In 2002, after reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about the Everychild Foundation, Carol Palladini and Meredith Scott invited its founder Jacqueline Caster to speak at a Santa Barbara Foundation's Women in Philanthropy program.
Jacqueline's dynamic presentation about women's donor funds was inspiring and suggested a simple approach designed to make an impact in the community with no fundraising events, no tickets to sell or tables to fill, no required volunteer commitment. Instead, it provided a way for women to grant larger amounts of money to local charities by pooling their charitable donations.
Realizing this philanthropic model would appeal to other women in the community, Carol, Meredith and ten Founding Members developed the basic framework to create a local donor fund. They approached the Santa Barbara Foundation for their expertise and guidance on launching this new organization.
In 2004 the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara was born as a Field of Interest Fund of the Santa Barbara Foundation, which meant that the Foundation handled all the financial transactions of the Women’s Fund and served as its 501(c) (3). The hope that first year was to raise $50,000. Founding Chair Carol Palladini reported, "When we raised $140,000 fairly easily, we KNEW this was an idea whose time had come!"
In 2012, we created the Women's Fund Endowment to support our mission and to offer members a vehicle to make larger or longer-term gifts, such as appreciated assets, bequests or memorials.
While the Women’s Fund has grown from 68 members in 2004 to more than 1,000 15 years later, many of the operating principles of the Founding Committee remain in place:
- Do our own thorough research
- Make grants large enough to impact organizations helping women, children and families
- Have members be the decision makers
- Minimize expenses to maximize the annual grants pool
- Do not hold fundraising events
In 2019—with the full support and encouragment of the Santa Barbara Foundation—the Women's Fund became an independent tax-exempt nonprofit.