Montecito Journal July 4-11, 2019: "What Makes a Person Great"

QUESTION: It is clear to me that you are passionate about impact investing. I am having trouble finding my passion. How did you do it? . . . Michael from Santa Barbara

Thank you for the question; it really caused me to think.

Very few people actually just walk into passion and success. Passion, like great loves, develops over time. When I first retired at 52, I didn’t like the term retirement. It seemed to focus on withdrawal. I was also interested in how people do this stage of life well. So, I started a radio show called “The Third Age” (first age childhood, second age career and family, third age after that), and that gave me the opportunity to interview 400 people. Some of the people I interviewed were just like you and me, and we learned from their life stories. Some were experts in some field, and we learned from their research and knowledge. It became clear that the human spirit was vital to happiness and longevity. That the spirit that makes a person with artificial legs climb a mountain is what matters. That spirit is what allows us to continue to feel alive and vital as our bodies age.

But then passion and meaning can also contribute years to our longevity, as does the quality of our close relationships. When we can draw on each other for support, it adds years to our lives as does our sense of connection in our social world. Much of this is documented in the work of Dan Buettner who studied communities where people live the longest, called Blue Zones. Passion and meaning are often very intertwined; but, for this column, I am just going to write about passion.

I learned a great deal from “The Third Age” radio show and started running workshops on The Third Age. From that I wrote a book, together with my radio show partner David Debin. While most people badly wanted to find passion and meaning, the roles just weren’t out there for them to do so. Those who were no longer working characterized their choices of joining non-profit boards as rubber stamping or raising money. Neither of these excited them. Or these highly skilled and successful men and women characterized the roles available in volunteering as simply stuffing envelopes. Not much passion in that. As it turned out, without realizing it I was employing the myth that all I had to do was help them uncover their passions. I was wrong. I felt discouraged and lost.

We love myths and stories, but we must be careful because they can mislead us. We walk into the party and we spot our soul mate and live happily ever after. A beautiful woman sits on a stool in a drug store in Hollywood and is discovered and finds success and passion in acting. While our fantasies may cause us to fall passionately in love, reality disrupts it eventually. And 80% of people believe that when they start a new pursuit they should feel an immediate connection and passion.

The next step in my journey was trying to consult and increase the effectiveness and capacity of non-profits. Since I had previously owned a large consulting company and was trained in organizational development, I thought that I would have something to contribute. Time, however, taught me how much more difficult that task is when you are not consulting to highly capitalized and effective non-profits. Most were stuck in a matrix of funding demands, low capitalization, and confused and competing organizational groups (board, executive director, staff, and funding sources). Once again, after a number of years of involvement, I had had enough. I felt frustrated and wondered if there was anywhere to contribute that would ultimately satisfy me.

There was, however, one more piece to the puzzle yet to come. I kept searching and when I came upon impact investing, I got excited. I don’t think I would describe it as a passion, at first. I saw its potential to create enormous benefit. All those people who I couldn’t help to find passion before, now there were endless opportunities for them to do so. Impact investing is a 2 trillion-dollar industry and growing rapidly. There are endless roles—paid or volunteer, investor or mentor—where highly skilled, talented people can make a difference. If we could really find investments that did social good and were sustainable, it would solve one of the major headaches of non-profits—the need for constant fundraising. But some organizations seemed to go way beyond just being sustainable. They seemed to be potentially transformative. What I mean by this is that they had the potential to go well beyond small incremental human benefit. They could bring about human benefit in higher proportion to the amount of initial money and effort expended. They could be multipliers of social good.

But was it real or a myth? Was this just another example of people marketing something that made them money but wasn’t what it really seemed to be. So I gathered a small group together and we spent two and a half years studying the field and I came to believe it was true. After making some investments, I started asking myself where I wanted to focus my efforts. Where could I use my time and money most valuably and where would I feel the most passion and meaning. It turns out that clarifying those questions is vital to impact investing, as it is with everything else. The exploration of what your gifts, values and interests are, and where they can best be expressed, is vital to finding passion and meaning, and vital to participation in impact investing. Some people care most about the environment, some about social justice, some about women’s issues, and some about health, to name just a few. Finally, I realized that while I care about the future of the world, it felt too big for me to tackle and too distant. While I am not saying it is right for everyone, what mattered most to me—beyond my family and friends—was my community and my country. “Think globally and act locally” and working for change from the grass roots up seemed to ring true to me. That seemed to crystalize my passion.

So where did my passion come from.

1.      It grew over time. I experienced successes and failures in my effort to find it.

2.      I had to find a use for my talents and experience—while I hoped for an immediate match, it took years of partial matches along the way and I also had to develop my skills and grow as a person, psychologically, to learn and benefit from those experiences.

3.      It ultimately had to come from my values and what I wanted to experience and contribute.

4.      I had to feel connected to other people and do it together with them.

5.      And, for me, it had to connect to the greater good of humanity.

So, Michael, I hope that approaches an answer to your question. Good luck on your own journey to find passion.

I welcome all questions and comments and can be reached at


Montecito Journal May 30-June 6, 2019: "What Makes a Person Great" by Dr. Peter Brill

What makes a person great? If they are rich enough, are they great? What do we look for when we say they are wise? What does it mean when we say they make a difference? If we want to make a difference, are there models we can emulate or admire?

I have been answering questions put to me in this column by others so I thought this month I would ask myself a few of my own.

I came across someone who I think is a great person, and who has taken me a long way toward answering my questions.

Tom Washing, who now lives in Montecito, certainly is highly successful. He has been active in the venture capi­tal industry for over thirty years. He is a founding partner of Sequel Venture Partners, a Colorado-based venture capital firm investing in emerging growth technology companies which, at one point, had 400 million dollars under management. He has served on dozens of corporate and non­-profit Boards of Directors, including as founding Chairman of the University of Colorado Center for Entrepreneurship, President and Chairman of the Colorado Venture Capital Association, and Chair­man of the Board of the University of Michigan Technology Transfer Advisory Board. This is just to name a few of his achievements.

