More than 35 years ago, a small group of Rancho Santa Fe philanthropists came together with a common goal: to assist those who needed financial assistance and lived outside of the community. As a result of wanting to help those less fortunate, a foundation was formed in 1981. The original name was Rancho Santa Fe Community Foundation and it was changed in 1998 to Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.
Celebrating its 35th anniversary on Oct. 13, the foundation will recognize past and current board members and donors at a private event being held at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.
“This is an opportunity for us to recognize the people who have been really instrumental in our success to date, share with them some plans for the future and have them be in a better position to go out into the community and be ambassadors with us,” said Christy Wilson, executive director of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation. “Over the years, the Rancho Santa Fe-based organization has contributed significantly to the surrounding community and used local resources to help people and organizations within the San Diego region, nationally and globally.”
This year, the foundation hit an important milestone, having raised more than $100 million in assets. Since it was established, the foundation has given out more than 6,000 grants and dedicated over $52 million in funds to nearly 600 nonprofit organizations throughout San Diego County. By the end of the year, the goal is to reach the $60 million mark in total grants awarded locally, nationally and internationally.
The foundation’s mission is to make an impact both locally and globally by connecting donors with philanthropic needs while partnering with nonprofits. Wilson, who has worked at the foundation for 19 years, said that funds are allocated to organizations that have the most critical need in the community.
One of the foundation’s primary areas of focus is the military program, The Patriots Connection. It was established by the foundation nine years ago during the height of the Iraq War. “We identified a need in San Diego for an organization to be a resource for donors in the community,” said Wilson. “We were seeing so many men and women coming back from the war with mental and physical issues and local families whose loved ones did not return at all. We knew there was much to be done.”
Eventually, the foundation set up a San Diego online “directory” listing local nonprofit programs that best serve active duty military and veterans. “If a donor gives a dollar to those organizations, you can be sure that most of that dollar actually goes to the clients they are serving — the people who need their services,” she said.
The foundation also started North County Senior Connections, now in its third year. “We identified a fairly significant population of seniors in North San Diego County who live along the highway 78 corridor,” said Wilson. “They are vulnerable in that they don’t necessarily live below the poverty line but they live on very limited incomes. Many of them live in virtual isolation.”
In response, the foundation and its partner organizations — Interfaith Community Services and Dreams for Change — coordinate the Thyme Together food truck to visit five different locations each week in Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista. Seniors pay $2 and come together to eat a healthy meal with others and share in a program which might include music, physical activity or a presentation. “It’s not only enhancing their nutritional habits, but also the socialization aspects of their lives,” said Wilson. “They really look forward to these meals.”
The foundation has also partnered with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank to provide seniors with free produce they can enjoy throughout the week. “We set out to help seniors eat better and also to prove that these collaborations can be really successful,” said Wilson. “One organization can’t do it all. It’s better when we all come together, identify a need and address that issue in the community.” Since the program was first established, nearly 12,000 meals have been served to more than 1,100 unique individuals.
Other programs initiated by the foundation include the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund, which has given nearly $3 million in grants throughout San Diego; the Village Viewpoints speakers’ series at the Village Church; and VisionNow, a donor-initiated program.
One of the future community initiatives the foundation has become involved with is working with the Committee on the Natural Environment (CONE), a standing committee of the Rancho Santa Fe Association. “Our environment is changing and we need to be very aware of what those changes are, what they are caused by and how we can hopefully mitigate that in the future,” said Wilson.
She said there are several ways for individuals to make a difference at the foundation, whether it’s through a fund created in honor of a family member, a donor advised fund, an endowment for a specific nonprofit agency or contributing to the Community Impact Fund, which allows donors to give collectively and make a significant impact on the community and region.
“We are trying to work with our donors and local residents who have the means to mobilize discretionary dollars to help us address the issues that affect the areas around the San Diego region,” said Wilson. “We want them to realize that we understand many of these issues and are an important resource about the needs of the community and the organizations that are really doing the work that needs to be done.”
For more information, contact Executive Director Christy Wilson at the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation (858) 756-6557 or visit www.rsffoundation.org.