The Creator of Kinko’s is No Copycat
Paul and Jane Orfalea have always empathized with those who fall “outside the system” because outside the system is where they feel like they come from.
From the beginning, Paul Orfalea knew his brain “worked differently.” While in many ways this made him feel like an outsider, Paul considers what he calls his “profound ADHD and dyslexia” a blessing that allowed him to observe the world in a unique way and therefore blaze his own path. Fortunately, Paul’s parents celebrated these differences rather than try to stuff their square, redheaded peg they called “Kinko,” into a round hole.
“Success is more about your imagination than anything else,” Orfalea says.
And whatever Paul’s deficits in attention, he made up for them in innovation, daring and instinct. And it was as an undergrad at USC, when he should have been cramming for finals, that Orfalea instead found himself in the library studying others who were cramming for finals. It was then he overheard students complaining about paying too much for photocopies. Sensing an opportunity, Orfalea set up his own copy shop, charging about half what the university vendors charged. So began his round the clock office copying empire that became Kinko’s.
In 2004, when Orfalea sold Kinko’s to FedEx for $2.4 billion, this windfall gave him the means to devote his life to three new loves: teaching, philanthropy, and eventually his new bride, Jane Walker Wood.
In Jane, Paul found his ideological match, evident by how they finish each other’s thoughts when talking about their shared giving philosophy. Paul and Jane’s philanthropy is fueled by a mutual commitment to give away at least 85 percent of their wealth during their lifetimes. “With everything you leave to your kids, you’re also taking something away,” Jane says.
Though they consider themselves “not religious,” Paul and Jane point to early influence from religious teachings as an inspiration for their commitment to philanthropy. “He who sees the face of the poor sees me,” Paul says, quoting Jesus.
The Orfaleas’ philanthropic focus is inextricably bound to their political views, their personal philosophies, and a bit of guilt over their own good fortune. “I do feel guilty about consumption and how much of the resources I’m taking out of this planet,” Paul says from the passenger seat of his Prius. But he puts that guilt to good use.
Through their Audacious Foundation, the Orfaleas work to fill what they see as the gaps in Santa Barbara’s social safety nets. Jane attributes this focus to her Canadian upbringing. “I’m Canadian, so I believe in the value of supporting a society to make the whole society better,” says the Toronto native.
Most recently, Paul and Jane have expressed particular concern over the disproportionate toll the pandemic is taking on lower-income children. “The pandemic made the division between rich and poor so much greater because with the wealthy kids, these families hire a tutor and have a learning pod of six kids, so they have a mini private school.” They’re also concerned about how much time kids are spending indoors. “Spending all day inside is not a healthy or happy childhood. Kids need to be outside – exercising and playing actively.” To that end they support the Wilderness Youth Project’s “Bridge to Nature” program, which mentors kids outdoors while their parents are working.
To address what he sees as inequities, Orfalea tries to give back some of the emotional nourishment he received as a child. “While I hated going to school, I did in fact love learning and still do. That’s why I find it so particularly gratifying to help students, especially those who don’t like school, so they can build confidence, learn in their own unique way, and thereby flourish. Which will ultimately translate into better opportunities.”
To this end, the Orfaleas describe what they call “Whole Child Development,” a system of youth oriented initiatives backed by their Audacious Foundation. The idea is that “whole” kids become the best, well-rounded adults, with the greatest breadth of opportunities. So the Orfaleas support a veritable decathlon of child development programs including almost anything that would benefit a disadvantaged kid, starting at the mouth, sponsoring nutrition and even orthodontia for youth who otherwise would not have access to it. “We discovered there was nothing in place for kids with orthodontia. But you don’t see too many successful people in college with bad teeth,” Jane explains.
The Audacious Foundation also supports, through partnerships: swimming for kids, biking for kids, science camps, and almost any connection to the great outdoors. “Many Title I kids in Santa Barbara don’t know how to swim and have never been to the beach and there was no program for getting them there,” Jane explains.
