Why is the women’s fund of Santa Barbara so important?

Why is the women’s fund of Santa Barbara so important?


The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara is a group of volunteers dedicated to collect donations that will later be used to give considerable grants to charitable causes that focus on the most relevant needs women, children and families may have in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria. Even when many people don’t know that this kind of nonprofits exist, over the last 12 years, their organization has donated more than $5.6 million to a wide range of causes. Donor members of The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara don’t need to go to any fundraising event or auction to fill a table, they just need to make their donations and vote for where they want their money to go.

Kenny Slaught knows that members of The Women’s Fund are committed to cultivating a great community of educated, strategic donors, inspiring them to make change last in the communities they can have a significant impact through collective giving. Their model is original and simple: after members pool their donations, they have access to information related to the critical situation of communities in need, they get the chance to read this information and research some more, then they vote online on which charitable cause they want to give the funds collected during the year.

The way the fund operates is simple, they want to educate and inspire women in order for them to become leaders in. They get the chance to join the fund as members by donating $2,500 a year, no matter if they join as individuals or as part of a group, the total is $2,500 to join. Every member is responsible for different tasks, that way, some are dedicated to identifying critical community issues and do some research on them, while other members are reviewing some non-profits’  goals, financials, leadership, sustainability and measurable results.

Image courtesy of Direct Relief at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Direct Relief at Flickr.com

How the Fund is structured

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara operates as a Field of Interest Fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation, this means they get the chance to invest in causes community cares the most about, such as art, education, environmental education, health, human services, among others. This structure helps the fund understand which way is the best to respond to communities’ most crucial needs, without having to work as a traditional nonprofit.

Also, the Women’s Fund is directed by a Steering Committee composed of volunteers who manage all aspects of the organization. The Steering Committee is in charge of developing, implementing and managing all policies and strategies related to the Women’s Fund structure. By emphasizing in succession planning they encourage the early identifications of new leaders, ensuring seasoned leaders will be able to overlap with new ones in order to smooth transitions each year.

A Bit of History about the Fund.

In 2002, Carol Palladini and Meredith Scott read an article in the Los Angeles Times that talked about the Everychild Foundation. After that, they contacted Jacqueline Caster, the founder of the Everychild Foundation and invited her to speak at a Santa Barbara Foundation’s Women in program.

Jacqueline explained how it was possible for women to start a fund dedicated to making an impact in their community without having to organize fundraising events, sell tickets, fill tables or require a devoted volunteer commitment. Instead, the model presented by Jacqueline allowed women to grant greater amounts of money to local charities by combining their charitable donations.

By implementing this simple model, founders knew they could motivate other women to join the cause. For this, Carol and Meredith developed a basic structure to create a local donor fund of women. Once the fund framework was ready, they approached the Santa Barbara Foundation in the look for advice and supervision on launching this new fund.

Two years later, the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara was started to work as a Field of Interest Fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation, hoping to raise $50,000 during the first year. They not only raised those $50,000 but exceeded their goal in $90,000 more, understanding that their community needed this type of fund.

During the past 10 years, the Women’s Fund has grown and changed, becoming better with each passing year. Nevertheless, the following goals and operational principles of the Founding Committee are essentially the same:

  1.    The structure should always be simple.
  2.    A minimal volunteer time should take place.
  3.    Members of the fund do the research
  4.    Make grants big enough to actually help women, children and families.
  5.    Members are the real decision makers.
  6.    Money collected annually should be given away to charitable causes.
  7.     Donor money should never be spent on fundraising events
  8.    The Fund remains as a Santa Barbara Foundation partner and it constitutes the Fund’s fiscal home.

How the Fund Works

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara is made up by an all-volunteer collective donor group that allows women to combine their charitable donations and provides major grants with the goal of solving the critical needs of women, children and families living in south Santa Barbara County.