Does that make him great?

He was raised in a middle-class family in Ohio by a father who worked for the same large company for 55 years, most of it as a factory manager. He was one of the few in his high school who made it into an Ivy League school, and to Dartmouth College at that, and had to hitch-hike there. But then the world opened wide with his connection to students from all over the world. He became a Wall Street lawyer and partner for 14-15 years and then jumped into an opportunity with a client to start a venture capital firm. Does the willingness to take a risk make you great? Maybe it is a part of it. He then started his own venture firm in 1996 and was able to sell three funds with focus on the early stage of investing. He says, “I loved working with entrepreneurs and I loved being my own boss.”

And then his life somewhat changed direction. “Like everything else, things happen to alter your life as you stumble along.” He had a friend, Tim Starzl, a brilliant inventor and entrepreneur. Tim’s wife had grown up in India and this made him aware of a particular problem there. He needed money for a company that was working on a cure for children with chronic diarrhea. That may not sound either exciting or significant, but the problem is vital. It’s the second biggest killer of children, under the age of five, world-wide. Tom had done some personal investing before but this became a cause celebre to him. It really grabbed him. This was a big idea that could change the world. He got two other friends to co-invest $300,000 to run a second trial in India. “Every child who was given this stuff was cured within 24 hours.” He went on to find funding for the other rounds, helped to bring in a management team from Pfizer, and even received money from a private equity firm who never takes on this kind of risk.

I asked him if this felt different, somehow, from what he had done before.

“For the first time I felt an emotional attachment to making the investment successful. In my previous investments, I always got involved with the entrepreneur, but the money was first. But this could save lives. This could make the world a better place first, and the money was second.” He even wrote a book about his experience, An Unlikely Intervention: A Startup Company’s Quest to Conquer the World’s Second Leading Killer of Children, so that others could follow his lead and benefit from his experience in doing good while investing.

I asked him why he became involved in the new profit organization called Sustainable Change Alliance, Inc. (SCA, Inc.).  SCA, Inc. is an offshoot of the membership organization Sustainable Change Alliance which has been presenting programs for the last two years focused on various social and environmental problems and featuring impact organizations needing capital. SCA, Inc. is an impact investing firm in Santa Barbara dedicated . . .

•      To become the best local impact investor in the United States;

•      To become the best local impact investment community in the United States; and

•      To become the example for communities worldwide.

His answer, “My wife Susan and I wanted to get involved in the community. I love working with entrepreneurs, but I wasn’t interested any longer in making money from investing in high tech apps and organizations without a social benefit. I wanted to create a model here, and to promote that model more broadly.” My sense was that he had experienced the passion and meaning of making a difference and he was no longer interested in going back to just making money. He wanted to use his knowledge, wisdom, experience, and skills for the betterment of the world.

One final question remained, why communities?

“Ever since Susan and I were married, we were involved in our communities. I believe that you should act locally. That where you are, you have the greatest impact by your philanthropic activities. We are facing serious problems at this time nationally; but, if people all over the country act locally, we can have a larger impact.”

So, have I answered my questions satisfactorily?

What makes a person great? If they are rich enough, are they great? What do we look for when we say they are wise? What does it mean when we say they make a difference? If we want to make a difference, are there models we can emulate or admire?

Would you say that Tom Washing is great, wise, making a difference, and a model to emulate or admire?  I certainly would!

I welcome all questions and comments and can be reached at

Montecito Journal Apr. 18-25, 2019: "Dealing with Betrayal and Hurt" by Dr. Peter Brill


QUESTION:  I have felt betrayed in my love life and also at work. Can you help me to get over these feelings of hurt?  . . .  Patricia in Goleta


Thank you for your question, Patricia. It is an important question and a large topic. You have given me very few details of either situation, so I am going to have to write in general. I am not going to address betrayal at work in this column, but perhaps in another, as it is a broad topic and deserves one of its own.


You have caused me to think deeply about my own life and the betrayals I have faced.


Certainly, betrayal is very painful, and it can undermine trust and color our experiences for a lifetime.


I am going to start by telling you a story about an experience I had in the past.


I was doing an interview in the bar at the Montecito Wine Bistro for a radio show I had at that time. My producer and I moved indoors because the weather was becoming a problem. The woman I was interviewing was producing a play in Los Angeles for the first time in her life, and at the age of 72. While we were discussing her life, she mentioned that some of her friends felt betrayed by her because “you are always so busy.” She said: “I find that some of the women are succumbing to being old. I feel embarrassed about pursuing other friendships, they are still my friends, but I tend to avoid them. I feel embarrassed because I’m doing a lot of stuff and they aren’t.”


What people feel as betrayal can be as simple as that. It’s what came next that amazed me.


One of the men in the bar had been listening to her life story and, when the word betrayal came up, he just lit up. “I’ve been betrayed,” he said. His reaction was so strong to the word that I was curious and invited him to join us. One of his close friends had betrayed him and he was still upset by it.


Five others joined and story followed story around the bar with great intensity and speed.  Half the stories were of friends and half of lovers that betrayed them. What made this experience so remarkable is that all this emerged spontaneously from a single word – betrayal – and that there was so much intense feeling involved in the telling. No one wanted to be denied in telling their story. Obviously, it is a very common experience to us all.


But what is betrayal? The word betrayal implies a violation of trust. To have our trust violated by someone hurts and the deeper the friendship the deeper the potential hurt.


Also, I understand that we all have hurts from the past that make us wary and the tendency is to run, not walk, to the nearest exit. But are all hurts betrayals? Let’s look at the definition of betrayal.


According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of betray is “to lead astray; especially to seduce”.  Additional definitions are: “to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty, an act of deliberate disloyalty," like when your friend told other people all your secrets. 


