Paul Orfalea: Tech Grants


SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder of Kinko's

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Youth Development, Learning Differences, Santa Barbara Community

OVERVIEW: Giving Pledge signatories, Paul Orfalea and his former wife Natalie founded the Orfalea Family Foundation in 2000 (He is now remarried). Orfalea’s grantmaking primarily happens in the Santa Barbara area, and he prioritizes early childhood education, higher education, and programs in learning differences. These days, Orfalea prefers to give anonymously. 

BACKGROUND: The man behind Kinko's (now FedEx Office), Paul Orfalea got his start while attending the University of Southern California. With a $5,000 bank loan co-signed by his parents, Orfalea founded Kinko's in 1970. His first store was a 100-square-foot space adjacent to a hamburger stand in Santa Barbara, California, which he rented for $100 a month. Orfalea began selling notebooks, pens, pencils and the services of a copying machine at 4 cents per copy. Within 10 years, Kinko’s grew to a network of over 80 stores across the country. In 2000, Orfalea retired from Kinko’s and started focusing on philanthropy. In addition, Orfalea has published several books and has taught at various colleges.


EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: Orfalea seeks to bolster the early childhood education space in Santa Barbara. The foundation's Preschool Food Initiative (PFI) aims to create "new norms for food and physical activity practices in Santa Barbara County ECE centers." Participating centers sign on and complete a 50+ item assessment of things like food literacy, gardens and physical activity. Orfalea has also supported outfits such as the Outdoor Classroom Project. As well, the foundation used to run an annual Orfalea Children’s Center Director’s Retreat for ECE directors in Santa Barbara.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Orfalea has given away over 3,000 college scholarships, valued at over $13 million, distributed through partners such as the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

Orfalea and Natalie have been major supporters of University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), where Natalie has been named an honorary alumna, and has served on the University of California, Santa Barbara Chancellor’s Council. Orfalea’s long commitment to UCSB includes gifts to the Orfalea Family Children’s Center, the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and UCSB Arts & Lectures. Orfalea also helped establish UCSB’s master’s program in global studies, and the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies. Orfalea has made significant grants to Westmont College in Santa Barbara and to the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where the Orfalea College of Business is named in honor of his parents. 

Orfalea partnered with the Clinton Foundation, UCSB, and USC to run the Clinton-Orfalea Fellowship and Internship Program, supporting scholarship in public policy and global development.

YOUTH DEVELOPMENT: Orfalea created the REACH Initiative, an experiential education program for motivated high school students in California.

SANTA BARBARA COMMUNITY: Orfalea has been a strong supporter of the Santa Barbara Foundation. Much of this support took place through the Orfalea Fund. Orfalea has also supported local issues such as disaster readiness through the "Aware & Prepare Initiative," a partnership between the Orfalea Foundation, and the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.

In 2016, Orfalea invested in and helped launch Impact Hub, a shared work and event space whose focus is to support and connect local entrepreneurs, nonprofits and businesses with ideas, resources and a global network while driving positive social and environmental change.

LOOKING FORWARD: Now that Orfalea's charities have shuttered, expect Orfalea to continue to dig into Whole Childhood Development anonymously, largely in Santa Barbara. He is also concerned about the rise of diabetes in America, particularly among low-income children and children of color. As he puts it, "American kids now have a one in three chance of contracting diabetes, and for Black and Hispanic kids, it’s a 50 percent chance. Doing nothing is NOT an option.”