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The San Marcos COVID-19 Community Grants Program awards grants to support San Marcos residents affected by COVID-19. Learn more

RSF Foundation Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Rancho Sante Fe Foundation: Turning Vision Into Action Since 1981

History of RSF Foundation

In October 1981, four local Rancho Santa Fe residents came together with the hope of creating a local foundation for individual philanthropists to help improve the community. Knowing they would need help to achieve their goal, they enlisted a group of founding directors to create what was to be known as the Rancho Santa Fe Community Foundation.

In the early days they had a volunteer Executive Director without an office and borrowed supplies and funds from those that believed in them. It took two years before the Foundation would even have an operating budget. Over the next 16 years, a volunteer board of directors oversaw the acquisition of several charitable funds, mostly as a result of bequests and memorial contributions and annual grants to local nonprofits.

In 1997, the board decided to hire their first employee, executive director Christy Wilson. A year later, the Foundation secured office space in the Union Bank building in the heart of the Village, a space we occupied for 15 years.

With the hiring of staff and the acquisition of office space, the mission of the Foundation also changed to one of stewardship of nonprofit endowments and increased relationships with individuals and families in the community who chose the Foundation for their donor advised funds and designated endowments.

Fast forward to today, Christy Wilson has been leading the organization for 24 years and has hired a skilled team to help run Foundation operations. We’ve moved to our current office in Rancho Santa Fe Plaza and have a current operating budget of $1.4 million and $147 million in net assets. Most importantly though, RSF Foundation has granted more than $100 million into the community.

So, while originally the founding Directors had hoped to improve the Rancho Santa Fe community, the Foundation has grown to support all of North County San Diego, California, our country, and our global community. To date, more than half of our donor advised fund holders live outside of the Rancho Santa Fe neighborhood and 120 nonprofits throughout the county have charitable funds at the Foundation.

Community Foundations Evolve

Community foundations are conveners and leaders in their communities – they help identify solutions to community issues then leverage resources of individuals, families, and businesses to support projects and initiatives led by high-impact local nonprofits.

The concept of community is changing, and so are community foundations. For much of history, community foundations were place-based: the name of the foundation reflected the locale that received the funding contributed by donors in that same region. Even though this is how RSF Foundation originated, we’ve shown how we’ve grown over time and diversified our grantmaking.

Now, in the digitally-connected world of the 21st century, many people have the experience of belonging to regional and global communities, formed around shared interests, ideas and possibilities. Today, community foundations help connect donors with both regional and global needs through visionary community leadership, personalized service, and effective grantmaking. They care for their neighbors, strengthen communities, and are an integral part of the fabric of philanthropy in our nation.

Celebrating 40 Years

We have a lot to celebrate from the last 40 years, but none of it would have been possible without the partnerships we’ve developed along the way. We want to spend our 40th anniversary honoring the people and organizations that got us to where we are today. In the months leading up to the actual anniversary date in October 2021, we will tell the stories from our past and share our exciting plans for the future. We hope you’ll join us in the celebration!