural resources projects to restore habitats and protect wildlife; provides financial support to develop new parks and trails; and raises money to help repair and rebuild County Parks damaged by wildfires, including Foothill Park in Windsor, Sonoma Valley Park, and Hood Mountain Park, to name a few of the hardest hit.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: It’s not about me.
What is your role in the organization?
As a career marketing professional, I lead the Parks Foundation Marketing Committee, working with staff to find innovative, cost effective ways to get the word out about ways that the thousands of people who use our 56 beautiful, diverse county parks can help to support and sustain them.
How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sonoma County Regional Parks have been massively affected by the virus because of the resulting explosion in people wanting to get outside, exercise, and relieve stress while maintaining social distance.
As a nonprofit whose sole mission is to support county parks and staff, the parks foundation has been finding innovative ways to keep funds flowing in spite of the obstacles presented by the pandemic.
Our amazing staff and dedicated board of director worked harder than ever to develop new donors and recognize those we have.
While revenue is down a bit, as is the case for most all North Bay nonprofits, we are holding our own on fundraising while also building new systems that will hopefully serve us well going forward.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Producing compelling, high quality videos to increase donor awareness of the parks foundation with minimal budget, like this: https://www.sonomacountyparksfoundation.org/video-you-are-the-foundation.html
What is your biggest challenge today?
Building and maintaining a viable donor base in the face of a population that is stressed, burnt, and tapped out.
What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?
Having been nominated to this board by Supervisor Susan Gorin, I am most interested in parks foundation projects here in Sonoma Valley/District 1.
We were just on the verge of launching a major capital campaign for sweeping renovations to Maxwell Farms and Larson County Parks when COVID-19 hit. Once things get back to normal, however normal is defined post-pandemic, we will return our focus to funding the important priorities identified by the community in these two critical Southern Sonoma County parks.
What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?
Staff says Donor Perfect has been a big help in planning, managing, and measuring the impact of our donor outreach efforts.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
Hopefully it will get easier in the next five years to perform our mission of supporting Sonoma County Parks because:
1) our nation will have more effective leadership on the issue of climate change, inspiring donors to support environmental orgs like the Parks Foundation;
2) the danger of COVID-19 will be substantially reduced by an effective vaccine;
and 3) we will adapt to and find ways to better control massive wildfires every Fall.
Describe a fond memory you have about working with a staff member or client of your organization?
Our executive director, Melissa Kelley, is an amazing leader who does a great job of steadily pushing forward to accomplish the mission while keeping the puppies (19 volunteer board members) from getting out of the box.
She is relentlessly positive, does not view the foundation as her personal fiefdom, and accepts constructive criticism with a smile. Melissa is featured in all of our videos, and working with her on the productions is always rewarding and fun.
What motivates you to volunteer your time and talent?
Over the past 100 years, humanity, myself included, has been systematically destroying our planet. The only way to slow this process is to build greater appreciation of our natural world in people, one individual at a time.
If my volunteerism helps one child, one stressed out adult, one over-consumptive person change their behavior in favor of the environment even a little, that’s my motivation.
How do you think the role of the board member will change in the next five years?
My term on the Sonoma County Parks Foundation Board of Directors expires in four years. HA!
But my hope is that individual directors will take an increasingly active, fearless role in helping to accomplish our mission of raising awareness and money to support perhaps the most unique, precious resource we have here in Sonoma County, our beautiful parks!
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Local, Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway. He makes an inherently environmentally irresponsible business very environmentally responsible. Nationally, Elon Musk. He sees the future more clearly than most.
Current reading: “The Lincoln Reader,” collected stories about our greatest president.
Most want to meet: My dad. It’s been over 25 years but I still miss his wisdom and perspective every day.
Stress relievers and hobbies: Driving and working on classic Alfa Romeo sports cars and Triumph motorcycles.
Social media you most use: The telephone.
Buzz word from your industry you dislike the most: So, my least favorite buzzword is “so.” When did we start having to begin every sentence with this “weasel word?”
Words that best describe you: Smart, persistent, caring, impatient, worried.