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Good for Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Nonprofits Use Variety of Techniques and Sources for Fundraising

Though digital age presents new avenues for fundraising, human element still plays crucial role for local nonprofits and foundations

Geoff Green, CEO of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, believes human-to-human interaction is still the best way to connect donors to nonprofits. “If I’m asking someone to give, in this case, to Santa Barbara City College, what I’m doing is I’m giving them an opportunity to do something they already want to do,” he says. “It’s service of something they deeply care about, and all I’m doing is providing the opportunity and the message and the mechanism so that they can do it.” Click to view larger
Geoff Green, CEO of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, believes human-to-human interaction is still the best way to connect donors to nonprofits. “If I’m asking someone to give, in this case, to Santa Barbara City College, what I’m doing is I’m giving them an opportunity to do something they already want to do,” he says. “It’s service of something they deeply care about, and all I’m doing is providing the opportunity and the message and the mechanism so that they can do it.” (J.C. Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The size and influence of Santa Barbara’s nonprofit sector makes it easy to take those organizations’ work and services for granted.

It is the generosity of individuals, businesses, foundations and organizations that finance the work and passion of the region’s many nonprofits.

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For most nonprofits, persistent fundraising is critical.

“It’s all dependent on fundraising; you have to find a way to generate the resources needed to do whatever it is you’re doing,” Geoff Green, chief executive officer at the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, told Noozhawk.

“Fundraising is sort of the means to an end. It’s not an end in itself.”

Santa Barbara County nonprofits take in more than $3 million annually per 1,000 residents, according to a 2014 report by the California Association of Nonprofits. It is one of the highest donation rates in California.

Ben Romo, executive director of First 5 Santa Barbara County, notes that nonprofits must walk a fine line between services and the people who make them work. “If you don’t invest enough in your people, then the basic core infrastructure of your organization and the strength and value of your programs are going to be compromised,” he says. Click to view larger
Ben Romo, executive director of First 5 Santa Barbara County, notes that nonprofits must walk a fine line between services and the people who make them work. “If you don’t invest enough in your people, then the basic core infrastructure of your organization and the strength and value of your programs are going to be compromised,” he says. (First 5 Santa Barbara County photo)

Nonprofits in the Central Coast region, which stretches from Carpinteria to Santa Cruz, generate $4.3 billion in revenue each year, the report found. Current local figures are difficult to find and calculate because of the sector’s diversity.

Fundraising tends to conjure up images of bake sales or gala events that provide nonprofits with needed exposure and the opportunity to build relationships. But, they’re not the most cost-effective way to raise money because of all prep work, Green noted.

Raising money takes different forms, from donations to endowments to sales for the nonprofit’s normal activities, like a museum’s entrance fee.

The Internet has provided new avenues for raising money, with crowdfunding platforms one of the most popular. These easily accessible online campaigns are an opportunity for nonprofits to reach more people without pressuring them for large contributions or committing as many valuable staff hours.

Cash isn’t the only contribution nonprofits receive. Nonmonetary assets, like property that can be a nonprofit’s base of operations, are often the most important contributions, Green said.

“We want to stretch money but need to invest in people to make it work,” said Ben Romo, executive director of First 5 Santa Barbara County, which distributes state sales tax revenue from tobacco products to early childhood development programs.

“You want as much as possible to go into services, into the change that you’re investing in,” he told Noozhawk.

“But there’s a tipping point where, if you don’t invest enough in your people, then the basic core infrastructure of your organization and the strength and value of your programs are going to be compromised.”

That problem is compounded, Romo said, when money is spread between too many nonprofits, many that do the same or similar work. This means less money and fewer resources for more effective nonprofits, he said.

Tom Parker, president of the Hutton Parker Foundation, says foundations donate, collectively, about $150 million per year in Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Tom Parker, president of the Hutton Parker Foundation, says foundations donate, collectively, about $150 million per year in Santa Barbara. (J.C. Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Donors’ personal passions, struggles and experiences can influence where they direct their financial gifts, said Tom Parker, president of the Hutton Parker Foundation.

An important vehicle for fundraising is the community foundation, which pools and distributes donated money and offers several ways of getting the money from donors to nonprofits. This may include advised funds, for example, that are similar to a checking account allowing donors to set aside money for distribution.

Foundations “donate collectively, probably, about $150 million a year in Santa Barbara — at least,” Parker told Noozhawk.

Like nonprofits, foundations request donations, too. Asking for money requires a certain personality comfortable with the often-delicate task, says Jan Campbell, chief philanthropic officer and senior vice president at the Santa Barbara Foundation.

The key to soliciting donations, she told Noozhawk, is building trust between the parties on either side of the phone and then interest in the organization or cause.

That human-to-human interaction continues to play an important role in connecting donors to nonprofits.

“I really believe that if I’m asking someone to give, in this case, to Santa Barbara City College, what I’m doing is that I’m giving them an opportunity to do something they already want to do,” Green said.

“It’s service of something they deeply care about, and all I’m doing is providing the opportunity and the message and the mechanism so that they can do it.”

Because of the increasingly vital services nonprofits provide, sustainability is becoming an important component of nonprofits’ operational models, Parker said.

“More and more nonprofits are looking at ways to have social impact, but still be able to get a revenue stream from that social impact, so that they can do more than just hand out (money) every year and hope that people donate,” he said.

“So that’s where the sector’s going.”

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Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Jan Campbell, the Santa Barbara Foundation’s chief philanthropic officer and senior vice president, says the key to soliciting donations is building trust between the parties on either side of the phone and then interest in the organization or cause. Click to view larger
Jan Campbell, the Santa Barbara Foundation’s chief philanthropic officer and senior vice president, says the key to soliciting donations is building trust between the parties on either side of the phone and then interest in the organization or cause. (J.C. Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

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