It seemed to me that some of the stories were about hurt, not betrayal. Being hurt does not imply any intent or malice. Being betrayed does. People can be hurt by misunderstanding, miscommunication, thoughtless acts or other “innocent” differences. When people feel hurt, as with the friends of the lady doing the play because she is busier than they are, it is to feel hurt by someone having different needs than they do. People’s needs change all the time, from day to day, week to week, and year to year, and are heavily influenced by circumstances. To nurse hurt over someone else’s autonomy and needs is to set yourself up for disillusionment and disappointment. That perspective on life hardens your heart and leaves you with less friends and can result in isolation and bitterness.


Romantic relationships have an enormous charge and early on are largely governed by a fantasy of who the other person is. Having said that, let’s take a common situation of betrayal. A man or woman choses someone to date and falls for them. They are highly sexually alluring and the ride is high. Then the person betrays them by dropping them or sleeping with another. This is a kind of painful betrayal that can cripple us.


So, given all that, what should you do?

1.      Enter trust slowly . . . Look before you jump. Hard to do when you fall in love quickly.

2.      Let your intuition be your guide – Many people, when I talked to them, had an intuitive sense that something wasn’t right but denied it.

3.      When you feel betrayed ask yourself the following questions from Katie Byron’s work:

·         Is it true that I have been betrayed or meanly hurt?

·         How do I know it’s true?

·         What if the opposite is true? I have betrayed them and theirs is just a response?

4.      Talk out that hurt with the other person if possible.


If you have truly been betrayed, I am going to enumerate a three-step process to consider.


Step 1: Forgive – Most people misunderstand forgiveness. They think it is letting the offending person off the hook. Staying angry and continuing to nurse hurt after some point is fruitless. It is the equivalent of punishing someone else by putting yourself in jail. Often the person is gone and doesn’t even know or often care what you are feeling. Draw the energy out of the experience by forgiving them and the world. That doesn’t mean that you would trust them again. Do yourself a favor and get over it.


Step 2: Comprehend – Try to understand the bigger picture of what happened. See your part in the whole. Let’s say you are a man or a woman who choses sexy partners with whom you have a great time in bed. However, these relationships are short lived because the partner leaves or is unfaithful. Often the most alluring partners don’t have the need to commit because there is always someone else around the corner. Your desire is fostering the choice of people that will betray you. Own it.


Step 3: Choose Wisdom – Understand what you would have to give up and change to diminish future betrayals. Maybe you need to let go of some of the allure and passion, despite Hollywood’s fascination with it, and choose more kindness and ability to handle conflict and understand individual difference. A real relationship is based on friendship.


Thank you, Patricia, for your email. I hope others will write more specifics.



I welcome all questions and comments and can be reached at





Nonprofit earned income training programs

By Peter Brill and Mariah Miller

The Santa Barbara Foundation plans to create an institution with programs providing technical support to nonprofits.  Based on our research, we believe it is essential for part of that effort to include a program providing them with technical support in developing alternative sources of funding through additional revenues and, where appropriate, profitable services.

Non-profits use a variety of different sources of funds. The sources of funding in nonprofits are completely dependent on the knowledge and skills of staff and, as such, they may not be able to utilize the full range of potential types of funding. [i]   In particular, when staff do not have the skills to develop earned income activities, the nonprofit cannot access this valuable funding stream.  Yet earned income is already an important funding source and common phenomenon for nonprofits in some sectors.  For example, many museums and hospitals rely on earned income and have even become significant competitors for their for-profit counterparts.[ii]  Earned income is increasingly being used or considered by nonprofits with other missions as well, including employment training, community and economic development, children and youth, rehabilitative services, homelessness, advocacy, education, substance abuse, elderly, health services, environment and animals, and disaster relief.[iii]  The earned income programs include thrift stores, employee training, clerical services, light manufacturing, consulting, property management, packaging, help hotlines, maintenance, food services, recycling and ecommerce.[iv]

Nonprofits are adapting earned income strategies for three reasons.  First, nonprofits have adopted these strategies following contact with and learning from for-profit business, whether acting in collaboration with them for mutual benefit or as competitors addressing the same issues.  Second, nonprofit human resources are different from what was common in the past.  Now, nonprofit managers are more likely to have business skills and nonprofit boards are more likely to include directors with business training.[v]  Having these skills enables non-profits to utilize earned income strategies more effectively.  Finally, the funding challenges nonprofits are facing has led them to explore more funding sources than the traditional sources of grants and donations, including earned income.

Generating earned income requires different skills from the other common funding sources.[vi]  Training for nonprofits at all levels, from the Board of Trustees to volunteers, can open up this possible funding stream for nonprofits that have not traditionally accessed this kind of funding.

How nonprofits earn income

There are many ways that nonprofits can earn income.  They can charge membership fees or dues or charge fees for services they already provide.  They can develop a product related to their service or fund their nonprofit activities with an unrelated for-profit business.   They can sell merchandise or sell their own experience by consulting to other nonprofits or even governments aiming to address a similar social mission.  They can continue to operate as nonprofits integrating for-profit activities as part of their own operations, establish for-profit subsidiaries, develop a partnership or joint venture or reincorporate with a hybrid structure, including benefit corporations, flexible purpose corporations, social purpose corporations, or low profit limited liability companies.[vii]

Benefits of earned income

Having earned income can benefit nonprofits in a variety of ways.  First, it can free up resources focused on fundraising.  This could enable skilled employees to use their talents more fully to address the social mission, or change the priorities in board recruitment or hiring decisions to have a wider range of skills represented.  Additionally, earned income activities could benefit nonprofits by attracting talented staff if they enable them to increase salaries or to develop or use skills perceived by staff as useful for their career development.[viii]  If earned income increases the stability of funding or the amount of funds available, then it can benefit the nonprofit by allowing it to develop activities that require more stable, substantial revenue streams than are typically available.  This includes better long-term planning in general, the possibility to engage in research and development or projects that take a longer time to realize or to operate with a larger scale.  Having a more diversified revenue stream, especially if it is a revenue stream with fewer conditions on use, could enable the nonprofit to focus on serving their beneficiaries. Finally, pursuing earned income can lead to improved public relations and marketing, productive organizational change and better service to beneficiaries.[ix]  It may also enable nonprofits to improve their ability to obtain traditional funding.  Foundations in particular value these strategies and have extended the length of their commitments to support nonprofits using these strategies.


