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Better Together: How Deckers Brands Exemplifies Values-Driven Giving

How many international corporations do you know that pay their employees to engage in volunteering in their local communities? Deckers Brands – a lifestyle and footwear company – does, and it was one of the employee perks that draws global talent to the company – and keeps it there. 

Encouraging its own community members to invest their time in giving back to the community is just one of the core corporate values that sets Deckers Brands apart, when it comes to building strong, collaborative philanthropic relationships throughout Santa Barbara County and beyond. 

Values to Live By

Dave Powers,
President and CEO
of Deckers Brands

“At Deckers, we strive to be a model for what a public company looks like both in terms of financial responsibility and corporate responsibility,” says Dave Powers, President and CEO of Deckers Brands. “Focusing on doing the right thing is part of our corporate DNA, and we know that in good times and bad, engaging with the Santa Barbara nonprofit community, and encouraging our employees to do the same, makes us all the stronger as a company and community member.”

“Since our founding, we’ve been committed to supporting and partnering with organizations that focus on at-risk youth, education, the environment, and families. Most recently we’re also supporting organizations that focus on social and racial justice and diversity and inclusion,” says Michelle Apodaca, Director of Deckers Gives & Board Administration.

The company is also committed to making significant change, in real-time, and is able to fearlessly pivot when needed because of its values-driven philosophy of giving.

As soon as Covid-19 brought the U.S. and the Santa Barbara economies to a standstill in March 2020, Deckers sprang into action by establishing the Santa Barbara Better Together fund. 

“We created SB Better Together with the goal of providing grants to small local businesses so they could stay afloat.” Apodaca explains. “We saw so clearly that we were in uncharted territory with the pandemic and we sensed that it would be a long road to recovery. We partnered with the Santa Barbara Foundation, provided an initial gift of $500,000. Our first grant out of the gate was to Women’s Economic Ventures(WEV), a local nonprofit that focuses on launching and funding small businesses, and which was offering emergency Covid relief loans. We saw this as a way to fuel the engine of local recovery by supporting an organization that raises up entrepreneurs and new businesses. Then the Santa Barbara Foundation reached out to local municipalities to tell them about SB Better Together and they agreed to match our commitment and join the fund. The endowment doubled and to date, we’ve distributed more than $1 million to local small businesses, with the goal that those funds will help those businesses successfully navigate the pandemic and survive.”

Another Covid-19 inspired initiative involves donating footwear to frontline workers across the country. To date, Deckers has put more than 5,000 pairs of shoes on the feet of essential workers, with no intention of stopping anytime soon.

Locally, the Deckers Gives Team has watched as the pandemic has exacerbated ongoing problems like food insecurity, educational and technology insecurity, and domestic violence – at a time when so many of our children were already at risk. Deckers responded by strengthening its relationships with those organizations who are actively addressing these problems with the urgency the pandemic has brought with it.

Underpinning all of Deckers’ philanthropic initiatives is the desire to set the standard for corporate giving by modeling successful long-term collaborations with organizations that share their values and are committed to helping the Santa Barbara community thrive.

Sustainability is Key

When looking for organizations to partner with, sustainability is another value that is key. Deckers is drawn to organizations that are highly rated by Charity Navigator and GuideStar, two of the gold-star charity evaluators. 

“We want to see financial accountability and transparency, as well as the positive impact their work has on the community,” Apodaca shares, “and we want to see that their programs are resilient and sustainable.”

Creating and maintaining sustainable manufacturing and sourcing practices is at the heart of the Deckers business model, too. “As a global leader in designing, manufacturing, and distributing innovative footwear, apparel, and accessories, our worldwide scope and impact is significant. We recognize that we need to do our part and be both socially and environmentally conscious. Part of our strategy for being environmentally responsible is reflected in our partnerships with organizations that are committed to environmental stewardship.” 

Better Together

“Philanthropy is such an important part of Santa Barbara’s culture and history, and nonprofits play an indescribably important role in ensuring that we all keep moving toward an ideal where we can live by our highest values,” Apodaca says. “We partner with more than 140 local organizations who are dedicated to solving social problems and creating a more just and equitable community model. It’s all about collaboration, and from my vantage point, I see the ripple effect of the good work our community partners do, how working together has a multiplying effect on our efforts.

“If there was ever a moment when the for-profit sector should step up their support of the non profit sector, it’s now – and Deckers is 100% committed to being there for the SB community while we get through these historically uncertain times.

“I think we’ve all become incredibly aware of how much better everything is when we’re in it together,” says CEO and President Dave Powers. “Especially when times are tough: we know that being of service matters more than ever and Deckers is committed to being at the forefront of giving in order to keep our community strong.”