“We also found there are a lot of programs to help kids with education, but not much to teach the things that kids from wealthy families learn, such as how to use a knife and fork, how to dress for a formal dinner… If you’re fortunate enough to work hard and you get through school and you get a scholarship to a good university, you’re then suddenly invited to somebody’s home for dinner and you don’t know how that system works, which can make a person feel awkward. So we try to give that advantage to kids as well,” Jane says. “So underprivileged kids can compete with privileged kids on more equal footing.”
The Orfaleas see the nonprofits they support as partners. “For example, with the Boys & Girls Clubs, we went to them and said, What can we do to help you get these kids outside and exercising? They said, Give us this much money, here’s what we can do. And then the founder said, I’ll meet that match.”
Another partnership the Orfaleas proudly reference is their work with Montecito Bank & Trust regarding Financial Literacy for youth. “At least half of these families don’t have a bank account and the parents don’t have financial education, so we co-sponsor an initiative where these 6th grade kids are actually doing the family’s finances. We give them financial literacy classes through Montecito Bank and Trust… We open up a bank account for the kids which starts with $50. And then we match it. And then the bank matches it, too.”
For Paul and Jane, most philanthropic roads seem to lead back to helping Santa Barbara’s neediest kids. And to be sure, no one understands more than Paul Orfalea that with the proper support, even the most idiosyncratic, non-traditional, kinky-haired, square-peg learner can go very far.
Santa Barbara Foundation
Vice President, Philanthropic Services: Tammy Johnson
What We Do
For over 92 years, the Santa Barbara Foundation has been a catalyst for change. We analyze issues to identify challenges that burden people every day in Santa Barbara County. We convene community stakeholders to build coalitions and partner with nonprofits and other leaders working on the front lines. Together, we chart a direction and mobilize people like you to support the dynamic initiatives that makes this a better place, now and for generations to come.
Begin to Build a Relationship
We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s director of development and/or Executive Director.
The Foundation is the “community living room,” a place where donors, community members, and leaders of its business, nonprofit, education, and civic sectors can gather, “to discuss and problem solve. Collaboration is layered into everything we do.
LEADERSHIP IN ACTION
The Santa Barbara Foundation leads the effort to bring people and resources together to work for large scale, sustainable improvements in the community. We do that by facilitating dialogue among stakeholders- business leaders, government representatives, leaders of nonprofit organizations, residents and funders who want to create positive change. We look for the chance to form strategic partnerships to leverage our collective strengths and maximize the power of our donor’s dollars. Because we do extensive research into the greatest needs of the community and the people who deliver services, we are positioned to champion specific causes and organizations. We then advocate for the funding to transform innovative ideas into reality. Learn more about our work within the community.
There are approximately 1,900 nonprofits in Santa Barbara County. Even the most diligent donor would find it daunting to try to learn about all of them and vet their work. In partnering with the Santa Barbara Foundation, donors can be assured that we award our grants through a rigorous process of research, planning, due diligence and evaluation. We work to identify and prioritize critical needs for strategic grantmaking requiring special focus and additional organizational resources. Once funded, we monitor and evaluate these initiatives for impact. We are committed to working with providers to maximize their effectiveness. Learn more about our grantmaking.
PARTNERS IN PHILANTHROPY
We are grateful that for more than 90 years the people of Santa Barbara County have trusted us to steward their charitable assets. Our team of philanthropic advisors help donors navigate the logistics of giving, and work with them to create a customized plan that aligns with their goals. As a community foundation, we have a responsibility to expand financial capital by reaching out to individuals and institutions to raise funds. We are committed to pooling our collective resources with those of forward-thinking funders to build scalable solutions. The Santa Barbara Foundation invites and encourages all donors, contributing all size donations, to join us. Learn more and become a Partner in Philanthropy.
SUPPORTING THE SOCIAL SECTOR
The Santa Barbara Foundation believes a healthy, high-achieving, creative social sector enables our county to fulfill its potential. To help make our nonprofits stronger and more resilient, we share knowledge through a series of capacity building workshops, leadership development, and technical assistance programs. We engage with practitioners to develop successful approaches for improved outcomes in the community. We connect them with funders and other nonprofits to make their efforts more powerful. Since this can be a demanding line of work, we recognize and reward hard work and excellence of those working in the social sector. Learn more about the Collaboration for Social Impact.