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Scholarship Foundation Continues to Deliver, with $7.35 Million Awarded to 2,200 Students

Despite economy's challenges in the last decade, powerhouse organization rallies back with record-setting grants

At its annual awards ceremony Wednesday, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara awarded a total of $7.35 million to help more than 2,200 local students attend college, vocational school, graduate school and medical school. Board president Alan Griffin, left, announces the awards as former SBCC President Peter MacDougall looks on.

At its annual awards ceremony Wednesday, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara awarded a total of $7.35 million to help more than 2,200 local students attend college, vocational school, graduate school and medical school. Board president Alan Griffin, left, announces the awards as former SBCC President Peter MacDougall looks on.  (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

By Julia Rodgers, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

[Noozhawk’s note: This is the third in series of stories about the history of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The foundation inspires, encourages and supports Santa Barbara County students in their pursuit of college, graduate and vocational school through financial aid advising and scholarships. Since 1962, the Scholarship Foundation has awarded more than $65 million in scholarships. Click here for the first article and click here for the second.]

2000s: Reaching Maturity

At the start of the new millennium, the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara was poised to take advantage of the many new opportunities that would come its way. The hard work of the 1990s paid off: the staff worked like a well-oiled machine in concert with a focused and experienced board.

This maturity, combined with the urgent needs of local students, led foundations and trusts such as the Cavalletto Charities, the Orfalea Foundation and the Burnand-Partridge Foundation to make significant multimillion-dollar commitments to the Scholarship Foundation during this decade. And with the support of loyal donors, the Scholarship Foundation weathered the 2008 recession in fine shape and recovered nicely.

Significant Gift Leads to Medical, Graduate Scholarships

In April 2001, the foundation made an agreement with the trustees of a family trust that was interested in giving a large annual grant for medical and graduate school scholarships. The trust, at that time called the BP Foundation but now called the Burnand-Partridge Foundation, asked the Scholarship Foundation to administer up to $1 million in scholarships for serious and gifted students each year. The addition of significant scholarships for medical and graduate school applicants was an important development for the Scholarship Foundation, allowing it to help students at all post-secondary levels.

Also in 2001, the Scholarship Foundation became the beneficiary of a local corporate event called the South Coast Business & Technology Awards Dinner, which honors businesses and individuals who keep the South Coast economically vibrant. That year, the event netted $100,000. The Scholarship Foundation continues to be the beneficiary of this event, and each year the number of people attending increases as does the amount of sponsorship money pledged; in 2011, the event attracted almost 700 people and grossed $207,000.

“Many guests tell us it is the best business networking event in Santa Barbara,” executive director Colette Hadley reported to the board.

Cavalletto Charities Underwrites Administrative Costs

While these new partnerships were being formed, existing relationships continued to be important to the foundation. Dale and George Cavalletto, who had given the foundation its largest gift in the 1990s for an endowed scholarship fund, became increasingly involved with the students who were awarded their scholarships, hosting a reception each year to honor them.

Valerie Fuette, Dale Cavalletto’s daughter, remembers George pulling out letters he had received from students and reading them aloud at the dinner table to his family.

“The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara was truly his No. 1 charity,” she said. “He really wanted to see the money he earned in his life go to good use.”

George Cavalletto died in June 2000, and Dale died two years later. Their estate plan set up the Cavalletto Charities, which awards at least 50 percent of the trust earnings to the Scholarship Foundation each year. The gift pays for a majority of the administrative costs of the foundation.

“We thought it would make a very strong statement,” said Fuette, who serves as a trustee. “We wanted to step up to the plate and pay for the overhead.”

“At some point, due to our program growth, it would have been very hard to maintain a ‘no-fee’ model for general scholarship donors,” Hadley noted. “Now, our annual operational expenses are significantly underwritten by the Cavalletto Charities. George and Dale’s commitment was and continues to be transformational for the Scholarship Foundation.”

Charity Navigator: Foundation is a ‘Slam Dunk!’

In part because of this gift, Charity Navigator, an independent evaluator of nonprofit organizations throughout the country, named the Scholarship Foundation a “national Top 10 Slam Dunk” charity in 2005 and 2006. For 2011, Charity Navigator awarded the foundation the highest ranking of four stars, which was the eighth time that has happened.

By mid-decade, the Scholarship Foundation was preparing for a big transition: After 16 years as executive director, Billie Maunz was ready to move on.

On Jan. 1, 2007, Hadley assumed the role of executive director, bringing a new emphasis on outreach and financial aid advising to the foundation’s work. This increase was in part because of Hadley’s personal passion for outreach. It also reflected the results of the foundation’s strategic planning process and a partnership with the Orfalea Foundation, which was willing to fund support programs to reach more underserved student populations. The Scholarship Foundation hired a bilingual outreach manager to supervise and grow the program.

“What we love about the Scholarship Foundation is its ability to partner with the community to give the student and the family the support they need to be successful,” said Natalie Orfalea, co-founder of the Orfalea Foundation, which also funds a generous number of scholarships.

By the spring of 2008, the outreach activities were clearly working: 2,500 students applied for scholarships, a significant increase from a year earlier. Fifty-two percent of those applying were first-generation college students. Fundraising was going well also: the Scholarship Foundation gave away $1 million more in awards than the year before, for a total of $6.2 million, almost double the amount given away just a few years earlier.

Market Crash Hits, Foundation Stays Solid

Disruption was just around the corner, however. When the worldwide recession and stock market crash hit in the fall of 2008, the foundation’s investment portfolio lost significant value. At the January 2009 board meeting, then-board president Joe Cole delivered the bad news that most of the endowed scholarship funds would not be able to make awards that spring. But, he reassured the board, “the operations of the foundation are not at risk.” Donors stepped up, and the response to the foundation’s year-end fundraising appeal was as strong as the year before.

“Nobody panicked,” Cole recalled.

However, board members did feel deep sadness because they knew that the investment portfolio’s slide meant a lot of students would not be receiving scholarships that year. In all, more than 900 qualified students were denied awards, double the number from the year before. The year 2009 was the only time in the decade of the 2000s that the total award amount decreased.

Soon after, the Scholarship Foundation rebounded robustly. By the spring of 2010, a record 34 new scholarship funds were established, and the investment portfolio was starting to recover. The total amount of scholarship grants hit an all-time high of $6.3 million.

Click here for more information on the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, or call 805.687.6065. Click here to make an online donation. Connect with the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara on Facebook.

— Julia Rodgers is a Noozhawk contributing writer. Contact her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).




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