Society Matters | Women’s Fund Awards $900,000 to 11 Nonprofits

1,100+ Members Contributed to Grant Pool

Secretary Melissa Gough, Chair Lynn Karlson and Vice Chair Jamie Dufek | Credit: Emily Hart-Roberts

On May 4, the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara awarded a whopping $900,000 to 11 local nonprofits, which brought the total awarded since its 2004 inception to $9.5 million. As always, the grants were aimed at the critical needs of women, children, and families in south Santa Barbara County. The annual Presentation of Grants event, held this year at the S.B. Historical Museum, drew about 400 of its members for a lovely outdoor reception and presentation.

In welcoming guests, Board Chair Lynn Karlson remarked that “All of you, and about 750 other women, made today possible. You contributed to our $900,000 grants pool. You read, listened, discussed, and voted on how we could best use those funds to address critical needs, and now we get to change lives together.” Research Committee Co-Chair Michele Neely Saltoun explained how grants this year go to the expansion of seven programs, which all have proven track records, and to four capital projects. 

The Women’s Fund pools the donations of its members — at last count, there were 1,163 of them — to make grants, typically in the $50,000-$100,000 range. Known for the rigorousness of its work, the Research Committee labors nearly year-round to produce a ballot of options on which members vote.

This year’s grants focused on homelessness, education, healthcare, and food insecurity. At the event, grant recipient leaders shared how the funds will impact those they serve, many in heartfelt, poignant ways.

Each fall, Women’s Fund members have the opportunity to hear presentations from grant recipients about the impact of their grants (this year again by Zoom). In the following months, there are small group site visits for members to see firsthand the work of the organization and the impact of their grants. 

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The Women’s Fund holds educational forums with community leaders and subject matter experts, which educate members and their guests on community issues. In the past year, there were forums on youth mental health, the Promotores Network, homelessness and transition to housing, and early childcare, which because of COVID were virtual and open to the public. The Women’s Fund produces videos on subjects of interest, which members and the public can view anytime through its website. Webinars with Research Committee members about the ballot, including a Q&A segment, educate members about ballot options.

The volunteer-led Women’s Fund keeps expenses low — 92 percent of all funds raised go to grants and education programs. Members choose their level of involvement: Some simply write checks and complete their ballot on their own or with their group, many avail themselves of the educational opportunities, and nearly 200 members volunteer in some capacity. Membership is open to any woman at the individual level ($2,750 or more) or group level ($2,750 or more collectively from a group of any size).

2022 grant recipients: Channel Islands YMCA, $75,000, for a drop-in center for homeless youth; DignityMoves $75,000, for a case management office for transitional housing residents; Foodbank of S.B. County, $55,000 for home delivery to the elderly; Freedom 4 Youth, $100,000, for staffing for Fem-powerment program; Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, $100,000, for a licensed therapist for girls and parents; People’s Self-Help Housing, $40,000, for advisors and tutors in the College Club Program; Sanctuary Centers of S.B., $100,000, for bilingual therapists serving youth; S.B. Education Foundation, $100,000, for an outdoor learning environment at Harding Elementary School; S.B. Neighborhood Clinics, $100,000, for a Mobile Dental Clinic; S.B. Alliance for Community Transformation, $100,000, for Neighborhood Navigation Centers; and Storyteller Children’s Center, $55,000, for a family advocate and parent support groups.

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Research Committee Members Suzi Schomer, Co-Chair Marita Hawryluk, Susan Washing, Carolyn Jabs, Sabina White, Robin Masson, Co-Chair Michele Neely Saltoun, Holly Cook, Annette Holdman, and Mikki Andina | Credit: Emily Hart-Roberts
Grant recipients: SBACT Executive Director Rich Sander, Sanctuary Centers of SB President/CEO Barry Schoer, People’s Self Help Housing Regional Coordinator Miryam Moctezuma, Dignity Moves Exec Chair of the Board Elizabeth Funk, Girls Inc. of Carpinteria Executive Director Jamie Collins; Harding University Partnership (elementary) School Principal Veronica Brinkley (for SB Education Foundation grant), Foodbank of SB County CEO Erik Talkin, Storyteller Children’s Center Executive Director Susan Cass, Channel Islands YMCA Executive Director Mac Hahn, SB Neighborhood Clinics COO/CFO Nancy Tillie, Freedom 4 Youth Executive Director Billi Jo Starr | Credit: Emily Hart-Roberts
Group Captains | Credit: Emily Hart-Roberts


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