Now in its 21st year, the Partnership for Excellence conference has become an important one-day event attended by nonprofit organizations throughout Santa Barbara County.
Started by the Foundation Roundtable, which takes its roots from the Santa Barbara Foundation and its then-president and CEO Chuck Slosser, PFE’s purpose then, as now, is to get foundations and nonprofit leaders together so that each can get a better understanding of the other, learning about each other’s passions, missions and funding interests.
“It is unusual in any place to have a conference that is a total cross section of the nonprofit community that at the same time also includes the funder community,” said Ron Gallo, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “You might say it is a reflection of the roundtable itself — an opportunity to have some fun, to get to know one another, an occasion to share food, and also to engage in a topic important to the wide cross section of people working in the field.”
For those who are new to the community, PFE is an opportunity to have broad exposure to the social sector.
“For me, the day has intrinsic value,” Gallo said. “If you want to be a learning organization, then I would suggest putting this conference on your agenda for the year. It is not going to be all things to all people, and will not substitute for doing other types of research or reaching out, but for a one-day event, it is very valuable to anyone who is new, or who is doing a lot on their own.”
This year’s conference, "Co-Creating Our Future: Impacts and Evaluations that Matter," will address the ever-changing demographics reshaping the landscape of our communities. Keynote speaker Manuel Pastor, Ph.D., will discuss ways that demographic change can require a reorientation in nonprofit leadership, program design and evaluation. As an expert in demographic and social change, economic inequity and community empowerment, he will discuss metrics that matter for building, scaling and funding social movements.
“Evaluation and how we assess the work we do has been a debate and struggle for as long as I have been in the social sector,” Gallo said. “I am looking forward to an interesting exposure to the various competing approaches.
“If one is happy with their philanthropy helping a few lives at a time or making a difference in individual lives and families, I totally respect that. For some, that feeling in the gut is enough, knowing that you are doing a good thing for someone. Having said that, if the goal is to do more than that, I would be hesitant to back away from data. Stories are a wonderful way to embellish data and to make a human connection, but I think we need to be more disciplined about results. I feel the most condescending thing you can do to a poor person, a person on the margins, a person who has not had opportunity, is to give them mediocrity. The ultimate respect you can give to someone in this situation is to give them the best quality and to make sure the program you are investing in or running really works.”
The Santa Barbara social sector is very special because of its members’ intensity and passion for the missions being fulfilled. There are many philanthropic individuals who grew up here, which is then amplified by the people who have come here in the different stages of their lives and who have already been involved in philanthropy as an important piece of who they are. Throughout the county, one’s social life and one’s commitment to involvement in the social sector are almost a one-to-one correlation. Philanthropy is reflected everywhere.
“I do not think any one-day conference can move the needle on the work we are doing, but does Partnership for Excellence, contribute? Absolutely!” Gallo said. “The fact that the planning for the day comes from an eclectic group of people working in different parts of the social sector — funders, grassroots groups, larger organizations, consultants — is how it should be.”
Partnership for Excellence is a full-day conference with funders and nonprofit leaders from the Santa Barbara County philanthropic sector. Registration is now available for the Thursday, April 17 event taking place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fess Parker's DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara.
“For anyone, whether you have been here for a week or living in the community for a quarter of a century, if you are interested in what the pulse, the mood, the themes of the social sector are, you cannot get a better snapshot than coming to PFE,” Gallo said.
To register for the conference or for more information, please click here.
— Jessica Tade is the director of communications and marketing for the Santa Barbara Foundation.