A Model for Philanthropic Action

In addition to its work in educationyouth development and critical community needs, The Orfalea Fund sought to raise community standards in early childhood education, school food, and disaster readiness. Seeking systemic change rather than perpetual charity, we designed our philanthropy to achieve ambitious goals and sustainable results in a concentrated and deliberate timeframe before sunsetting the fund in 2015. Three of our most impactful initiatives are shared on this website.

For example, the School Food Initiative set out to improve food on the plate at local public schools, and soon learned that such improvements also required us to influence cultural shifts within school districts as well as increasing food literacy throughout the community. The learning curve was steep, but over fifty thousand students now have daily access to healthier food choices, and our local schools take pride in their progress toward becoming centers of health and wellness.

In partnership with First 5 of Santa Barbara County, the fund committed significant time, energy, and financial resources to provide professional development opportunities for early childhood education center directors and teachers. To raise the overall quality of centers, the fund also focused on improved environments and food and activity practices through the Outdoor Classroom Project and Preschool Food & Healthy Habits Initiative. As of January, 2015, Santa Barbara County preschools achieved national accreditation at eight times the California average.

We are also extremely proud of the Aware & Prepare Initiative, a very complex public-private collective impact process that improved disaster readiness throughout Santa Barbara County, making over 400,000 people safer every day.

With a strategic focus on identifying and removing obstacles in existing systems, we set out to observe, question, understand, and act. It is our hope that whether you are part of an organized nonprofit or are simply interested in changing things for the better, you will extend the work we’ve done, and use your creativity and talents to raise these standards in your community.