Santa Barbara Foundation Unveils New Strategic Priorities

Focus is on the Most Vulnerable Residents and Working Families

Chief Strategy Officer Barbara Andersen, President and CEO Ron Gallo, and Board Chair Diane Adam
Gail Arnold

On October 25 on the expansive hilltop lawn at the Santa Barbara Zoo, the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF) unveiled its 2018-2023 Strategic Priorities to about 275 nonprofit leaders, supporters, and other community members. After an 18-month process of getting input from constituents, poring over data and reports, discussing and debating, the foundation developed these new priorities aimed at maximizing its value to the community.

The priorities flow out of its new mission statement: To mobilize collective wisdom and philanthropic capital to build empathetic, inclusive and resilient communities. The new priorities are maintaining a safety net for our most vulnerable residents and finding solutions to problems of working families.

In support of its focus on safety net measures, SBF cites telling data points for the county: 11.3 percent of adults are uninsured, 44,960 people (10 percent) are food insecure, suicide is the second leading cause of all injury deaths and 90 percent of these involve mental illness, and 1,489 individuals are chronically homeless.

Priorities identified are: Improving the delivery of quality healthcare, addressing food insecurity among our most vulnerable populations, building capacity for mental health services, and strengthening homelessness programs and resources. Next year, the foundation will have a grant cycle devoted to each of these four categories.

As for working families, the foundation recognizes these families as the backbone of our society. It commits to supporting those living paycheck to paycheck who are vulnerable to becoming our most vulnerable residents with just one illness, accident, or change in relationship or employment. SBF sees the best collective future for the entire community linked to having equitable opportunities for working families.

The foundation points out how the average cost of enrolling infants in early care and education centers is $1,171 a month and how service jobs are growing at a more rapid pace than other higher wage earning and more stable professions. It notes further that in California, the bottom 25% of income earners are spending 67% of their income on housing.

Priorities identified are: Increasing affordable and accessible quality child care opportunities, building job skills through effective workforce development, and creating more workforce housing for a growing region.

SBF affirmed its commitment to supporting the nonprofit sector and identified these priorities: Building the capacity of the nonprofit sector to increase its resilience and help deliver results, strengthening alliances and collaborations between business, nonprofit and government organizations, and increasing the awareness and role that funders can play in the ability of the sector to respond to challenges.

The foundation will create a center for nonprofit leadership & excellence, which will offer training on governance and fundraising and aim to give nonprofits a greater voice in the community. SBF will be taking over the first floor of its present Chapala Street building, which will allow space for the center’s activities. A steering group made up of non-profit executives will help shape the center’s vision, mission and goals.

SBF asserted its responsibility to build philanthropic capital. To this end, it has committed to broadening its strategic partnerships with other sectors and increasing investments in the community.

Of course, any shift in priorities means a shift away from some existing areas of funding. In an interview, Chief Strategy Officer Barbara Andersen stated that the most significant impact will be on the LEAF Initiative, which focuses on land conservation, ecosystem health, agricultural viability, and the local food system and includes the Food Action Plan and the Conservation Blueprint, as well as on the Community Caregiving Initiative, and Veterans programs. However, to give organizations transition time, funding will continue through the end of 2020.

This is the foundation’s first formal strategic plan since 2007.

The Zoo was a fitting location for the event as the zoo owes its existence to the foundation, which gifted the land to the city for the creation of a park. This gift lead to the creation of a foundation, which evolved into the S.B. Zoological Foundation.

The Santa Barbara Foundation, now in its 90th year, has more than $500 million in assets. Last year, it awarded $7.8 million in discretionary funds to S.B.-based nonprofits. It awarded another $18.5 million in donor-directed funds to nonprofits, a little more than half of which were based in Santa Barbara.

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