Better To Give

Dedicated community member makes charity a fun way of life

By Jessica Laskey
January 2024

“If there’s any legacy I’d like to leave in my nonprofit life, it would be that I showed up, I did the work and made it as fun as possible,” John Frisch says. “I always tried to bring positive energy and humor to these organizations so it wouldn’t seem like work. People are working hard enough. Making it fun is the key.”

Frisch speaks from experience. He’s been a member of The Salvation Army Advisory Board for 27 years. He served as past chair and oversaw the organization’s successful $7.4 million capital campaign.

He’s brought his fundraising prowess to the Rotary Club of Sacramento, Sutter Hospitals Foundation, Active 20-30 Club of Sacramento, Fairytale Town, United Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Los Rios Community College Foundation and veterans foundation Battlefields 2 Ballfields.

“The very best part of all these activities is being able to help people and spend time around people who are like-minded and want to help the community and give back,” Frisch says. “Some people find (camaraderie) at the golf club or the office, but I found it in community service groups.”

Though Frisch’s generosity is legendary, it wasn’t automatic. Growing up in Clovis, his family didn’t have the means to donate anywhere other than church. His serious volunteer work began when he was newly married.

“Volunteering and giving money are learned behaviors,” he says. “I don’t think anybody’s born wanting to give money away and spend a lot of time with nonprofits. It’s learned ideally through people you admire and aspire to be like.

“My former father-in-law, Bill Baird, is the one that got me involved in volunteer groups when my first wife and I moved back to Sacramento in 1978. He was a wonderful man and certainly my first role model in community service. He pushed me in this direction, and it took.”

Thanks to Frisch’s career in sales, he’s comfortable asking for money. He’s won numerous accolades for nonprofit service, including the first Trainor Fairbrook Humanitarian of the Year award in 1995 (he also received the award in 1996, 2002, 2007 and 2015), The Salvation Army’s 2007 Humanitarian Award, Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Volunteer of the Year in 2005 and Sacramentan of the Year in 2013.

He doesn’t volunteer for any praise. He enjoys the time he spends on nonprofit boards.

“A huge part of volunteer enjoyment is surrounding yourself with people you really enjoy spending time with,” the Arden Park resident says. “Every board I’m part of fits that description. I look forward to meetings because they’re my friends.”

He gets no argument from fellow board members.

“He is larger than life and one of a kind,” says Jim Eldridge, The Salvation Army Sacramento Advisory Board chair. “His laughter and love for life are contagious.”

Frisch’s knowledge and passion also inspire.

“When John helped recruit me onto The Salvation Army board two years ago, he was the one board member who could best articulate what the organization was about and how a community board member could add value,” says Cecily Hastings, Inside Sacramento publisher. “He always set a very high bar to the board of what was needed to best help the organization address our city’s most serious issues.”

Though Frisch is retiring from The Salvation Army board and winding down his sales career to spend more time traveling in his motorhome, he plans to remain a volunteer and donor.

“John and The Salvation Army were made for each other,” Eldridge says. “The Salvation Army is known for ‘Doing the most good.’ And no one does more good than John.”

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Jessica Laskey can be reached at Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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