Engaged Philanthropy in Family Traditions

Charitable Giving As a Family Tradition: Philanthropic Advising at SBF Supports Family Philanthropy

SBF engages philanthropy, provides strategic grantmaking, and strengthens nonprofits while leading inclusive collaborations to enhance life in Santa Barbara County.

For families interested in teaching and engaging their next generation in philanthropy and how to demonstrate love for the community through charitable giving, the Santa Barbara Foundation (SBF) has nearly a century of experience in philanthropic advising to help families chart a successful course.

“Every family is different, with their own dynamics and desires to make a difference in their community,” says Tammy Johnson, SBF’s Vice President, Philanthropic Services. “Our first job is to understand the motivations and expectations of each family member as individuals, then to facilitate conversations for a shared giving strategy that will be a meaningful expression of the family’s values.”

Director of Donor Relations Jessica Sanchez, an 11-year veteran at the Foundation, explains the process: “It’s an ongoing dialogue to make sure we understand the family’s values, their interests, their mission; then we offer community giving options that reflect those values, interests, and mission. Sometimes it’s through an existing charitable fund at SBF or nonprofit, and sometimes we create something new together.”

Once a donor chooses a path, the Foundation team assists as stewards of the donor’s mission, managing gifts for maximum impact. For many, SBF also offers strategies for engaging family members in the mission of giving.

Tammy Johnson is the Vice President, Philanthropic Services at SBF.

“Sometimes the parents look to us to be facilitators. We can host gatherings and initiate the conversation or conduct a series of exercises to help families with diverse interests find values-based common ground on which to build their philanthropic focus,” Sanchez continued. Candor is essential to success, as is an encyclopedic knowledge of the nonprofit landscape.

While every philanthropist shares a desire to make a difference, the strategies and tactics for doing so are numerous and sometimes complex. With over 2,000 existing nonprofits in Santa Barbara County, prospective philanthropists could use a guide.

The Foundation’s advisors assist with nonprofit research, recommendations, and site visits to help new and existing philanthropists find the right fit for their interests and values. According to Johnson, “We’ve worked with nearly every nonprofit in the county, and we’ve been part of many large-scale community project for decades. Donors want to leverage that experience.”

Jessica Sanchez is the Director of Donor Relations at SBF.

Families often adopt a combination of shared giving and individual focus areas, so each family member is connected to a cause about which they feel passionate. “It’s all very customized. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all,’” says Johnson. “Families use philanthropy to share their family values and to leave a legacy. When the matriarch or patriarch passes away, the kids may decide to continue the work, along with their own areas of interest.  It’s charity as a family tradition.”

The holiday season is a great time for these conversations, a great time to observe traditions and begin new ones. In addition to your annual budget or vacation plans or new year’s resolutions, what is your family philanthropic plan for the coming year?

SBF is here to help. Don’t hesitate to contact Jessica Sanchez at and enhance your family’s charitable traditions today.


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