Skip to content

Main Menu

The Change-Maker Behind Season of Sharing

It’s not every day that you have a chance to hear from a leader who is both humble and visionary, with the ideas and the strategies to change one life at a time, working together with community.

With a small group of guests at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County (CFSC), we had the opportunity to visit with Diane McFarlin today. The former publisher of the Herald-Tribune Media Group was interviewed by CFSC’s VP of Strategy and Communications Mischa Kirby, APR.

Diane McFarlin, former publisher of the Herald-Tribune Media Group

Twenty-three years ago, Diane partnered with former CFSC President and CEO Stewart Stearns to start the Season of Sharing campaign, raising money each year for people in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties who are one paycheck away from losing their homes. Over time, the campaign grew to include additional partners who collaborated because of Diane’s thoughtful and inclusive leadership.

Each year, the newspaper shares the personal stories of individuals and families who have found a lifeline of support through Season of Sharing, inspiring new people to give.

The dollars raised in the campaign have grown annually, in no small part due to matching contributions from The Patterson Foundation, which gives $100,000 for every $500,000 raised by the community. It is indeed “every person’s campaign,” where any giving level makes a difference and the administrative expenses of running the campaign are underwritten by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Some reflections from Diane about the campaign and the changing face of the media landscape:

  • At its core, journalism is about the facts that move our communities to be informed and engaged.
  • Telling stories about real people in thoughtful ways can help us recognize our common humanity and rise to the occasion of helping others.
  • Though similar fundraising campaigns exist with newspapers in different markets, none include the level of organization and collaboration involved in Season of Sharing. The nonprofits that distribute the funds to support people at risk of homelessness and CFSC, the “home base,” have a tight network of connections that provide an integrated approach to addressing need and sharing data.
  • With trust across all industries at historic lows, campaigns such as Season of Sharing enlist reputable partners that play an important role unifying people around actions that benefit the community.
  • Young people who wish to pursue careers in journalism have important futures in sustaining the fabric of our democracy and in building strength in our communities through access to information.

People just like you and me have had their life circumstances change through many unexpected events–prolonged sickness of a loved one, the loss of a job, the combined financial stresses of COVID-19 and Hurricane Ian losses…

How amazing that our community has a time-tested way to help, sparked by the “what if” questions from a classic leader and sustained dedication from connected partners.

You can make a tax-deductible contribution to help residents in Manatee County on the verge of homelessness through the Season of Sharing campaign. Learn more and give here.