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Good for Santa Barbara

Government a Partner in Helping Santa Barbara County Nonprofits Meet Community Needs

Grants are a key part of the funding puzzle for local nonprofit organizations and foundations

Santa Barbara City Mayor, Helene Schneider takes an early morning look at the future site of the city park at Veronica Meadows, located adjacent to Las Positas Road. The land was purchased through a partnership between the city and nonprofit organizations. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara City Mayor, Helene Schneider takes an early morning look at the future site of the city park at Veronica Meadows, located adjacent to Las Positas Road. The land was purchased through a partnership between the city and nonprofit organizations. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

It is no secret that the beauty of the Santa Barbara community can, in large part, be credited to its lush nonprofit culture, which supports the community’s growth in an ever-expanding number of ways. Yet, nonprofits certainly can't do it without the support of the communities they serve.

The giving structure that local nonprofits rely on is highly competitive and riddled with opportunity, utilizing everything from private funding to community fundraisers. When it comes to government funding opportunities, it is no different.

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“Santa Barbara County has a wealth of nonprofits, so we are very fortunate in that regard,” said Janet Wolf, Santa Barbara County’s Second District supervisor. “They cover so many facets of what we as a community feel are important.”

Wolf outlined the diverse ways in which the county works to support local nonprofits with funding programs through the Human Services Commission, federal grants and the Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund, among others.

“The county has a couple of areas where we do support nonprofits, but the nonprofits support our mission as well,” Wolf said. “I think that’s really important to know … . We have so many areas of need in our community that for the county to do everything, we look to our partners to help us — it’s definitely a partnership.”

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider echoed the sentiments of Wolf, noting that “the city, unlike the county, (doesn’t) have a public health department, social services department or mental health (department), so when it comes to the social safety net, we look to our nonprofit partners to work with us on complex issues related to poverty, to homelessness, to hunger and to education, youth activities and gang prevention, for example.”

The County Executive Office said in a news release issued in May that the county's Human Services Commission has made providing services to “seniors, children, victims of abuse, transit programs and services for non-English-speaking populations” its top priority, and has used its most recent funding cycle for 2016-17 to reflect that.

With a little more than $1 million in grant recommendations approved for critical service providers such as PATH Santa Barbara, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and Domestic Violence Solutions, the Board of Supervisors is playing its part in ensuring that basic needs and services are being provided to individuals and families throughout Santa Barbara County.

“Our county (Human Services) Commission does an extensive job in research and analysis on different organizations that we want to fund,” Wolf said. “This is how the commission has recommended to the Board of Supervisors that they want to spend the money, and then it comes to the board and we, generally, most often approve all of their recommendations.”

These recommendations are then tracked and analyzed to ensure that grant funding is being spread evenly throughout the county with the goal of leaving no populations underrepresented.

Yet, funding from the Human Services Commission is only one piece of the government-funding puzzle. Various county departments also receive sums of money that they are in charge of allocating to local services.

Santa Barbara Second District County Supervisor Janet Wolf said the government supports nonprofit organizations through grant funding. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara Second District County Supervisor Janet Wolf said the government supports nonprofit organizations through grant funding.  (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

“In the board offices, like my office, all five supervisors have a budget that ranges from $10,000 to $20,000, and we can use our discretion in also providing funds to nonprofits,” Wolf said.

With some other grant contracts reaching more than $100,000, this often can add up to millions of dollars being contributed annually to community nonprofits.

At the city level, Schneider described how it often provides funding not just to human services nonprofits, but also to arts and culture nonprofits.

“I always see those funding allocations not as an expense but as an investment,” she said. “We know we get a return on not only assisting local nonprofits and local artists, but there’s a return on making Santa Barbara a place for people to enjoy and visit and live, and that’s a crucial part of our identity.”

Additionally, the county awards grants from the well-established Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund to groups that are working toward the acquisition and protection of coastal resources.

Since being established in 1987, CREF has contributed about $22.4 million in grants acquired from offshore drilling oil revenues to various nonprofit groups and, as outlined on its website, has helped establish such conservation areas as the Carpinteria Bluffs, Veronica Meadows and various portions of the Ellwood coastal area. 

In addition to being used to acquire conservation areas, the funding from CREF has been used for the remodeling and updating of public spaces, educational programs and even exhibits at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.

At its core, philanthropy is cooperative and nonprofits rely on innumerable moving parts to keep themselves going. As Schneider described, “if you think about a three-legged stool in terms of funding opportunities for nonprofits, one is government funding, the second is philanthropy through foundations or just general donations from people, and then the third is our business community who also give in a variety of ways. 

“When nonprofits receive these grants, no matter how small, they “can then leverage to get additional money from other foundations because they can say, look the city of Santa Barbara (has given its) stamp of approval.”

However, the future of such government funding remains uncertain under the pending administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

“It’s a surreal place right now,” Schneider said upon recently returning to Santa Barbara from Washington, D.C. “I’m very concerned that significant federal funding that local governments and cities receive throughout the country are going to be cut dramatically.” 

The city of Santa Barbara and The Trust for Public Land purchased the undeveloped Veronica Meadows property for $4 million and the land will become a public park. Click to view larger
The city of Santa Barbara and The Trust for Public Land purchased the undeveloped Veronica Meadows property for $4 million and the land will become a public park.  (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The concern comes in the wake of campaign promises made by Trump to dramatically shift government funding programs for everything from health care to infrastructure, a shift that could have a severe impact on people throughout local communities, particularly those most in need.

“My concern is that we will see significant cuts on issues that keep the safety net secure, and there are going to be holes in that safety net,” Schneider said. “I think we have to see the first budget out of a Trump administration ... . It may require us to really look very hard at what funding we have and how we can leverage it even more with other partners, but it’s a big question mark that is still to come.”

With numerous programs in place throughout the county, Santa Barbara’s nonprofit community has the support to continue to work for a better future for all.

“I think communities are strong when different stakeholders are able to come together and do what they do best,” Schneider said. “I think that is how you maximize efficiency and effectiveness in complex issues ranging from everything from poverty to hunger to economic development to health care, you name it. It’s a challenge, but when it works it’s really amazing.”

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Noozhawk contributing writer Kellie Kreiss can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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