Thanks to a hefty grant, the Environmental Defense Center has a new top dog.

Cameron Benson began as the EDC’s new executive director Monday, Jan. 5. The EDC was able to appoint a new director because of a $50,000 grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations in Santa Barbara County. Benson said the grant provides funding for the executive director position.

“Because of the recent downturn in the economy, we’ve suffered a decrease in donations,” Benson said. “This grant has enabled us to recreate the position and secure it for the future.”

Because the EDC is a nonprofit organization, it does not receive any funds from either the state or federal governments and must rely entirely on donations.

“The grant will ensure EDC’s short-term fiscal health and lay the foundation for long-term organizational prosperity,” Benson said.

Benson was chosen for the position by the EDC’s board of directors. He graduated from UCSB with a degree in psychology and has done environmental work for both the EDC and Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson. Former executive director Linda Krop continues to work as the EDC’s chief counsel. The EDC is an environmental law firm that represents organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club.

The Santa Barbara Foundation, founded in 1928, receives donations from community members and uses this money for grants and student aid. Suzanne Farwell, director of communications, said the foundation currently has approximately $184 million in donations.

“The money we grant is part of our return on investments,” Farwell said. “We’ve made grants to almost every single nonprofit in the county. We make grants to education facilities, young people, old people, the environment, you name it.”

In order to receive grant money, organizations must go through an application process, which is reviewed by several committees of volunteers.