Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund goes 10 for 10 in grants for anniversary year


By Diane Y. Welch

Where last year the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund awarded six grants, this year that number was increased to 10. And for good reason. This November the Women’s Fund is celebrating its 10th anniversary, a major milestone in the all-woman philanthropic organization that has cumulatively awarded $2,405,585 to San Diego-based charities.

The RSF Women’s Fund, a donor-advised fund of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, now has 120 members, which has grown substantially since 2004, when its 53 charter members granted $100,000 to four organizations.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, many past and current members with their partners and spouses joined in an anniversary celebration at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe.

That evening, Gayle Gillies-Mize was honored as the organization’s founder and was presented with an award to thank her for her determination to start the fund and for her role in sustaining it.

Each granting period from this point forward will have one special award named for her.

Gillies-Mize was very touched by the award, she said humbly in a later interview. “But it isn’t just me who should be recognized — it’s all the women who have worked so hard these past 10 years to make it so successful.”

At the celebration, a video presentation was shown that captured past events and former recipients of the many grants awarded. To date, the Women’s Fund has donated to 74 local charities. Two young award beneficiaries, one from Reality Changers and the other from A Reason To Survive, spoke at the event about how the gift had affected their lives.

Each year, the RSF Women’s Fund champions two main areas of need in the community and awards several financial grants within these two groups.

For 2015, “women” and the “military” were the two focus categories chosen by members’ votes, said program chairwoman Susan Goldfarb Pidgeon.

As letters of inquiry are received in the spring from a large pool of charities, a short list is drawn up for potential awardees that fit the focus categories. Usually about 20 nonprofits are invited to submit a formal grant request, said Goldfarb Pidgeon.

When formal proposals are received, the organizations are vetted and members make site visits to see the organizations for themselves. Members then vote online to select which organizations will receive the grant funds.

The 2014 recipients included the Boys and Girls Club of San Diego for its Club K Program ($25,000); Cecily’s Closet, for its Medical Equipment, Belly Bands and Room Makeover Program ($30,000); the New Haven Youth and Family Service, for its Sustainable Community Youthworks Program ($30,000); and several more for a total of pooled funds that reached $258,000.

“It’s incredible what Gayle has achieved since she came up with this idea,” said Goldfarb Pidgeon. “She started a great program for giving, and each year it continues to get stronger.”

For more information, visit