The Coast News Group
Old - DO NOT USE - The Coast News

Philanthropic group gave $1M to increase quality of life

ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Charitable Foundation has granted $1 million to nonprofits throughout the community since its inception in the fall of 2006.

The foundation is a branch of The San Diego Foundation and aims to improve the quality of life in Escondido, according to Trudy Armstrong, associate vice president of Regional Outreach for the foundation.

“People want to give where they live,” said Armstrong in response to why the San Diego Foundation branched out to North County.

Thus far, $2 million has been raised by the foundation’s members although half of that will be saved for an endowment.

The endowment is a sum that isn’t immediately used for granting to non-profits, instead it gains interest so in the future, the foundation won’t be as reliant on recruiting members.

Currently the foundation has more than 100 members who each pay $1,000 annually, according to Armstrong. The money is a tax write off and members are also heavily involved in deciding where the money goes.

“What we can do for the community is directly related to the number of members,” said Armstrong.

She said people feel comfortable giving to the foundation because there is such a high level of accountability. Nonprofits that hope to receive funds have to go through a long vetting process and the foundation always has the opportunity to ask for the money back, if they feel it has been mismanaged.

Each year the foundation has a different focus. Civic engagement was the focus from fall 2013 to 2014. The goal was to get more members involved in the community.

WalkSanDiego received $34,800 for the 2013-14 granting cycle. The organization aims to connect people of diverse backgrounds through exercise and to increase community leadership.

Another organization that received grant money was the Food Bank of Escondido, which was given $30,800 for the Mission Vida Nueva program. The no-questions asked service allows anybody to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables and other food items.

The aim is to feed under-privileged residents, regardless of their legal status. More than 70 residents volunteer with the program and many of them rely on it for food. About 200 people use the service per week.

The foundation’s focus this year is outdoor engagement. Non-profits interested in submitting a proposal are encouraged to fill out a letter of intent first.

The members vote on which organization receives funding after listening to each organization’s goal and sometimes visiting the site. The foundation requires the results to be measurable to insure that funds are being used as intended.

Another past recipient of the grant is The Escondido Creek Conservancy, which recently celebrated the opening of the pocket park, Plaza Del Arroyo, located next to Evan’s Tires on Broadway. The conservancy’s goal is to preserve open space in the Escondido Creek watershed.

Armstrong said organizations have no limit on how often they can ask for funds. The foundation hopes to raise $10 million in endowments. Once that amount is reached, the foundation will be able to grant solely interest gained on the amount.

She said a lot of people that have made their money in the community feel the need to give back. Legacy funds can be written into people’s will, which is how the McLaughlin Match started.

Matt McLaughlin left $10 million in endowments to the North County branches of the San Diego Foundation. He was an executive in Rancho Bernardo and every dollar that is given by members will be matched by his contribution for the next three years.