Paul Orfalea


SOURCE OF WEALTH: Founder of Kinko's

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

OVERVIEW: One of the most recent Giving Pledge signatories, Paul Orfalea and his former wife Natalie founded the Orfalea Family Foundation in 2000 (Orfalea is now remarried). With grantmaking primarily in the Santa Barbara area, early childhood education, higher education, and programs in learning differences have been key interests. For the initial phase of the couple's philanthropy, the main focus was the Orfalea Fund, through which Orfalea created and supported initiatives, as well as lent major support to outfits such as the Santa Barbara Community Foundation. However, the Orfalea Fund came to an end in late 2015, as Paul and Natalie focus on more individualized giving. 

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 ten 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 has aimed 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, which includes 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 sat 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 given large sums 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 has 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. As a result of the winding down of the Orfalea Fund, however, REACH has suspended student recruitment for the program for the time being.

SANTA BARBARA COMMUNITY: Orfalea is a strong supporter of the Santa Barbara Foundation. Much of this support took place through the Orfalea Fund, which he recently shut down. 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: With the winding down of both the Orfalea Family Foundation and the Orfalea Fund, Orfalea's philanthropy is clearly in transition. We'll have to wait and see what happens to the other Orfalea entity: the Orfalea Family Foundation. It's worth mentioning that Orfalea himself has been quite vocal about his learning difficulties as a child (he's dyslexic), and has written about these experiences extensively. This suggests that education could be a lasting priority, particularly education addressing learning differences. 


    Orfalea Foundation

    Paul Orfalea Website