Foundation prepares for its 30th birthday

RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation is coming of age as it celebrates its 30th birthday at an event set for Oct. 20 at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.
What began as an effort by a dozen community members to help people in Rancho Santa Fe and surrounding areas has grown into an international organization that helps people around the world.
“They could not have envisioned what it has become today,” said Christy Wilson, the organization’s executive director. “We have become successful and now are becoming significant.”
But the mission has not changed.
“It is taking what we have been blessed with and helping people who have not had the same opportunity,” she said.
Wilson said when she started 14 years ago there were $1 million in assets. Now it is $30 million and growing. Over the last 30 years, almost $100 million have flowed through the fund.
“We have a 30 member board comprised of people who volunteer their time. They live throughout San Diego County, not just Rancho Santa Fe. Over the years 136 different people have served on our board.”
The office of the foundation is in the Union Bank building. “The Art Guild is my lobby,” she said.
Wilson said the first 20 years of the life of the organization focused on Rancho Santa Fe and a few nonprofits outside it.
“In 2000 we began to change our focus and leverage the assets of the wealth of the community to addressing needs outside Rancho Santa Fe nationally and internationally,” she said.
As the foundation grew, it began to recognize donors had causes outside the community about which they were passionate, so the foundation began to support the idea of donor advisory funds, which allowed a giver to select his or her own charity to fund.
Toward the end of the 1990s, the community foundation began to market this to donors.
“That kind of jump-started us. Now we have 80 donor advisory funds and over the past 11 years we have made grants of $40 million out of the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.
The foundation also gives international grants to such organizations as Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross and aid to natural disasters such as the tsunami in Japan, earthquakes and storms around the world.
“We don’t pretend to know everything that is going on in another country. We do the due diligence behind it, but then allow the organization to use the money as needed,” she said.
Still, she said, 90 percent of the money given stays locally.
The cranky economy has not affected the foundation much.
“I think the downturn in the economy has simply made people a little bit more cognizant about where they where they are putting their money. Grants have decreased a little, but by the same token some of the organizations are making larger grants as opposed to a little bit to everybody,” she said. “Impacting an organization with a large grant has become very meaningful to our donors.”
They are maintaining the level of their funds to address the needs of our community and continue to step up to the plate.
Of the 12 founders of the foundation, six still live in the community.
“We are hoping they can be with us on our anniversary,” she said.
One of them, Paul Thomas, is the honorary chairman of the event.
The celebration is scheduled from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center. There will be a short program and then the social portion. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations must be made.
“We want to get out our message that we are a grant maker, that we are trying to do our best to work with donors and the non profits in San Diego County to address the needs of the community. We are here to help and a resource and vehicle for donors.”
To learn more about the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation call (858) 756-6557.

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