Legal Aid Foundation Parlays Express Grant into Sustainable Giving Program

The Legal Aid Foundation recently helped these grandparents obtain guardianship of their 14-year-old grandson. Image courtesy of Legal Aid Foundation.

For the last five years, 26-year-old mono-lingual Spanish speaker “Anna” has been a victim of physical and sexual abuse. She was afraid to seek help because her boyfriend, and the father of her children, told her no one would believe her and threatened that her children would be taken away. With the help of bilingual staff and an attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, Anna obtained a Domestic Violence Restraining Order against her boyfriend, who is now serving six years in prison for rape.

From keeping a roof over a family’s head by preventing a landlord’s discrimination to protecting a victim of domestic violence from further abuse, Legal Aid has been providing critical legal services in Santa Barbara County since 1959. “There is a huge justice gap in California, with less than one-third of the legal needs of low-income Californians being met,” said Ellen Goodstein, Legal Aid’s executive director. “Legal Aid provides a safety net for our most vulnerable residents who would otherwise have nowhere else to turn, and we are the only organization in the county providing free legal assistance for victims of domestic abuse and seniors.”

In 2011, Legal Aid received a $5,000 Express Grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation to develop a major gifts program aimed at generating a reliable stream of income for the organization and increasing its capacity to provide legal assistance throughout the county. Legal Aid used the grant to hire a major gifts consultant who trained both board and staff, and helped the organization host a luncheon that raised $156,000 in cash and pledges. A year later, Legal Aid duplicated the luncheon without the help or expense of a consultant and generated an additional $140,000 in cash and pledges.

“This grant allowed us to start moving our organization toward sustainable and sound financial footing so we can continue to provide legal aid services,” said Ellen. In 2011-2012, Legal Aid offered legal representation for 928 residents in Santa Barbara County, assisted 5,117 clients to represent themselves, and provided a variety of aid services to 1,029 physically and/or mentally disabled clients, 676 victims of domestic violence, and 1,156 senior citizens.

“At the same time we transform lives, we keep the pressure off other resources in our community. If we protect a victim of abuse, we are not just saving them from injury or death, we are cutting down on the expenditure of emergency services like medical, hospital, and police resources,” said Ellen. “If we keep someone from becoming homeless, that is one more bed for someone else; if we secure disability benefits for a client, we give them the means not just to be housed and have food, but to be a consumer in the community and save welfare dollars.”

To learn more about the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, please visit or contact Development Director Niki Richardson at (805) 963-6754 x109.
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101