            Challenges of earned income

Earned income also presents new challenges to nonprofits.  First, making a business plan and evaluating its potential may be unfamiliar to employees.  Even employees with business backgrounds may not anticipate the unique challenges involved in integrating earning income with delivering on the social mission.  This is an organizational change that entails learning to think about customers in addition to the theory of change and requires new tools to discuss the strengths of the organization and to understand its financial model.  As change can be slow, support and accompanying change makers is needed. 

Once the earned income activity is in progress, there are challenges to maintain it, as with any business venture, and there is the additional challenge of resource allocation to address both the ongoing delivery of activities that further the social mission and meeting the needs of the earned income activity to continue in operation when it is not performing well.  A nonprofit generating earned income faces the problem of potential mission creep, or losing focus on their mission[x], but a nonprofit focused on meeting the priorities of too many donors also risks losing sight of their mission.[xi]

Training programs

            For these reasons, training programs can benefit nonprofits seeking to develop earned income activities.  There has been a great deal of knowledge developed in the last 20 years in how to help nonprofits develop alternative funding. These programs should focus on evaluating earned income as part of the nonprofits strategic development in a holistic manner as well as including specific training to develop the skills required for planning and marketing a product or service.  Even board members and staff with business backgrounds might benefit from sessions on the difference between earned income in nonprofits and in a business.  They need to know how to avoid challenges specific to nonprofit earned income and address mission creep, as well as other unique challenges in the case that it arises.  Programs can also be developed to address various stages of earned income generation: basic ideas to provide a general introduction, accompanying nonprofits in developing a business plan and initiating the activity, and ongoing assistance and support.  Experience sharing between NGOs who participate in the program, the possibility to access long-term advice and support, and the skills acquired may benefit nonprofits even if they decide not to pursue earned income immediately.  This enables them to better manage the cultural change process in their organization.

There are already examples of earned income training programs and training programs for social enterprises, which have similar challenges of aligning revenue generation with social impact.  The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has a nonprofit capacity building program which supports business and leadership training primarily through grants for attendance at training programs.[xii]   The Western New York Foundation selects nonprofits for a complete capacity assessment program, which includes evaluation of long-term resources and how to stabilize and develop them.[xiii]  There are also many foundations providing support to social enterprises. 


There are already examples of California nonprofits generating earned income.  Based in Los Angeles, Chrysalis is a nonprofit with a for-profit business that addresses homelessness through job training and placement[xiv]. In San Bernardino, Neighborhood Housing Services of the Inland Empire (NHSIE) aims to make homeownership accessible.  Participation in a training program has increased their earned income to the point that it now exceeds other revenue streams[xv]. In San Francisco, Asian Neighborhood Design has used earned income for a wide variety of activities since it was founded in the early 1970s[xvi].  Founded in San Diego in 1993, The ReUse People has expanded nationally and even internationally, opening in Canada in 2018[xvii].  They focus on deconstruction, sales of used housing materials and job training for unemployed or underemployed individuals.

Earned income has helped these nonprofits to better realize their social mission.  Training programs can make this a more feasible reality for nonprofits in the Santa Barbara region as well.

Montecito Journal Mar. 7-14, 2019: "The Profitable Future of Traditional Philanthropy" by Dr. Peter Brill and Mariah Miller

QUESTION:  I hear there are 1,000 non-profits in Santa Barbara. I am newly retired and moved here from Chicago after selling my business. I look at an organization like the Girl Scouts which provides for a significant portion of their financial needs by selling cookies and other things. Why don’t more of these organizations find ways to create revenues to help them sustain themselves?  . . .  Stephen in Montecito

That is an excellent question, Stephen. I feel that this is such an important question that I hired a research assistant, Mariah Miller from UCSB, to help me research it and write this column. I believe that finding more diverse ways for these valuable organizations to sustain themselves is vital. You are right about the Girl Scouts. They generated $23 million in revenues through gross profit on merchandise compared to $15.5 million through gifts, grants and bequests in the previous fiscal year. There are other non-profits in Santa Barbara that are also using this approach.  But you are also right that this approach has been grossly underutilized.

One reason frequently given is that only certain kinds of organizations and fields can use this approach. While that may be true, it doesn’t really appear to be as true as one thinks. In a study of non-profits with revenue generating approaches, they were found in the following fields: employment training, community and economic development, children and youth, rehabilitative services, homelessness, hunger and poverty, advocacy, education and research, substance abuse, elderly, health services, arts, culture, and humanities, other social services, environment and animals, religious, and disaster relief. (Powering Social Change: Lessons on Community Wealth Generation for Nonprofit Sustainability, Community Wealth Ventures, Inc., 2003.) That is quite a list. So, lots of organizations facing social problems have found a way; but, back to your question, why isn’t it utilized more?

It is not simple to create profitable revenue streams. It requires the will, the time, the expertise, the training, and the commitment of the non-profit’s board and staff. Plus, it requires the capital.

It is not as simple as it was when we were kids just putting up a lemonade stand.

But, in addition, part of the challenge for non-profits is overcoming a series of myths that get in the way.

Myth #1: Working to create earned income will distract the organization from its mission.

While this can be a problem, the change in funding may actually help them be more effective in meeting their social goals. If the for-profit activities enable smoother funding and can free the non-profit from the priorities of philanthropic contributions or government grants, they can better focus on addressing their clients’ needs. When non-profits are not exclusively dependent upon fundraising, the many talented people who serve on their boards can have more time to contribute to the work of the board in other ways and these changed priorities may allow board recruitment to focus on a wider variety of skills. It can enable social change and community development. 

