The nonprofit sector makes up a significant portion of our economy – statewide, nonprofits generate 15 percent of California’s GDP, and represent 1 in every 14 jobs.

Prior to the pandemic, Santa Barbara County was home to nearly 2,000 nonprofits employing over 20,000 individuals, with the second highest nonprofit revenue per capita, per the 2019 Causes Count Report.

Despite being a philanthropic powerhouse in terms of total nonprofits and charitable giving, Santa Barbara County’s nonprofit community has historically lacked the support necessary to ensure the well-being and professional development of the staff who make up the backbone of the sector. In other words, our nonprofit workforce is largely overworked and undercompensated, and the sector as a whole has suffered because of it.

On top of this, the nonprofit world brings daily challenges that have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges include developing effective leaders, collaborating efficiently with other stakeholders, and raising enough funds to operate – all while providing ongoing services to communities with increasing needs.

Supporting Our Social Sector

At the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF), we believe that the key to strengthening our extensive social sector is to provide nonprofit leaders and their organizations with the knowledge, skills, and resources to fulfill their mission. In addition to being a funder, the Foundation is committed to delivering a variety of capacity building resources as another value-add to our community. By building a healthier social sector, we can improve the social outcomes for our county.

To increase our commitment to the social sector, SBF created the Collaboration for Social Impact (CSI). The CSI focuses on strengthening all Santa Barbara County nonprofits by supporting capacity building in the areas of leadership development, technical assistance, financial management, technology, and cross-organizational collaboration, as well as personnel health and wellness.

“I view capacity building as not only equipping nonprofits with the tools they need to succeed, but also helping the social sector weave a stronger and more resilient infrastructure that supports the greater social safety net,” explained Gary Clark, the Foundation’s Director of the CSI. “With the Collaboration for Social Impact, SBF is able to support nonprofits by promoting best practices and collaboration when there are opportunities to generate a greater impact within the communities we all serve.”

The CSI also draws on the expertise of the CSI Advisory Committee, a diverse and experienced group of Santa Barbara County executive leaders who have long worked on the front lines of nonprofits. The current CSI Advisory Committee includes:

• Sylvia Barnard, executive director of Good Samaritan Shelter

• Lynn Carlisle, executive director of the Cuyama Family Resource Center

• Eder Gaona-Macedo, executive director of Future Leaders of America

• Victoria Juarez, former president and CEO of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara

• Patricia Keelean, CEO of the CommunifySB (formerly the Community Action Commission)

• Dean Palius, former CEO of Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People

• Ernesto Paredes, executive director of Easy Lift and Santa Barbara Foundation Trustee

• Steven Sharpe, executive director of Food From The Heart

• Sigrid Wright, president and CEO of the Community Environmental Council

“For those of us on the Advisory Committee, I feel it is our responsibility to teach and share what we have learned to the next generation of executive directors and nonprofit leaders, so they can understand our successes and failures,” said Ernesto Paredes, a CSI Advisory Committee member with over 30 years of social sector leadership experience.

Nonprofit Programs & Resources

The CSI team manages one of the Santa Barbara Foundation’s key grant programs, the Small Capacity Building Grant (SCBG) Program, which offers targeted, timely grants aimed at strengthening the organizational capacity and programmatic effectiveness of local nonprofits. In 2020, the Foundation awarded more than $300,000 in SCBG funding to 67 organizations. About half of these grants were awarded to support nonprofits with their capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the CSI supports the nonprofit sector by providing a broad inventory of COVID-19 Santa Barbara County Nonprofit Resources, promoting public and private sector advocacy, and facilitating webinars and trainings on topics such as business continuity planning, board governance, financial literacy and adaptive leadership. The CSI partners with organizations like Leading from Within, The Fund for Santa Barbara, and Cal Lutheran University’s Center for Nonprofit Leadership to bring high quality programs and services to the nonprofit community, as well as Santa Barbara County's nonprofit digital hub, the Nonprofit Resource Network (NPRN), to ensure the sector can share and receive important, up-to-date information related to events, resources, jobs, and more.

“In addition to grant dollars, every nonprofit organization needs a strong governing structure, they usually need a roof over their head, and meeting space, and technology,” Clark said. “Sometimes they need leadership development or strategic planning assistance – the list goes on and on – and the Collaboration for Social Impact is here to help individual organizations and the sector as a whole evolve and become stronger in all those areas.”