The Santa Barbara Foundation awarded over 1,700 grants to area nonprofit organizations last year, addressing the needs and concerns of area residents and communities.

“We have to recognize that although Santa Barbara County is paradise for many of us, we also have poor, uneducated, and rurally isolated community members who need our help,” said Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Martha Harmon, senior vice president of Community Investments, explained how, as a responsive grants program, the Santa Barbara Foundation “looks at the big picture in order to make a better decision of where funds should go.”

After receiving an overwhelming number of grant applications and proposals each year, the Santa Barbara Foundation sits down with its Board of Trustees and various committees and asks about the needs of the community. This past year, nonprofit organizations that addressed health and human services issues in Santa Barbara received the largest share of grants with 41 percent, while those involved in youth development and education received the second highest with 30 percent.

According to Gallo, many grant proposals are not approved because they lack “internal validity” as a strong program. With increasing interest in measuring how effective a program is in providing services for the community, the Santa Barbara Foundation is commissioning more research and yearly reports on nonprofit organizations that receive funding.

“We have transformed as a foundation from ‘let’s just do good’ to ‘let’s do what’s most effective,’” said Gallo. “And we are on the front end of developing how to make those decisions.”

Gallo said the Santa Barbara Foundation also invested over $250,000 in training and development programs for nonprofit and community leaders, encouraging the sector’s growth. “This county’s nonprofit sector is innovative, creative, and an inspiration to us all,” added Gallo, “and it continues to do great work.”

Since 1928, the Santa Barbara Foundation has sought to address challenges arising from a growing socio-economic disparity. “At a time of continuing economic downturn and dwindling public resources, our support across key issue areas has perhaps never been more important,” stated Gallo.

During a “robust year of giving and involvement,” Gallo said that collaboration and creative partnership between nonprofit organizations was the key for philanthropy within Santa Barbara. Gallo also stated that an increase in funding for the Santa Barbara Foundation through donations attests to its reputation as a “good investment and partner in philanthropy.”

“We work hard on being a great steward of financial assets,” said Gallo. “And we’re very privileged to be living in such a generous community with an excellent nonprofit sector.”


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