When earned income makes non-profits more financially stable, more able to focus on their core mission and more effective at meeting their organizational goals, money donated to them will go further toward making an impact on the local community. Innovation and innovating responses are needed to address the world’s social problems and finding new ways to finance and organize our efforts in addressing them is one part of this process. Non-profits are not only aiming to develop for-profit activities in the United States, but in other countries as well including some unexpected places like China.

Myth #2: This approach is very risky.

In a study of respondents to a survey of non-profits, almost 60% were profitable within two years. (Powering Social Change, p. 58.) Yes, there is risk. But by proper planning and adequate capitalization, in many cases these risks can be reduced. It is a funny thing about risk. Funders are often caught up in a strange quagmire. The risk between capital given as a grant and capital given to create a profitable arm is a psychological conundrum. When a foundation, for example, gives a grant, it expects no return other than the service provided. Therefore, all the money is “lost”. However, when a foundation invests in a profitable arm for a non-profit, if that money is lost it is a different feeling.  In investments, we expect returns. If the investment fails and the non-profit loses all the money, it is experienced as a loss. Investments open us up to loss. However, in a certain sense, if the non-profit makes any return that is more than zero, it is a huge gain and moves the organization in the direction of sustainability. Yet it doesn’t feel that way. We hate loss as human beings.

For example, “Boomtown Café is a nonprofit that launched its venture, a catering business, which generated revenue to support the early development of the nonprofit organization. Later, the catering business sustained the organization when it had to temporarily shut down operations.” (Powering Social Change, p. 64.)

If every non-profit was in the same financial position as Boomtown Café, imagine the security, self-direction and effectiveness that would result. Currently, so much time is spent raising money—what would happen if that time could be freed up to directly support the mission? How much risk is it worth to attempt that?

Myth #3: There is nowhere to learn how to do this.

Training programs to help non-profits develop for-profit activities already exist, though to the best of my knowledge there are currently no local providers in Santa Barbara County.  These programs assist non-profit professionals with the skills-development needed to successfully manage this transition. They focus on developing what is known to work in creating profitable arms: a supportive culture within the non-profit with a champion for the project, a supportive board, and skills-training for staff; strategic planning with sufficient capital and initial cash flow to get the project started; and a business orientation with focus on selling, customers’ needs, managed risk-taking, and clear goals for the present and future.

So, Stephen, you asked a vital question. In my opinion we need to start a major effort to do this in Santa Barbara. In order for this to happen, local funders would have to acknowledge the myths, decide to help the organizations that are interested in pursuing this direction, and then provide the technical support needed to help them succeed.

I welcome all questions and comments and can be reached at



Montecito Journal Jan. 24-31, 2019: "The Power of Money--the Bad and the Good" by Dr. Peter Brill

QUESTION:  I have my own money and I inherited some more from my parents.  I find I am very confused about what to do with it.  I buy things I don’t really need, and I give to charity but mostly only at the end of the year.  I want to do something bigger and give back to my community but where do I start?  I find that I am fearful about the money.  I have even gone to a financial planner and we determined I have plenty.  Can you help? . . .  Gloria in Santa Barbara


Money is so central to our lives, how we think about and use it, that it alters our consciousness and values in hidden ways. Surprisingly, studies show that people are more comfortable talking about sex than they are about money. By becoming conscious of our relationship to money, we can find freedom, openness, joy and truth. We worry about money, but don’t understand the hidden way that money restricts our spirit, where it can be a way to increased passion and meaning and freedom. Let’s see how.

As a psychiatrist, medical doctor, professor, entrepreneur, philanthropist and impact investor, I have had many different experiences with people and their money—the wealthy and the poor. I worked with wealthy people, chief executives of powerful organizations and family-owned businesses. I saw how money distorted lives and families. I saw the way money and our relationship to it governs, dominates and stresses our lives. I worked with some of the wealthiest families where money was used as a means of control and punishment that restricted and hurt the development of their children. I saw wealthy executives endlessly strive for more money that they didn’t need simply to prove to themselves how successful they were, but they felt like prisoners in their own self-constructed cells. Studies of income and happiness show that there is no increase in happiness above about $70,000 per year. This is true in over 40 countries studied. Despite the evidence, we believe money will bring us happiness.

An examined and conscious life has become the watchword of the enlightened. But how many of us examine deeply our use of money and how it reflects our values. We search for meaning, wholeness and peace. Reflecting on our relationship to money is an enormously important part of the search. Unfortunately, our obsession with money causes many to worry (no matter how much money they have) that they don’t or won’t have enough of it. So, they live in a life of fear instead of with a full heart and joy.

Mostly money only has the power we assign to it.

I believe that under their fears and upsets, even the deepest ones, everyone wants to love and be loved and to make a difference with their lives. But the money-culture has conditioned us to slowly lose our most deeply human values and no longer pursue the ones we truly hold close to our heart. 

Anxiety about money can be broken into two categories: factual and emotional. Factually, you have determined with an adviser that you have enough. But emotionally, you remain anxious so it’s about the meaning that money has for you.

Does more money give you more status? Do the latest material objects make you feel you are better than others? Do you find you buy things you don’t need, with money you don’t have, to impress people you don’t know or don’t care about? Or are you just afraid of growing older and magically think the money will prevent it?

It’s ego that creates anxiety about money if it’s not a poverty problem. It’s about ego and identity. How will I be seen, who will I be, have I succeeded, how will I be treated? When you begin to be concerned about others—about philanthropy, about goodness—your mindset changes, and your anxiety decreases. But in this vast sea of materialism, it’s hard to see that shore. Haven’t we all been judged or have judged others for how we dress, what we own or how rich our experiences are?

What if you could truly feel that you are living out your values? That you are coming from a place of compassion and wisdom instead of fear and greed.  What if you could do that without risking your economic security?

What are your values? Have you stopped to really reflect and decide? Is simply having more money, no matter what its impact on the world, going to make you happier and more fulfilled? Are you worried about the world your children will face if global warming continues unabated? Do you consider social justice vital to democracy? Does violence to women move you? Do children who fail to learn to read tug at your heart?

