Tag Archives: sustainability

Finding a Community of Giving

As philanthropists, it is our view that wealth is both a blessing and a responsibility. We have been most fortunate to be blessed with bounty in our lives and believe that it is our moral obligation to share this bounty by giving. For us, wealth creates a sacred trust to be put to use in helping to repair our world in impactful ways to improve the lives of others and hopefully advance our human condition through our efforts in giving.

Growing up, both of us experienced financial strains and sometimes even hardships. We both know what it means to struggle and so can appreciate the struggles of others. We say “there but for the grace of God go I.” 

We established our Zegar Family Foundation thirteen years ago as the primary vehicle through which we make gifts to others. The mission of our foundation is “to give back by improving the larger world around us and the lives of others where our gifts can yield meaningful tangible impact for a better world.”

Over the years, our areas of giving have evolved and we now concentrate our giving efforts in two key focus areas – Environment and Sustainability as well as Justice and Human Rights. Yet other core values remain important to us such as arts and culture, health, education, and helping those in need especially in the community around us.

“These goals of supporting our Santa Barbara community while seeking advances for the larger world around us are not mutually exclusive.”

Thus, when we bought our home here in Montecito six years ago, we were determined to become involved in local philanthropy and set about to learn more. With so many local not-for-profits per capita (and without the aid of this terrific philanthropy giving book guide you now have) we turned to Charity Navigator and found the highly rated Direct Relief. Inspired by the work of Direct Relief, we not only made a grant to contribute to constructing their much needed new building, but also offered a challenge match which helped spur the capital campaign forward.

By doing so, we not only helped Direct Relief, but this gift opened doors for us into the Santa Barbara giving community. We met numerous other philanthropists and good people who remain our friends to this day. From there, we began to learn of a broad range of other giving opportunities, for example, ranging from our next capital contribution made to MOXI, an educational children’s museum then being constructed, to supporting Pacific Pride’s LGBTQ programs to assisting the services of Girls Inc. for local girls by providing a grant for a new position to helping to fund performing arts at our beautiful, iconic Granada Theatre.

Over the years here, we have been active caring members of the Santa Barbara giving community, stepping up to help those in need following the Montecito mudslides two and a half years ago and more recently giving multiple grants for COVID relief. Our community philanthropy and commitment is in addition to the philanthropic focus of our foundation with which we try to make change and have impact on a potentially grander scale. These goals of supporting our Santa Barbara community while seeking advances for the larger world around us are not mutually exclusive.

We are so happy to be part of this caring community in Santa Barbara. There are so many ways to help improve the world and give to the many in need. We hope that you too will find a path of giving that resonates and be inspired by this guide to give back in ways that you can!

Simon Pivots to Social Justice

Rachel Simon would be the first to admit she was blessed by the circumstances of her birth. 

Her father is Herbert “Herb” Simon, the Indianapolis-based real-estate billionaire (and owner of the Indiana Pacers!), and her mother is Diane Meyer Simon, the notable political and environmental activist who founded Global Green, U.S.A.

Her father, Simon says, gave his kids “just enough room to make our own way, but was always there to instill the most important core values.” 

Diane Meyer Simon was an active figure in the populist progressivism of the early Kennedy era. “My mom was just, you know, this super-cool woman, she worked for Bobby Kennedy and had all these awesome stories,” Simon says. “She was an environmental activist and so a lot of my interests probably followed from watching her do her work. [My parents are] both extremely engaged in the community and politically active. So, I mean, I lucked out. We all did.”

Together, Simon says, her parents created in her “a very environmentally conscious and progressive thinker.” 

That progressive thinker is now leading the second generation of philanthropy at the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, based in Indianapolis, but with a regional and even global reach focusing on the environment, education, art and culture, and issues of social justice and sustainability. 

As lucky as Simon is to have cool parents with a desire to give back to their communities and the means to do it, she is also grateful for the gifts that come with being the daughter of two distinct regions that are integral to the country’s cultural fabric – the American Midwest and the American Riviera. 

As director of the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Rachel Simon is bringing her diverse geographic and cultural influences together as she leads the foundation into a new decade brimming with urgent challenges

Simon was born in Indianapolis and spent a good part of her childhood as a Hoosier, before her parents took up primary residence in Montecito. She returned to Indianapolis to attend the Herron School of Art and Design in the early 2000s. She majored in painting, something she laments she doesn’t find enough time for these days, and stayed in Indianapolis upon graduating. 

Simons says she loves the seasons and close-knit community there, but admits that California and Montecito are never far from her mind. Montecito had a familiar small-town feel as her early childhood, and yet the West Coast opened her cultural horizons and helped hone a keen interest in climate and sustainability. 

“As much as Indianapolis raised me, Montecito raised me,” she says. “If I hadn’t spent so much time in California, I definitely wouldn’t think the way I think, and wouldn’t be aware of the things I’m aware of… the social issues that are the forefront of the brain.”

As director of the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, Simon is bringing her diverse geographic and cultural influences together as she leads the foundation into a new decade brimming with urgent challenges, especially related to climate change, sustainability, and social justice. Simon says the foundation has just finished a strategic planning session that will keep its philosophy intact but will focus efforts more directly in some key areas. 

“We are still focused on the environment, arts and culture, and basic needs,” she says, “but social justice will be its own impact area.”

She says the foundation will also work to sharpen its mission and message, especially working with grassroots, community-based organizations. “You know, you can support the education and then you can support equity in education. You can support the environment and then you can support environmental justice, and depending on how you tailor your focus, it could be in a bunch of different areas,” says Simon. “The intersectionality of [environmental and social justice] is so important for people to recognize right now.”

Getting back to parental influences, Simon says she’s “a huge basketball fan” but she won’t give her love to the Lakers, even though she attended USC, just down the road from Staples Center, for a couple years. That’s understandable as Simon is active with Indiana Pacers Foundation. For the Pacers, she has love, for the Lakers, it is “respect.” 

Hey, we can live with that, after all, love and respect is what it’s all really about and that, in the end, seems like Simon’s true inheritance. 

“Speaking of my parents, one of the most important things that they taught us was that we were so blessed and so fortunate… Every day that I work on foundation work, I feel grateful and blessed that I have the opportunity to give back because of the hard work of my parents. So, it’s an awesome responsibility that I’m grateful for.”

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.”