Rancho Santa Fe Foundation expanding to help put more donor visions into action


By Karen Billing

The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation is expanding and hopes to build on its efforts to connect local donors with organizations that make a difference across San Diego County.

One year after the RSF Foundation’s move from the village to its new office space at Rancho Santa Fe Plaza, the Foundation is adding a new 860-square-foot community event space.

In August 2013, the Foundation moved to its new 1,700-foot office space after 15 years in the village in an 800-square-foot space that was generously donated by Union Bank.

They have leased the vacant office space next door in the plaza, put in an adjoining door and refreshed the paint and carpet. Tables, chairs, big screen-mounted TV and a giant white board will make the space conducive to meetings and events.

The Foundation administrators hope the room will be used often, and they hope to start a series where they can introduce potential donors to a cause, bringing like-minded people into the same room and generate awareness, ideas, connections and support.

“We are uniquely positioned to help donors really be as effective as they can be with their philanthropy,” said Sue Pyke, donor services director. “One of our slogans is ‘Put your vision into action.’ We have a lot of expertise and practical ways to take those visions and make them a reality.”

The community room is not the only new addition to the Foundation this year.

The Foundation refreshed its branding with a new logo in January, has a new website ready to launch, and it recently hired Amanda Wiggs, an administrative assistant. RSF Foundation Executive Director Christy Wilson said Wiggs, who previously worked with the San Diego Foundation, has been a great addition to the staff.

“It’s really an exciting time for the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation,” Wiggs said. “There’s a lot of opportunity to reach newer families that have moved to Rancho Santa Fe. To get them involved in our work is our goal this year, to make information about what we do available to a wide variety of people.”

Pyke said when paired with the unbelievably generous and passionate people in Rancho Santa Fe, the Foundation is able to accomplish some pretty incredible things.

The Foundation oversees three kinds of monies: Discretionary funds, monies given to the foundation by people who want the foundation to use it to address the greatest needs in San Diego county; donor-advised funds, funds that are invested on the donor’s behalf to facilitate grant making; and endowment fund monies that the Foundation manages on behalf of nonprofits around the county. The foundation currently oversees endowment funds of about 70 organizations, such as the Rancho Santa Fe School Foundation, the Amigos de Osuna, the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center and the RSF Library Guild.

They have developed a directory of a little more than 100 organizations they have fully vetted, connecting donors with groups where their funds will have the most value.

“Our role is connecting donors and people who have an interest in certain areas and causes with the best organizations working on those causes and help come up with strategies to make their philanthropy more effective,” Pyke said.

Wilson has been at the helm as executive director for 17-and-a-half years.

“It’s been an extraordinary journey,” Wilson said. “I was given a pretty wonderful opportunity to run this organization.”

Two of the Foundation’s biggest programs are The Women’s Fund and The Patriots Initiative.

The Patriots Initiative, formed in 2008 as the Armed Forces Interest Group, focuses its efforts on supporting military organizations. The Patriots Initiative recently distributed $69,000 in grants to eight organizations in San Diego County — a second round of grants will be announced later this fall.

The RSF Women’s Fund is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and has given over $2 million over the last 10 years.

In May, The RSF Women’s Fund granted $258,000 to 10 organizations, including $30,000 to Outdoor Outreach, an organization that provides an after-school Adventure Club to underserved youth at public schools in San Diego County.

The Foundation likes to able to shed light on the worthy organizations it provides grants to and they recently visited and photographed an Outdoor Outreach event that took students from El Cajon Valley High, many of them Iraqi immigrants, on a snorkeling trip.

“The Women’s Fund does amazing work,” said Wilson. “One aspect of the Foundation that’s significant is the idea of collective giving, people coming together around an issue. Philanthropic efforts can have more of an impact than they would have on their own.”

One area the Foundation is making a big impact with this year is with its Impact Grants program, funded by donors who have contributed to unrestricted endowments. Each year a specific focus is selected to benefit from the grants program. For the first time, the Foundation has embarked on a multi-year grant process focused on seniors. The RSF Foundation has partnered with Interfaith Community Services and Dreams for Change, and provided the initial funding for a pilot program that focuses on getting seniors in Oceanside and along the SR-78 corridor access to healthy food and providing socialization opportunities.

“This is about taking a deeper dive into an issue,” Wilson said.

Wilson said a lot of research and feasibility studies went into the program, which they plan to hand back to the service providers after the six-month pilot program and help the program continue to expand.

“The Foundation is not a service provider, we are grant-makers. We find the best people to do the work in the community and help them fund it,” Wilson said.

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