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For Elena Richardson, Partnership for Excellence ‘Demystified’ the Philanthropic Landscape

“Demystifying.” That’s how Elena Richardson, grants program manager at The Fund for Santa Barbara, describes her first experience of the Partnership for Excellence.

Elena Richardson
Elena Richardson

Having begun her position at The Fund in July 2012, Richardson notes that attending the conference for the first time in 2013 helped in her work connecting funders with grantees.

The conference provided an “overview of the philanthropic landscape,” she said. “I met potential partners, put faces with names I had heard of and found out about new funding opportunities.”

No stranger to grassroots and political organizing in the Santa Barbara region, after graduating from UCSB with a bachelor of arts degree in political science and Arabic, Richardson worked on several state and local election campaigns and in the Office of the Mayor and City Council for the City of Santa Barbara. Currently, the native of both Bakersfield and Karachi, Pakistan, is participating in the Emerging Leaders Program conducted by Leading From Within and sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation.

At PFE, Richardson saw an opportunity to connect with existing contacts and make new connections, too.

“It helped to demystify the philanthropic cast of characters,” she said.

She especially appreciated the intimate, casual atmosphere of the afternoon workshops. Plus, having attended the conference with other staff and board members, she was able to compare notes and share information gleaned at the event.

This year’s conference, "Co-Creating Our Future: Impacts and Evaluations that Matter," will focus on a subject of particular interest to Richardson — evaluation. She recently completed a master's degree in public health at Boston University and worked with the Harvard School of Public Health and Management Sciences for Health on monitoring and evaluation projects in Egypt, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zambia.

In the context of creating social change in Santa Barbara, evaluation can be a challenge, Richardson notes.

At The Fund for Santa Barbara, “we ask our grantees to define how they will measure their own success; we don’t subscribe specific indicators,” she said. “Because of the grassroots nature of some of our grantees, it can be helpful to provide ideas for the types of outcomes they can measure.”

She hopes that this year’s conference will help The Fund’s grassroots grantees “think through things they can measure,” especially for organizations that are grappling with evaluation for the first time.

The 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.

“Definitely go,” Richardson said. “Talk to as many people as you can. Bring business cards. Research who will be there and find them.” One last piece of advice: “Be ready to succinctly describe your organization’s needs for funding.”

Click here to register for the conference or for more information.

— Lynn Carlisle is a member of the Partnership for Excellence Steering Committee.

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