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Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara Awards $93,000 to CEC, Art From Scrap

The nonprofit collaborative focuses this year's grants on clean energy and environmental community intiatives

Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara presented checks totaling $93,000 on Wednesday at the Santa Barbara Foundation to help fund Community Environmental Council and Art From Scrap initiatives.

The partners leveraged matching grants from the Gildea Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation to support environmental issues. SVPSB is a grant-making organization of venture philanthropists who donate their time, partnerships and expertise to multiyear partnerships.

“They make sure that nonprofits that are doing great work can build their capacity not just by receiving funds but also receiving expertise,” said Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “It also brought together those partners and donors into a group that is social in itself, and I think that builds a branch of philanthropy it has invented.”

Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara has focused its 2011 giving cycle on clean energy and the environment.

“Augmenting and expanding the reach of our two new investees — one with deep roots in the education of our kids about their role in the environment, and the other a clear leader in driving public policy on the local, state and national level — will have a positive impact on our community for years to come,” Gerry Flake,chairman of SVPSB’s investment committee, said in a statement.

SVPSB provided checks to the CEC for $56,200 and Art From Scrap for $36,800.

The grant will continue the CEC’s mission to steer the Santa Barbara region off fossil fuels. It will fund a study on commercial businesses’ use of solar energy and the development of a business plan and policy recommendations for countywide adoption.

Although Santa Barbara is known for its environmental awareness, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties have twice to three times the amount of solar penetration in the commercial sector, according to CEC Executive Director Dave Davis.

“What we’re looking at right now is a market transformation in the commercial solar market, but as much as we are green in Santa Barbara, it is not moving in this market,” he said. “Neighbors in San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties are doubling and tripling the market penetration for solar activities. Our goals are to understand that market and those barriers and define the role for CEC in terms of transforming that market.”

Davis said the benefits of solar energy to renters are clear, but that landlords haven’t figured out how they could benefit.

“There’s some structural issues that might be there, but there are ways to deal with that,” he said. “You would think the big owners like Towbes and SIMA would have figured out the benefits and what they could gain in lease payments.”

Art From Scrap teaches children about environmental protection through programs such as the Watershed Resource Center at Arroyo Burro Beach and the Creek Kids Series of water quality lessons. The organization serves 14,000 children by teaching them about environmental impacts and consequences.

“Our motto is everything is connected, everything ends up somewhere and we all have choices,” Art From Scrap board President Don French said. “We want to educate kids on choices they can make, and hopefully they can bring it home and institute it. There’s a new generation every year who needs to understand these messages.”

It will use the funds collected by SVPSB to support its ReUse store as well as reduce, reuse and recycle compost and gardening programs.

Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara has gone from four founding members to a network of 68 partners in three years. Flake said the model differentiates itself because its democratic and a metrics-driven project.

“We don’t call them grants, we call them investments because you have to take us with you through project,” he said. “It’s a metrics-driven project, you have to have a business plan and the investment for next year is not guaranteed. People who joined just didn’t want to write a check; we want to make a contribution.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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