One Thing in Santa Barbara: Philanthropy

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From food and nightlife to the environment and philanthropy, what were the most important stories and trends of the year in Santa Barbara? Five of our sharpest local observers weigh in on the one thing that shaped 2015.

According to nonprofit consultant Judy Hawkins, in 2015’s philanthropic world she saw Santa Barbara businesses and nonprofits working together in new and creative ways.

Businesses give back to the community for two reasons, she says. “It’s a good thing to do, and it’s a good thing for business.” Giving-programs make businesses more attractive to new and current employees, who want to work for a business that gives back and are looking for opportunities to get involved in their communities. Plus, businesses can align their strategic goals around their consumers.

“There’s that demand from the consumer base, to know how a business is giving back to the community and what kind of difference it’s making for the local population,” said Hawkins.

In November, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, alongside his wife Priscilla Chan, announced he would donate 99% of his Facebook shares during his lifetime. Although the news was received with mixed opinions as to motive and model, Hawkins and others within Santa Barbara’s philanthropic community took notice.

“I think the big promise from Facebook was about raising the tide,” Hawkins said. “When anyone steps forward and makes a big promise, it allows all of us to look at what is important to us, personally and in our business, and to make a meaningful promise for our own community.”

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Deckers’ rotunda space. Photo: Islay Events

Although not everyone has $45 Billion to give, local businesses are donating what they do have, like time and resources, in creative ways. Recently, Deckers Outdoor Corporation, based in Goleta, began offering their rotunda space to host nonprofit events. Recipes Organic Bakery, which opened two years ago in Santa Barbara, began a workforce internship program for young people to learn baking and business skills. The Pacific Coast Business Times adopted an island fox through the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Foster Feeder Program as the news organization’s mascot.

Hawkins says this type of thinking is making it easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses to build business-giving models into their company from the beginning.

“There are ways that you can connect that are fun and innovative and aren’t just limited to traditional vehicles of giving,” she said.

For a look at the whole series, head to kcrw.com/onething.