Emerging Leaders alumni, from left, Jefferson Litten of the Community Environmental Council, Liz Hahn of Just Communities and Kimberly Coley of the American Red Cross, work with Leading From Within program director Christa Roth to brainstorm intended results of the alumni network. (Leading From Within photo)

There’s a powerful network of promising community leaders developing in Santa Barbara, thanks to a recent grant from the Ann Jackson Family Foundation.

With these funds, the Emerging Leaders Alumni Network (the 50 alumni of Leading From Within’s Emerging Leaders program) is now able to sustain a program that provides them with ongoing continuing education and opportunities to connect, network and collaborate for the benefit of Santa Barbara County.

“The Ann Jackson Family Foundation was attracted to Leading From Within because we are always seeking opportunities that leverage our investments,” explained Palmer G. Jackson Jr., board secretary and trustee of the foundation named for his grandmother.

“We like to support an organization that helps other organizations in a significant way, and this is clearly the goal of the Emerging Leaders program.”

Ken Saxon, board chairman and founder of Leading From Within, agreed.

“This gift will take our program to the next level,” he said. “Our goal at Leading From Within is to continually cultivate a growing and dynamic community of social-sector leaders in Santa Barbara County who know each other, support each other, collaborate with each other and innovate together in a way that ultimately benefits the county and everyone who lives here.”

The Emerging Leaders program selects 18 participants from a pool of applicants each year and puts them through a rigorous ten-month professional development program. Founded in 2013, the program now has 50 Emerging Leaders graduates who represent more than 40 different organizations serving Santa Barbara County.

Kimberly Coley, regional development director at the American Red Cross, is a graduate of the first cohort class, and now chairs its Alumni Leadership Council.

“This one gift affects so many,” she said. “This significant investment from the Ann Jackson Family Foundation validates the capacity we see in these alumni networks and the importance of cultivating this alliance of social-sector leaders to share ideas, which will ultimately benefit Santa Barbara County overall.”

The $45,000 grant will be invested over three years, allowing the Emerging Leaders Alumni Council to offer continuing education as well as structured networking and social opportunities to its alumni members.

Coley says the grant will be used to fund speakers, venues, hospitality and a part-time administrator to coordinate outreach efforts.

The Ann Jackson Family Foundation recognizes the importance of creating and cultivating great leaders. At its helm are five of Santa Barbara’s most steadfast community leaders: Palmer G. Jackson, James H. Jackson, Charles A. Jackson, William L. Jackson and Palmer G. Jackson Jr.

Collectively, the Jackson family has committed decades of service to community institutions, including Cottage Health, Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Foundation, Direct ReliefBraille Institute, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, The Granada Theatre, Lobero Theatre and many independent schools.

Palmer Jackson Jr. says volunteering is a point of pride in his family.

“We don’t just write checks,” he said. “We are all also directly involved with board service and fundraising.” 

For the Jacksons, service is a family tradition, yet many nonprofit staff and volunteer leaders come to their work with limited experience.  Leading From Within is changing this model.

“Our vision at Leading From Within is to build a growing core of social sector leaders locally who are prepared, renewed, connected and collaborating,” Saxon said. “The Jackson Family Foundation grant fuels this vision, by investing in these emerging leaders who represent the future of our county.”

Kimberly Coley, Emerging Leaders alumni chairwoman and regional development director at the American Red Cross, shares “Why You Do What You Do” as part of an exercise of the Emerging Leaders program run by Leading From Within.

Kimberly Coley, Emerging Leaders alumni chairwoman and regional development director at the American Red Cross, shares “Why You Do What You Do” as part of an exercise of the Emerging Leaders program run by Leading From Within. (Leading From Within photo)

Jackson pointed to the need for such progams in the community. 

“Leading From Within is filling a needs gap — building and connecting leaders — in our nonprofit community,” said Jackson, who also credits the Santa Barbara Foundation for its program of sending select executives to the Stanford Nonprofit Management Institute.

The Santa Barbara Foundation has also partnered with Leading From Within (and its Courage to Lead, Emerging Leaders and Katherine Harvey Fellows programs) since the organization’s inception in 2008, recognizing the value of investing in the people who are serving our community.

“Think 10 to 20 years down the road, and all the benefits that we as a community will reap by having our top leaders know, trust and collaborate well with each other,” Saxon said.

Click here for more information about Leading From Within and its leadership development programs. Click here for more information about the Ann Jackson Family Foundation.

— Ann Pieramici is an established public relations consultant and freelance writer. She currently handles public relations efforts for a number of Santa Barbara-area nonprofit organizations. The opinions expressed are her own.