There is no doubt that Santa Barbara has a robust philanthropic community. Last year the National Center for Charitable Statistics reported 1,891 registered nonprofits in the county and more than $2 billion in revenue. But there is also no doubt that these organizations are getting a bit, ahem, gray around the temples.
So how do you ignite young do-gooders in a community where the high cost of housing and the low availability of well-paying jobs make it struggle for many to take care of their own needs, let alone the needs of others? Where will the next generation of charitable leaders come from?
The Santa Barbara Foundation is planting the seeds for future boards with the Katherine Harvey Fellows program, designed to cultivate philanthropic leaders for the community. With graduates like Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Helene Schneider, the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation’s Scott Brittingham, and the Community Environmental Council’s Sigrid Wright already making their marks around town, the program, established in 1999, is already having an impact.
Funded by the late Katherine Harvey, a former Santa Barbara Foundation trustee, the invitation only fellowship program provides a forum for a select group of young professionals to explore ways to make a significant, lasting impact in the community.
The class of 2006/07–Katya Armistead, Magda Arroyo, Greg Bartholomew, Christine Brooks, Jeff Forster, Geoff Green, Colette Hadley, Nina Johnson, Vincent Martinez, Rachael Steidl, Michael Takahara, and Travis Wilson–began their 18-month journey last year by participating in all aspects of the work of the Santa Barbara Foundation, including agency research, community relations and fundraising.
Class members take turns chairing and organizing the monthly meetings, gaining valuable experience in keeping the lively group on task. Members of the board of trustees also serve as mentors to the “Fellows,” offering leadership, insight, and access on a personal level.
Steidl, founder of SBParent.com and a board member for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, praised her mentor, County Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone. “They matched me with someone who was a great fit for my business and a great link for my personal interests as well.”
In addition to partnering with board members and sitting in on the foundation’s grant making committees, the “Fellows” also work closely together.
In addition to meeting monthly, they do personal interviews within the group to help develop one-on-one skills, as well as public speaking skills, when they present their interviewees to the group.
“The most valuable aspect of this experience has been meeting people from sectors other than education and sharing with them the passion of philanthropy and making a difference,” says Armistead, a Red Cross board member who runs UCSB’s Visitor Center and is Assistant Director for the Office of Admissions.
After the first year, the education portion of the program winds down a bit and the “Fellows” get to create, implement, and evaluate some grants of their own.
The foundation allocates $30,000 for this purpose, but like the “Fellows” before them, this class has decided to raise additional funds to give away. At press time they had already secured $5,000 in challenge grant funds from the Hutton Foundation and were working on appeal letters to raise even more.
Following a spirited debate about where to give the money, foundation board member and former “Fellow” Ken Saxon offered, “This discussion … is the meat of this program. …(The foundation) could have set up a process about how you make these decisions. We’ve chosen not to, and have decided to let each class struggle with this. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, it’s cool, it’s creative, but it’s not easy.”
“It’s amazing to have put all of these strangers in a room almost a year ago and to see how comfortable everyone has gotten with each other and the dialogue that now takes place with the group,” says Steidl, adding that her fellowship experience has already helped her professionalize her charity work.
“I know that I am now a better board member because of the experience,” says Armistead, who along with her colleagues–who range in age from 27 to 42–are becoming just the kind of young philanthropists that Katherine Harvey had envisioned.
To donate or request more information about the Katherine Harvey Fellows program, contact the Santa Barbara Foundation, 1111 Chapala St.., Santa Barbara, CA 93101, 805/963-1873.