Of course, there are endless problems of society, people and world, and you can’t change them all.

What do you think needs to change to make a better world? What really tugs at your heart?

If you used your money to support your values, what would you change, improve and nourish?

What if you could invest your money more effectively and with the same or less risk you currently face in the investment world?

If you could find assurance that it was safe, as safe as where you put your money now, would you use some of it to do good?

Then the question becomes “Where?”. Water, timber, environment, global warming, poverty, social justice . . .

In future articles, we will present the evidence that with impact investing it can be done as safely as investing in the normal stock market. Some say it is safer because it doesn’t face the huge ups and downs of the market. It is investing in a sustainable future, not an exploitive one based on the next quarter. 

If you believed it could be possibly true that you could use your money to express your values, safely, would you put your toe in the water? Coming from a different mindset will certainly decrease your anxiety.

I welcome all questions and comments and can be reached at

Montecito Journal Dec. 20-27, 2018: "Would You Like a 500-Times Return on Your Money?" by Dr. Peter Brill

QUESTION:  I read the previous column about Jonathan Gartner and his excitement about impact investing. Isn’t philanthropy the best way to help people?  I have heard that impact investing yields a low financial return. Why should I be interested in it? . . .  Sam in Montecito

Certainly, philanthropy is vitally important to our welfare at the community, county, state and federal levels. In a recent meeting at the Community Environmental Council, it was noted that 25% of all jobs in California are in the non-profit sector.

That is a remarkable number. They help with everything from substance abuse, animal welfare, art and cultural activities, after school programs, the needs of seniors and the aging, minority and women’s rights, environmental issues, homelessness, food, health, to mention just a few. To address your questions, I would like to break it into two parts and then give an example.

First a disclaimer. Clearly, non-profits do an enormous amount of good. Just look at the partial list above. We would have little art, starving people and every other kind of social ill without them. That is not the question. The question should be, “Is the philanthropic non-profit model always the most effective way to produce social change?” It certainly is not the only model. Government is involved in dealing with many of the same problems and has a vast array of programs directed at the same targets. But most non-profits are only a month away from running out of money. They often are limited in their ability to produce prolonged change by, among other things, their lack of resources. In the paradigm of “give them a fish, teach them to fish and finally change the fishing industry,” most are closer to the “give them a fish” model. Given their focus and resources, they have little choice. But what if there were an organization that made money while addressing social needs? Then it would not need to raise new money every year. If it were profitable, it could build on its successes, be able to broaden its reach, and attack the problem in a much more expansive way.

Childhood obesity in America is a great example. It has become a national problem.  Kirsten Saenz Tobey and Kristin Groos Richmond were concerned about this problem and the way it hinders learning, so they set out on a mission to change the way students are fed by creating Revolution Foods. It became a national company that provided healthy food to schools. And it made a profit doing so. How much money would have to have been donated to create that change? And they did it without increasing the school lunch cost. Clearly, there are more ways of producing social good beyond traditional non-profit philanthropy.

Now on to the second question: “Isn’t impact investing just a low return way of investing?”

There are three dimensions to impact investing. Since all impact investments are designed to create social good, they have to measure their IMPACT, which is the first dimension. The second dimension is RISK. The third is RETURN. If you imagine a three-dimensional space, there are impact investments present in all quadrants of that space. There are impact investments that have little impact, high risk and little return. There are impact investments with high impact, low risk and low return. And there are impact investments that have moderate risk, high impact and phenomenal return!  Let’s take the example of Apeel Sciences.

What is Apeel Sciences & what is its product line?

Apeel Sciences is a company based in Goleta, California whose edible plant-derived coating product Edipeel can reportedly enable produce – avocados and other types of fruit and vegetables – to stay fresh two to three times longer, which promotes more sustainable growing practices, better quality food, and less food waste for everyone. For growers, suppliers, and retailers, Apeel is the only post-harvest solution that creates an optimal microclimate inside of every piece of produce, which leads to extended shelf life and transportability without requiring refrigeration, controlled atmosphere, or preservatives.

Apeel was founded in 2012 by James Rogers, after receiving a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to help reduce post-harvest food waste in developing countries that lacked a refrigeration infrastructure. The company is fighting the global food waste crisis by utilizing nature’s approach to preventing waste in the first place — a sustainable approach to the world’s growing food demands.

“In America, food waste is not only a sustainability issue–it’s a massive economic black hole,” according to Fast Company’s Assistant Editor Eillie Amzilotti, who covers sustainability, social good, and alternative economics. “Each year, people in the U.S. throw away an average of 400 pounds per person, and retailers lose a combined $18 billion per year on tossed produce (globally, food waste accounts for $1.2 trillion down the drain). Through its rapidly scaling partnerships, Apeel is working to position itself as one facet of the solution to this problem.”

Was Apeel Sciences a low return investment?

According to an anonymous source—as a private company, its value is not public—Apeel is now valued at 500 times its initial investment. If that is accurate, one share of stock is now valued at 500 times what it cost the original investors. Whatever the number, its value has gone up enormously. Sam, that certainly isn’t a low return.

Additionally, beyond extending food life, the company has also produced local jobs which benefit our community.

I truly believe that a commitment by Santa Barbarians to further the cause of impact investing will have a transformative effect on our community. It will help us address many of our social ills in a more effective, cost-effective manner while helping the community economically.

So, Sam, no, I don’t believe that non-profit philanthropy is always the best way to create social good and/or that impact investing will always provide a low return. There are too many examples in the world these days that prove otherwise. Thank you for your question.  

I welcome all questions and comments and can be reached at

Montecito Journal Nov. 15-22, 2018: "Discovering What Matters--Finding Purpose, Passion & Meaning" by Dr. Peter Brill

QUESTION:  Okay, so per your last column, people, as they age, want more passion, purpose and joy in their lives and a few are finding it. I’d like that, too. You can make mine with a cherry on top. But it’s hard to imagine “how”. I’m retired and supposedly living “the good life”, but it feels emptier and more boring than I thought it would feel.  Can you give me an example of how someone else has found it locally?


