Upon receiving The Giving List this past week from an area publication, my initial intrigue rapidly turned to utter disenchantment. Sent to 60,000 residences in the Santa Barbara area, The Giving List was published “to make it easier for you to navigate the dizzying array of worthwhile causes and nonprofit organizations here in Santa Barbara County.” Unfortunately, to be included in The Giving List nonprofits were required to pay a fee of $5,000.

On the surface, The Giving List is rooted in benevolence and most of the nonprofits included are absolutely worthy of gifts and donations. I immediately noticed, though, that quite a number of nonprofits that do incredible work, emotionally difficult work, trauma- and poverty-reducing work in our area are absent from The Giving List. A quick text exchange with a leader of one such organization exposed the expensive reality of inclusion in the publication.

The Giving List claims that the organizations included “were leading in recovery as we endure the long tail of the pandemic and racial justice awakening sparked by the murder of George Floyd.” The price paid to be included renders that statement completely disingenuous. The reality is that many of the most responsive and worthy nonprofits in our area could not justify paying the $5,000 fee when that sum could feed families, help build a resilient community, and provide resources to the most vulnerable and at-risk members of our community.

I encourage everyone to make a gift, regardless of how big or small, to a local nonprofit as the calendar year comes to a close. To so many nonprofits, every dollar matters. I also encourage potential donors to look beyond The Giving List, to find the nonprofits unwilling to part with $5,000 at a time of year, and a time in history, when their programming can affect real and powerful change for our community.

Superficially, the premise of The Giving List is reasonable. Scratch beneath the shiny surface, though, and the reality of requiring $5,000 as the price inclusion is duplicitous, and anything but inclusive. Our local nonprofits, and our Santa Barbara community, deserve better.


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