The Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund is a collective giving group that awards grants annually to nonprofits meeting needs in specific focus areas. RSF Women’s Fund is a donor advised at Rancho Santa Fe Foundation and has granted more than $4.4 million since its inception in 2004. Building upon their long track record of successful philanthropy, RSF Women’s fund has launched a new initiative: The Above and Beyond Campaign. This campaign opens up their collective giving model to the Rancho Santa Fe community and beyond to interested individuals, including those that are not current RSFWF members. Donors to the campaign can give confidently knowing that 100% of their donation will be granted to San Diego nonprofits that qualify for funding after completing the RSFWF’s application process.
Please read the interview to learn more from a donor who chooses to use the RSFWF to increase her and her family’s effective giving power.
How would you describe how you think about philanthropy within the community?
Donor: My husband and I think of philanthropy as an investment in our community—as an attempt to meet immediate needs. But also many times we also try to orient our gifts towards efforts that will not only meet immediate needs but consider whether this current donation will leverage the situation for future benefits. This way our donation will develop a change within communities for the long run. We like to think about how the donations we give will be most effective.
Do you try to follow the organizations you have donated to? How do you find the organizations that you have the most confidence in?
Donor: We generally try to follow the organizations we invest in, and honestly that’s one of the things we have appreciated about how the Women’s Fund does their philanthropy. A donor wants to watch not only what you give at the front end but to evaluate its efficacy on the back end as well. It’s critical for us to know if what we invested in has made a difference or has had the outcome we were looking for, or whether a change was made. We look for organizations that have the capacity to carry on beyond the initial investment or the initial project. Sometimes things are one and done because of an urgent need like Covid, but most often we like to be involved on a multi-year basis.
What attracted you to the Women’s Fund in the first place?
Donor: When we moved into this community we wanted to get involved. I learned of the Women’s Fund. It was a great way to meet like-minded women in my community. The education I received through the Women’s fund helped me integrate and find out ways to help with needs in San Diego and the charities that are trying to meet those needs. We were looking for and found in the RSFWF a really high quality, community goal-oriented process beyond what most individuals are able to do.
What about the grants process in the Women’s Fund attracts you?
Donor: It was attractive to me that we were giving grants in the community through this highly effective and polished vehicle. Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund is a group of different women, who were equals, working through a collective process. Everybody contributed funds, everybody gave of their time to the extent that they could, and then everyone had a vote on how funds were distributed at the end of the process. It is a democratic process; basically the women get to decide what happens to the money they donate.
You and your husband have made great impacts in our community with your studied giving. How did you come to the conclusion that of all the great ways to give in our community, the Women’s Fund was the one that you would give a substantial donation to every year?
Donor: We are looking for the best organizations in the community to partner with. One of the things we learned over the years in trying to do our own philanthropy is that it is easy to give money away and hard to give money away well! Anybody can write a check, but a lot more is required to go about the process of figuring out what really needs funding, what community needs should be addressed, what organization and projects are stable. Then, of course, there is the difficult process of following up to know that your funds were used as intended and produced the results that were hoped for. This is a challenging time-consuming process. As individuals you can only do so much of that and do it all well.
We see that the RSFWF is already doing this very thing ~ and doing it very well. We have worked with the Women’s Fund and are confident that the grant making was being done with great seriousness, an open mind, and with a process that really worked. It didn’t make sense to try to recreate all of that on our own. We could piggyback on that effort. It was “turn-key” way of giving in a highly effective manner. And because I had been a member for a number of years I knew it was done to a really, really high standard. My husband and I realized our gifts would get to the community in a more effective way than if we did it on our own, and it would be done with a much broader view of focus areas and organizations within the community.
Do you have anything you would like to say to fellow philanthropists?
Donor: We have confidence that the Women’s Fund is doing a conscientious job of giving away grants. You can clearly see the impact made over their 15 year history. They go through an impressive process of vetting the organizations —from review by the grants committees of the applications, through the site visit where they see how the organization operates, to the very thoughtful presentations to the membership of the finalists. All steps are done with a professional warm-hearted kind of reviewing. Their process ensures that the best, the strongest and the most sustainable organizations are funded. It is a group of highly dedicated women committed to alleviating difficulties in our community.
We think it is an excellent way to donate wisely and leverage our resources to make an impact on our community. It allows a donor to expand their philanthropic efforts and obviously allows them to meet the needs within the community in a larger way. Community members who may have their own donor advised fund or personal foundation could decide to use the Women’s Fund as a resource for philanthropy. From our experience it is a good way to multiply the effectiveness of our giving.
To join the campaign, donations can be made to Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund designated “Above and Beyond” and mailed to P.O. Box 811, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067. All donations will go to the selected well-vetted grants for the community organizations this May 2022.