Sure. Let me tell you about Jonathan Gartner.


Jonathan is a wiry, fast-talking, smart, highly competent man with the human desire to do good. After growing up on the East Coast, he started his career working for a US Congressman as his chief legislative aide in Washington, DC.  He realized from this work that business and government need to work with each other to make a healthy economy and society. So, he found his way into business school and then into the world of finance.


His career took him to Chicago where he first worked in municipal finance, providing financing for cities, schools, toll-roads, hospitals and universities. Then he was offered a job with a Dutch firm in international banking. He spent the next 12 years working in wholesale banking and living with his family in Prague, the Netherlands and Hong Kong. He then took a job with a private equity firm based in Malaysia. He loved the investment side of the business. The people were smart; the environment was intense, fast-paced and the work was very interesting.  Every day presented exciting business school-type cases, but the grades were measured in profits instead of letters.


Then, after 18 years abroad, he and his wife decided to return to the US.


What happens to a man like this when his primary goal is no longer earning money for his family?


What does he do with himself?


He loves the stimulation of business. How does he find it without a ‘job’?


His heart says it’s time to give back, but how should he best do that?


In Jonathan’s case, he first took a job with a non-profit in his former home town of Chicago, but soon realized that the job didn’t satisfy his inner needs.  He says that he and his wife, Pam, take forever to make a small decision, like which cellular provider to use, but they make big decisions pretty quickly.  So, one snowy March morning three years ago, they decided in the span of a couple of minutes to quit their jobs, become teenagers again, and travel around America to look for their next life step.


While traveling, they also looked for a more permanent place to live. They discovered Santa Barbara and went no further. “It was physically beautiful, culturally rich, and we liked the feeling that people had for other people in town.”


One of the things that Jonathan discovered in his travels and in Santa Barbara is that “the transition out of the working world can be challenging not only from a financial perspective but also from a personal relationships and satisfaction perspective.  It is important to find connections and activities that fulfill you.” 


This need to find fulfillment is true at all stages of life.  For Jonathan, one of the ways he has ultimately built that sense of fulfillment is through impact investing. 


Impact investing is the idea that you can address important social and environmental needs not only through philanthropy and governmental aid, but also by investing in companies that are seeking to provide a positive social outcome as well as a financial return.  It is the ultimate example of doing well and doing good.


Earlier this year, Jonathan took over leadership of the Sustainable Change Alliance ( SCA was formed in 2015 by a team of professionals bringing together their financial, educational, leadership and business skills to promote local impact investment opportunities.


“As far as Sustainable Change Alliance goes, I love it,” Jonathan said. “Impact investing and Sustainable Change Alliance scratches all of my itches.  I love to meet entrepreneurs and learn about their businesses, help them to grow, and consider making an investment in their success.  I get to learn from world-class subject matter experts about topics like health, housing, and the environment.  Also, I wanted to leave the world a better place, to give back. However, I’ve learned that, personally, I’m not suited for working in a non-profit. The work our non-profit community does is amazing but as a business model, they face the incredible challenge of having to seek financial support each year.  I still support the philanthropic causes I believe in, but through impact investing, by coupling the genius of the entrepreneur with my and other’s investment dollars, one can make an impact and a profit.  Everybody wins! I also find that the people involved with Sustainable Change Alliance and impact investing, in general, are using their heads and their hearts. They want to do good.  They want to make money.  They want to engage with others.  What’s not to like about that?


I enjoy building an organization, doing good work, and collaborating with people with common desires. What I really find interesting about Sustainable Change Alliance is that everyone comes from different backgrounds. Some become involved because of a religious or spiritual perspective; there’s also a psychiatrist, people out of traditional investing, lawyers, and former CEOs.  From my point of view, it doesn’t matter why you’re at the table; all that matters is that you are there.


I also wanted to do something where I could see and touch the results of my efforts. By working at the community level, I’m able to do that. I get to meet with the people that I invest in on a regular basis and I can see the fruits of their labor. Their success is my success and we can celebrate that together.


Think about how you traditionally meet people: it’s either at work or at school. When you retire, you don’t have either of those supports. Sustainable Change Alliance, and other groups I’m involved with, have allowed me to have a whole array of new relationships. I spent 18 years of my life abroad, and while I loved the experience, I am aware that I was a ‘stranger in a strange land’.  Now, I finally feel at home.”

Is it any wonder Jonathan is satisfied?  He’s found ‘work’ that he loves.  He’s using his knowledge and abilities for good purpose.  He feels effective making a difference as part of a group that is built on trust and shared values and is focused on benefitting its members and its community.


Next question? Please write to me about specific situations where you personally feel challenged and I will attempt to respond. We will keep your name anonymous. Maybe together we can help you identify the next chapter of your own life.  I can be reached at 


Montecito Journal Oct. 18-25, 2018: "Discovering What Matters--Changing The System" by Dr. Peter Brill

Throughout my life, I have worked with people and organizations, studying and trying to help them produce change and then measure its impact validly. After 75 years of life, I feel like I have put my time to good use and learned a lot, not only about systems – how they work at the cellular, mid-level and big-picture levels, and what best promotes change within them – but also about the importance of meaning… what makes people feel like what they’re doing is meaningful.

I have learned that people in retirement want good health, passion, purpose, and joy or contentment. I discovered that people at younger ages want passion, purpose, and joy, too. More than a paycheck.

I started interviewing people in their early 50s. They had started out wanting money, power, and status, but their values changed as they faced their limited time on Earth. Now, they wanted passion and meaning as well. Even millennials, I learned, wanted meaning in addition to money from their work.

Sadly, as I began to ask countless people in a multitude of workshops how many of them had achieved these things, the percentages were astoundingly low. About 15% believed they had passion in their lives; 20-25% had found a sense of purpose; and only around 30% had achieved contentment.

