What is Secret Santa?

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What is Secret Santa?

Sonoma County’s Secret Santa is a nonprofit gift-giving program, providing gifts and holiday cheer to those less fortunate in our community.

Secret Santa has been bringing joy to people throughout Sonoma County for over 31 years, ensuring that children, teens, adults, and seniors who would not otherwise receive a holiday gift have reason to celebrate and experience the compassion and generosity of their community.

How It All Began…

The GIVING TREE began in 1988 at the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County with gift wishes for individuals on Red Heart Ornaments displayed on trees around Sonoma County. KZST started the SECRET SANTA program in 1990 with Brent Farris sharing letters on air from individuals and families with their needs. While both groups were successful in finding individuals in the community to give generously, something was missing. In 2008, The Giving Tree and Secret Santa joined forces with encouragement from Bill Friedman, and working together they found a better way to meet growing needs during the holidays.

Today, Sonoma County’s Secret Santa Program is a partnership of Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership (CVNL)KZST Radio Station & Friedman’s Home Improvement, along with thousands of local businesses, agencies, volunteers and donors who work together to bring joy and hope community-wide.

How it works…

Sonoma County Secret Santa works with over 100 county agencies, schools, and community nonprofit organizations to fill over 25,000 wishes each year. Each wish ($25-$40 item) is placed on a Red Heart and these hearts are displayed throughout Sonoma County businesses for the public to adopt. Agencies and individuals also submit Letters to Santa. These letters include larger requests and are vetted and read on air at KZST, or published on the Secret Santa website to be adopted. With the help of our HUGE volunteer base, we strive to fulfill every single gift request received.

How you can help…

The primary focus of the Secret Santa teams is to increase community involvement in the program – from volunteers, to heart gift and letter adopters, to business sponsors.  We also are expanding our volunteer team to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible for the agencies that depend upon Secret Santa to help their clients. Here are some ways you can participate:

  • Adopt a Heart or Letter online at www.secretsantanow.org.
  • Host an office or club gift exchange (in person or virtually) using Hearts or Letters to exchange.
  • Have a Birthday in November or December? Send out Hearts with invitations and collect gifts.
  • Holiday Office Parties: ask staff and families to adopt a heart or letter in lieu of gifts for each other.
  • Family Holiday’s: adopt one or more letters and have family members take a portion of the letter. Set up a gift registry at a favorite store to make coordinating and shopping easy.
  • Socialize your Heart! Share the joy and spirit of the program on social media. Use hashtags: #SonomaCountySecretSanta or #AdoptAHeart to be a part of the conversation.
  • Volunteer: We coordinate over 7,000 volunteer hours, from transporting to gift wrapping. Signing up is easy: contact secretsanta@cvnl.org or 707-890-8880. We will match you with an opportunity.

Participate as an Agency…

Over 100 county agencies, schools, and community nonprofit organizations participate in Sonoma County’s Secret Santa Program. We work with these organizations to fill individual’s wishes during the holiday season. Any 501c3 organization may become a Secret Santa Agency. There is a $150 annual fee to participate. Agencies must attend an hour-long annual training. In this training Agencies are given requirements, guidelines, and access to S.L.E.D. (Santa’s Little Electronic Database). Agencies must be able to commit staff or volunteer time to collecting gifts, distributing gifts, and reporting back to Secret Santa.

Become a Secret Santa Heart Location Business Sponsor…

Our Heart Location Business Sponsors are a key part of the program, providing public access to Red Heart Ornaments that display a gift wish from someone in need. As a Secret Santa Business Sponsor, you receive the following benefits:

  • Listing in one Full page ad in The Press Democrat
  • Logo in multiple quarter page ads in The Press Democrat
  • Multiple social media blasts
  • SecretSantanow.org website promotion
  • Delivery & pickup of supplies, hearts, and gifts
  • Window decal for each location


From the Secret Santa team at CVNL, KZST and Friedman’s Home Improvement: we are tremendously grateful to everyone involved. An event of this size would not be possible without our entire community’s support. We extend a heartfelt “thank you” to all of the nonprofits and people of Sonoma County. We are stronger together!

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