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Board members Lauren Trujillo, Jamie Dufek (Chair) and Lynn Karlson

Board members Lauren Trujillo, Jamie Dufek (Chair) and Lynn Karlson (former Chair) 

The Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, an all-volunteer nonprofit that pools the donations of its 1,300 members to make large grants, will award a record $1.125 million this year to local nonprofits serving women, children, and families. While the organization has grown immensely in its 20 years, the underlying concept remains the same.

There are no fundraisers or paid staff. Instead, an intelligent, informed, dedicated group of women research local needs and invite selected nonprofits to submit grant proposals. After a several-months-long research process, a ballot of potential grantees goes to the membership for a vote and grants are made. Nearly 200 members volunteer in some capacity.

For Board Chair Jamie Dufek, turning her small annual donations into larger, transformational grants was a major draw of the Women’s Fund, as was “being surrounded by intelligent, influential, hardworking, passionate women who get stuff done.” The volunteer model works well, Dufek added, because the Women’s Fund has so many competent women stepping into leadership roles.

The Women’s Fund has a minimum grant size of $50,000 and has made many grants in the $100,000 to $150,000 range, which allows for a big impact, including the funding of capital projects and salaried positions. To educate its members on local needs, the Women’s Fund holds issue forums with expert panels composed of grant recipients.

These fit into the Women’s Fund’s larger mission, according to past board chair Lynn Karlson, of helping to “inform and inspire women to engage in making lasting change in our community.” The goal, Karlson related, is to help make its members even better-informed philanthropists. Other popular educational components are forums where nonprofit grant recipients specifically discuss the impact of the Women’s Fund’s grants and site visits to grant recipients for a firsthand look at the nonprofits’ work.

The Women’s Fund is very efficient, passing 90 percent of its funds directly to grants and another 4 percent to its educational programming. In recent years, membership has grown immensely — more than 300 members joined in the past five years — and it has also gotten younger.

The leadership of the Women’s Fund is extremely thoughtful and intentional, according to Dufek, age 36, including in how they think about growth and representation among membership. So it wasn’t surprising, she related, that the organization has sought and succeeded in bringing in younger members. It has done this organically, not through advertising.

Transition House Executive Director Kathleen Baushke is grateful for the several grants it has received, including capital funding to improve the quality of life for homeless families living in its emergency shelter and support for its homeless prevention programming.

Moreover, the Women’s Fund, according to Baushke, has “allowed Transition House to introduce its mission to hundreds of interested and caring members of the Women’s Fund. Along the way, some Women’s Fund members have become individual supporters of our work — volunteering in our shelter and helping with holiday celebrations. "We are grateful to be part of the Women’s Fund nonprofit family, and we appreciate the time, talent, and resources they invest to improve the lives of all in our community.”

Membership in the Women’s Fund is open to any woman at the individual level ($2,750) or group level ($2,750 or more collectively from a group of any size). The Membership Committee helps prospective members find a compatible group or form their own group.


For more information go to:

Celebration of Grants Co-Chairs Kathy Hollis and Diane Powell 

Communications Committee members Susan Matsumoto, Chris Silverstein and Lori WIlliams

By Gail Arnold – Santa Barbara Independent 2-29-24