So, I decided to write an ongoing column structured for your questions and designed to bring together three primary concepts: How to have an impact or create positive change, find personal meaning, and sometimes even make money doing it. In the column, we will spotlight new and existing opportunities for community impact – what’s out there and what can be done to achieve these goals. We will introduce and discuss innovative processes and new tools to balance individual fulfillment and capital needs in the world of “causes,” plus impact investing avenues and other ways to influence/create change.

Why start with our own community? Because with our society’s financial and political problems change now has to happen from the bottom up. Real change is deeply personal. Built on clarity and trust, it depends on strong relationships.

To begin the column, I recently had a conversation where this question arose:


Question: I feel powerless to change the system I’m in. I can manage my schedule, desk, board meetings, responsibilities, and leisure time. But it has stopped feeling (or maybe it never did feel) like enough. One day blends into the next, and eventually they all start to feel the same. Similarly, I donate time and money to a good cause, thinking I’m helping, but the world’s or community’s problems remain the same. The ironic paradox is that life continues to move faster, we have access to tools that have never existed before, and yet the core of humanity’s problems never seem to change in any permanent way. Any suggestions?

Answer: Here’s an allegory about the nature of “powerlessness.” Three men and one woman are tasked to get a heavy cart up a hill.

• Sam wants to pull the cart up the hill. He’s convinced that that’s the only way to accomplish the assignment.

• Sarah wants everyone to push the cart. She’s convinced that success lies in everyone pushing together.

• Stephen is focused on the issue of who’s going to get the most credit for completing the challenge. Unless he can find a way to get nearly all the credit, he won’t help push or pull.

• Mike is angry because the others treat him like a second-class citizen. Consequently, he has decided to only give the “appearance” of effort.

Sadly, they all feel powerless and the cart remains at the bottom of the hill. No change. Four intelligent people trapped in an emotional bog. What’s the underlying problem? They lack trust in one another, and thus the ability to communicate and cooperate. They are not truly a team. When the basic essentials of a relationship break down or are missing, everyone feels powerless.

Notice what has changed in our society over time:

• In 1980, all measures of trust and organizational identification dropped from a stable 60-70% to 20%. Why? Organizations adopted a “commodity model” for themselves. Everything from the organization itself to its parts and pensions can now be “bought and sold” like commodities. Loyalty to employees has disappeared. No longer able to count on anything from their employers, employees’ careers have become a hop-scotch of stress and job insecurity as they move through multiple organizations. Trust in organizations overall has declined significantly. One lie made under such a weakened system and trust is lost forever.

• Similarly, if the organization exists solely for the bottom line, if people are exploiting the system or the customer, if the work isn’t for some social good or higher purpose, there is little or no meaning in the job. Under such circumstances, why should employees cooperate with one another? Why should they feel motivated? Why shouldn’t they get frustrated and mad? No matter how hard we try to pretend otherwise, feelings matter.

Now consider how few employees meet face to face anymore. They only relate electronically. Locked in an unending dance with their phones and computers, one has to wonder if they might just as well be standing in front of a mirror seeing, hearing, and sensing only their own words, feelings, and point of view. What does that do to relationships?

• Further, there has been a huge loss of trust in society.

• The book Bowling Alone was a study of trust. Published in 2000, it showed a large deterioration of trust and societal participation, using as a major example the fact that people used to bowl in leagues and increasingly now bowl alone.

• Since then, almost every institution of society has seen both a large drop in participation and more human isolation.

• One of my own organization’s studies showed that almost 50% of employees are significantly anxious, depressed, abusing or addicted to a substance. A lot of people around you are in significant distress.

What can be done?

1. Work on yourself… Are you trustworthy? Are you empowering others? Where are you adding to the problem needlessly? We have become a society of blamers.

2. Try to remember that the other person is trying to find happiness, too, in their own uncertain, powerless way.

3. Remember that trust and relationships have to be built. No one owes it to you to be concerned about what you want. You must earn their trust as much as they must earn yours.

4. Don’t jump quickly, either personally or in organizations, from distrust to trust. Trust is a big issue. It needs to evolve:

• Stage 1 – “Safety trust”: Can I trust that I am safe with you and this organization physically, emotionally, psychologically, and financially? Similarly, are others safe with you? Are you willing to tell the truth (and fact-check) or will you spread unverified rumors? Remember, you’re just as responsible for establishing “safety trust” as everyone else.

• Stage 2 – “Inclusion trust”: Can I trust that I will be included and treated respectfully in your or this organization’s inner circle?

• Stage 3 – “Acceptance trust”: Can I trust that I will be accepted and valued by you or this organization despite my differences, strengths, and weaknesses?

• Stage 4 – “Inspiration trust”: Can I trust that if I put a lot of creative energy and effort into what we’re doing together, you will “have my back” and I won’t end up feeling used or disappointed?

5. Learn to rise above fear and greed in all of their subtle manifestations. They blind us from clarity and keep us from seeing how to create change. We are all prisoners of our own perceptions and beliefs. We developed those through our families and life experiences, where we felt like a victim or a privileged person. Our experiences shape us. Our fear creates rigid beliefs. Our own personality problems create difficulties for others.

In the end, you have to stop blaming or you’ll never get your power back. You have to find compassion for yourself and others, so you can understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. When you blame others, you become blind to how people, relationships and systems actually work. Understanding people and situations better gives you more power.


Please write to me about specific situations where you personally feel powerless and I will attempt to respond. We will keep your name anonymous. Maybe together we can get that cart up the hill.  I can be reached at

The Santa Barbara Independent: The Virtues of Impact Investing

“The Virtues of Impact Investing,” The Independent (May 12, 2016): 39.

"After becoming disillusioned with the financial model and ineffectiveness of so many of the nonprofits around him, Peter Brill stumbled upon an investment alternative that is now beginning to make its way into the mainstream. Brill, a retired psychiatrist, UPenn professor, and business owner, is bringing impact investing out into the Santa Barbara sunshine."