RSF Foundation continues to provide crucial support to nonprofit organizations

Chris Sichel, RSF Foundation president/CEO, Christy Wilson, former RSF Foundation
(L-r) Chris Sichel, RSF Foundation president/CEO, Christy Wilson, former RSF Foundation president/CEO, Kevin Crawford, current RSF Foundation immediate past board chair, at last year’s RSF Foundation 40th anniversary event. (Crawford was the RSF Foundation board chair at that time.)
(Vincent Andrunas)

The past year has been one of incremental change for the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, as a new CEO settled in at the philanthropic organization and began charting a course for the group’s future.

Chris Sichel took the reins in September 2021 as the group’s new president and CEO, after long-time CEO Christy Wilson announced her impending retirement. Wilson, as the foundation’s first paid employee, had overseen its growth from $1 million in assets to $155 million, and guided the disbursement of more than $110 million in grants during her tenure.

At the time he took over, Sichel said change would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and he has tried to hold to that plan, maintaining the foundation’s core mission of supporting nonprofits that benefit women and the military/veterans communities, among others, while brainstorming ideas for expanding the foundation’s charitable footprint.

In 2022, said Sichel, the foundation issued grants of more than $355,000 to 15 groups serving military personnel. “Literally that’s thousands of lives touched,” he said.

Among those nonprofits supported was the Foundation for Women Warriors, a 102-year-old group focused on preventing homelessness among female veterans, as well as enhancing their economic and personal well-being, said CEO Jodie Grenier.

“Our vision is that each woman veteran attains the life she fought for, attains the quality of life she has ensured for every other American citizen,” Grenier said.

Women are the fastest-growing segment in the veterans’ population, and many are single moms who resort to couch-surfing or sleeping in their cars when they can’t access housing for themselves and their children, Grenier said.

The women warriors group provides emergency financial assistance to help pay for rent, utilities, child care, car repairs or other necessities for its clients, she said.

Support from the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation and its affiliated funds and donors has been crucial, granting $126,000 over the past four years. The RSF Foundation also provides expertise and advice and introduced the women warrior group to other donors in its network,

“Their support has been critical to our sustainment and growth,” Grenier said.

In all, the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation disbursed nearly $10 million in assistance over the past year, said Sichel, both close to home and further afield, such as humanitarian assistance to nonprofits working in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

Among the foundation’s tasks this past year, Sichel said, was identifying additional areas of need in the San Diego region where the foundation can focus its efforts. The results of its deliberations will be unveiled after the first of the year.

“Our goal is to invite philanthropists from throughout the region to join us in this grantmaking process so we can have more impact on the community,” Sichel said.“Our goal is to do what we can to increase the flow of charitable dollars,” Sichel said.

The foundation can help donors set up an endowment, in which the principal donation is preserved and investment earnings are disbursed as grants, or a donor-advised fund, which provides flexibility to donors and allow disbursements of both principal and interest.

The RSF Foundation also does its own research to identify suitable nonprofits that meet donors’ needs, and ensure the recipient organizations are well-run, fiscally sound and successful at their missions.

“We want the strongest partners with a track record of success so we can have maximum impact with our donors’ dollars,” Sichel said.

Anyone can access the RSF Foundation’s website at whether they have set up funds there or not, and view its lists of nonprofits deemed trustworthy and effective, which serve a range of groups such as active-duty military, veterans and victims of the war in Ukraine.

As he’s familiarized himself with the foundation and its work over the past year, Sichel said he’s been gratified by the generosity shown by the Rancho Santa Fe community.

“There are so many people who care about the community and the world, and they share their dollars so generously, it’s heart-warming to be a part of that process,” he said.