Santa Barbara Foundation Uses Accelerator Fund to Increase Equity and Access in Education

The Santa Barbara Foundation initiated the Accelerator Fund to increase investment in Santa Barbara County by providing substantial financial resources for critical opportunities in solving community challenges. The vision was to use a portion of the funds from unrestricted bequests to focus on facilitating idea-generation and innovation in a flexible and adaptable way that could lead to an accelerated level of investment. In 2016, the foundation received 25 Letters of Inquiry that ranged from building integrated health networks to increasing equity and access in education, as well as improving infrastructure to expand services.

“We have a ‘bias for action,’ but we are also a learning organization,” shared Ron Gallo, President & CEO of the Santa Barbara Foundation. “Serving as facilitators of community change requires the ability to utilize all of the tools and resources that are available to us. The Accelerator Fund, and the donor bequests that have made it possible, is enabling us to think bigger and achieve greater impact.”

The investments made this year to the Program for Effective Access to College (PEAC) and the Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) Promise Program are examples of the scope and scale of the transformative programs the foundation seeks to invest in using the Accelerator Fund.

The Santa Barbara Foundation invested $280,000 in PEAC to scale throughout the Santa Barbara Unified School District by 2017. PEAC is a school and community-based strategy to help close the achievement gap and change the trajectory of underrepresented students by providing academic and social supports that will guarantee students graduate from high school and are prepared for college entry. PEAC entered its sixth year of serving students at La Cumbre Junior High and San Marcos High School and, with the support of the Accelerator Award, the PEAC college readiness strategies were implemented at Santa Barbara Junior High and Santa Barbara High in the 2015 – 2016 school year.

Also in support of student success and education, the foundation invested $250,000 in the SBCC Promise Program, which is committing to provide any local student who completes their secondary education within the Santa Barbara County College District the opportunity to attend SBCC full time for two years free of charge. The program is using privately raised funds to cover all tuition, required fees, books and required supplies in an effort to remove economic barriers, making the community’s college fully accessible to all local students.

“The Santa Barbara Foundation’s generous grant to the SBCC Promise allowed us to launch the program with the confidence that our community’s philanthropic leadership is committed to this ground-breaking effort to offer all of our community’s students unfettered access to higher education,” expressed Geoff Green, President of the SBCC Foundation.

The SBCC Promise is becoming widely recognized as the most comprehensive in the nation. Currently, 750 students are enrolled in the first cohort – 100 more than the most optimistic projections. By removing the barriers to college for all local students, the Santa Barbara Foundation believes that both PEAC and the SBCC Promise are an investment in our students, our families, our community, and our economy.

Early in 2017, the Santa Barbara Foundation will share its learnings from the Accelerator Fund and award process this year in an effort to refine this tool moving forward to better serve community needs. All inquiries regarding the Accelerator Fund can be directed to Phylene Wiggins or Sharyn Main, Senior Directors of Community Investments.
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