What is Nonprofit Excellence? A Conversation with Director of Grantmaking & Nonprofit Excellence, Amy Schneider

Director of Grantmaking & Nonprofit Amy Schneider
speaking at a community grant information session.

Q: In your own words, what is nonprofit excellence?

A: Nonprofit excellence means helping nonprofits meet their goals successfully by providing them with the best tools and resources in education, professional development and skill building. By supporting nonprofit excellence, the Santa Barbara Foundation recognizes that assisting nonprofits goes beyond providing financial support. It also means sponsoring workshops, seminars and conferences in areas such as leadership development, fundraising, marketing and strategic planning, to give nonprofits every opportunity to build capacity and strengthen their organization.

Q: What is the history of nonprofit excellence at the Santa Barbara Foundation?

A: Several years ago, it was common for communities across the country to have management support organizations (MSO), which offered workshops, consulting services and skill building classes to local nonprofits. These MSOs have experienced challenges finding a sustainable business model and many have shut their doors. When the Nonprofit Support Center in Santa Barbara County closed in 2011, the Santa Barbara Foundation along with other foundations, and the community as a whole, recognized that many nonprofits were missing essential resources that they needed to succeed. As a result, the foundation, with several community partners, is working to support these efforts and develop new opportunities where gaps exist.

Q: How does the Santa Barbara Foundation participate in nonprofit excellence and who are its community partners?

A: The Santa Barbara Foundation works closely with several organizations throughout the county to support and sponsor nonprofit excellence programming. For example, as a member of the Foundation Roundtable, we sponsor the Partnership for Excellence Conference (PFE) and, in conjunction with the opening of the Santa Maria headquarters, we demonstrated our renewed investment in the northern part of the county through our support of the North County Nonprofit Forum. We partner with Leading from Within, which helps to develop staff and volunteer leadership in the social sector, and the Nonprofit Resource Network (NPRN), which serves as a digital hub for nonprofits to learn about job and volunteer openings, events, webinars and workshops across the region. Additionally, we partner with our colleagues at the Fund for Santa Barbara, which offers technical assistance and a workshop series to help nonprofits develop skills in key areas such as board development, strategic planning, community organizing, media strategies, etc. We rely on the great work of these partners and believe our investments help advance our shared goals for a strong and resilient nonprofit sector.

Q: Why does the Santa Barbara Foundation think nonprofit excellence is important?

A: As a funder, the Santa Barbara Foundation wants nonprofits to be equipped with the tools and skills they need to function to the best of their ability. I often hear from nonprofits that they struggle to secure funding to run their programs, let alone invest in training and development. By encouraging nonprofits to participate and access opportunities to further develop their skills and networks, we emphasize our belief that improving their professional and volunteer capacity will support their work in the community as well.

Q: What do you want the community to know about nonprofit excellence?

A: That it exists. One of our biggest struggles collectively with our partners is that we know there are many opportunities out there, but we do not know if the nonprofits are being informed of these opportunities – first and foremost we want to elevate awareness. Secondly, we want them to know that there is funding available at the Santa Barbara Foundation to support their continued organizational development and learning. My advice to nonprofits about where to start looking for these opportunities is to go to NPRN’s website and explore some of the options offered in the area, and then also look at the grant opportunities on our website and reach out to a member of our community investments team to discuss their needs.

Q: What does the Santa Barbara Foundation hope for the future of nonprofit excellence?

A: The ultimate goal is that every nonprofit will have the skills and resources it needs to successfully deliver on its mission. To achieve that goal, we are continuously looking for new partners across the region and have a task force at the Foundation Roundtable that is dedicated to discussing ways to improve nonprofit access to these opportunities. We are excited to continue our work with NPRN as it expands and to continue to support programs that focus on leadership development, such as Leading from Within, because these types of programs educate the next generation of social sector leaders about how to use knowledge, skills and resources to work together to strengthen the nonprofit community in Santa Barbara County.

Q: What else does the Santa Barbra Foundation do to support the nonprofit sector?

A: The community investments team provides our own form of technical assistance every day by helping nonprofits connect with each other and with community partners to share ideas and flesh out projects. The foundation sponsors convenings on specific focus areas to encourage collaboration and innovation. Additionally, though our philanthropic services department, we provide agency endowment fund management and assistance with planned giving to help organizations build and maintain a healthy endowment.

 

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