Ventura County has a balanced budget but a big deficit when it comes to philanthropy.
Staff writer Marissa Nall reports in today’s Business Times that giving in the county that represents more than half the population of the 805 area code averaged just $2,153 per person in 2014, according to a report by the Ventura County Civic Alliance. That compares to $5,356 in Los Angeles County and $6,074 in Santa Barbara County.
The philanthropy deficit was part of the conversation at a Sept. 25 California Lutheran University Corporate Leader’s breakfast and it was a timely discussion.
As reported earlier in the Business Times, the Ventura County Community Foundation has suspended some of its programs and faces a severe cash crunch. It is looking at options for refinancing the county’s nonprofit center, a groundbreaking effort to create a hub for nonprofits.
How will Ventura County close the funding gap? It doesn’t help to dream big and fall short — raising expectations that can’t be met are a prescription for failure.
There’s also the bigger problem that countywide philanthropy in Ventura County is relatively new. The community foundation itself dates back just a few decades, and CSU Channel Islands is barely a decade old.
Instead of countywide institutions, the county has spent more than a century with a focus on building cities with individual identities, needs and philanthropic initiatives.
One of the biggest challenges for Ventura County will be to balance institution building with urgent needs.
With its task forces on housing, civic engagement and social justice, the county may have done a better job in advocating for affordable housing, dealing with homelessness and providing access to health care than Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties.
It may be that when it comes to efficient use of philanthropic dollars, Ventura County is head and shoulders above its neighbors.
But that doesn’t solve the problem. Ventura County charities need to figure out why Los Angeles and Santa Barbara residents donate more and replicate that cultural DNA.
McCarthy for speaker
At press time, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) was poised to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House.
That’s a very difficult job and already the sniping from the tea party has begun. Before redistricting, McCarthy represented parts of San Luis Obispo County and he struck us as pro-business, fair minded and willing to adapt to reality on the ground.
Having a House Speaker with deep roots in California and some familiarity with the Central Coast will be a big benefit to our region and its economy.
• Contact Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]