With the mission to “connect donors with regional and global needs through visionary community leadership, personalized service, and effective grantmaking,” the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation (RSFF) defines charitable giving. For over 30 years the organization has served at the center of philanthropic work, addressing issues in Rancho Santa Fe and beyond. RSFF Grants and Projects Committee Chair Alyce Ashcraft speaks to 92067 Magazine about how the organization fulfills its mission and inspires purposeful giving.
Q & A with Alyce Ashcraft,
RSFF Grants and Projects Committee Chair
What is the history behind RSFF? How many years has the RSFF been active?
The RSFF is a community foundation that was established in 1981. It started with a small group of visionary volunteer leaders in Rancho Santa Fe who wanted to provide support for the aazzcommunity organizations in the Ranch. When the board hired the first executive director, Mrs. Christy Wilson, in 1997, the RSFF gained momentum and realized its potential for impacting the broader community and San Diego region. Today, the RSFF has a 29-member board, a team of five professional staff members, and over $85 million in assets under management. Most importantly, the RSFF has awarded nearly $40 million in grants since 2000. The Patriots Initiative, a program of the foundation that serves the San Diego military community, began in 2008. The RSF Women’s Fund, a donor-advised fund of the foundation, was founded in 2004 by Mrs. Gayle Gillies Mize.
Who has been instrumental in the development and execution of the RSFF?
In her 18 years as the executive director, Mrs. Christy Wilson has shaped the RSFF into the organization it is today. Mrs. Wilson says that working with the group of committed Rancho Santa Fe community leaders who served up to nine-year terms on the board of directors over the years has been an inspired partnership. Many local residents have served in significant capacities over the years. There are 116 individuals who have served on the board during its 34-year history, including nine of the founding directors who are still in the community – Chuck Arledge, Nancy Herrington, Jeanette Peterson, and Paul Thomas. In 1997, Bill McConnor led the move by the board to hire the first executive director and establish an office in the Village, which was generously donated for 15 years by Union Bank. Tyler Miller, Blaine Briggs, John Seiber, Martin Dickinson, Don Oliphant, and Bill Herrick are among the many who continue to serve in various roles.
Please tell us about the role the RSFF plays in the RSF community. What is the foundation’s mission and how does it maintain this purpose?
The RSFF exists to promote philanthropy and serve the community. The mission of the RSFF is “to connect donors with regional and global needs through visionary community leadership, personalized service, and effective grantmaking.” We maintain this purpose by pursuing excellence in each element of our mission. We know our donors and fundholders – we see them around town and connect with them personally. Our long history of working with nonprofits throughout San Diego uniquely qualifies us to make recommendations of where philanthropic funds can best be directed through grantmaking to support the most efficient and impactful charitable work in the region. Our ability to work with both donors and nonprofits positions us well to provide leadership in collaborations and convenings to address needs in a comprehensive way in the community.
How does the foundation go about investing charitable funds?
The RSFF stewards investments for permanent endowment funds, funds held for other nonprofit organizations, and donor-advised funds that provide resources for the charitable mission of the foundation. The Investment Committee of the Board of Directors makes asset allocation decisions for the managed pool of assets at the foundation. The Investment Committee members are all current or retired professional investment managers who donate their time to the foundation. To ensure that funds are managed for maximum yet secure returns at low cost, the managed pool, a diversified portfolio of assets, is invested in indexed mutual funds at The Vanguard Group.
What are some past examples of projects completed by the RSFF? Can you elaborate about any ongoing or upcoming programs?
The RSFF has supported Rancho Santa Fe nonprofit organizations with nearly $6 million in grants in the last 15 years alone. These grants include $100,000 over four years for completing the Performing Arts Center at the R. Roger Rowe School. Other Rancho Santa Fe nonprofits include the Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild, Rancho Santa Fe Community Center, Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club, Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center, Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society, Rancho Santa Fe Art Guild, and the Helen Woodward Animal Center. Beyond Rancho Santa Fe, the foundation has significantly supported the Armed Services YMCA of Camp Pendleton, Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas, and Community HousingWorks, to name a few. We are currently providing multi-year funding for a senior food and wellness program, North County Senior Connections. We are also planning the next multi-year grant focus area that we will fund. We have invited the input of our donor-advised fundholders and board members to identify an area of need in the North County area to address with our next grantmaking program.
Please elaborate about the new food truck program.
The goal of North County Senior Connections (NCSC) is to provide a wellness program and address food security needs of a growing senior population in North County. This program recognizes that healthy aging for vulnerable seniors depends upon access to healthy nutrition, meals, and socialization. The innovative approach to addressing this need is by using a food truck to provide healthy lunches. With the Thyme Together food truck, NCSC effectively provides a mobile senior center. This program offers deeply discounted lunches to seniors followed by activities that inform, entertain, and provide socialization for them. NCSC, launched in mid-November 2014, currently serves the Vista and San Marcos communities. The food truck serves freshly prepared lunches to seniors at two mobile home parks and two faith centers Monday through Thursday each week. The RSFF grant allowed the nonprofit Dreams for Change to purchase the food truck. Dreams for Change handles the nutrition research, menu options, and food preparation. The RSFF grant additionally funds the North County nonprofit Interfaith Community Services to provide staff to arrange education programs and social services for participating seniors.
The goal of the six-month pilot phase of NCSC was to serve approximately 2,500 meals to 200 unduplicated vulnerable North County seniors. We are pleased to see that the results after three months of the NCSC program demonstrate that the program has served 1,000 meals to 200 unduplicated seniors.
How does the community go about supporting these projects?
The RSFF will provide a $300,000 multi-year grant to fund the food truck, staff, and subsidies for the meals. Collaborative support from other foundations, businesses, and individuals will provide the remaining funding for the total $800,000 cost of the program over three years. Community members can support NCSC by visiting the RSFF website at www.rsffoundation.org and clicking on the donate button. Or, send a check made payable to the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation with NCSC in the memo line to P.O. Box 811, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067. Your donation is tax deductible. The RSFF has also teamed up with Mogl to promote NCSC. Mogl is an online platform that partners with restaurants to help nonprofits maximize their fundraising goals through dining out. You can create an account on the Mogl website at www.mogl.com, then join the RSFF North County Senior Connections Food Truck group. When you eat at a participating restaurant, a percentage of your bill will be donated by the restaurant to NCSC.
Please tell us more about the RSF scholarship program.
Although the foundation administers several scholarship programs, the most vital is the Chuck Courtney Honorary Scholarship Fund (CCHSF). Conceived by several members of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club in 2012, the scholarships are awarded annually to two San Diego County students with demonstrated financial need to assist with the tuition, fees, and/or books at the college of their choice. At present, there are seven scholarship students who are receiving support from the fund, which has totaled more than $50,000 over the last four years.
Please elaborate more about the various funds and how they support the community.
The RSFF offers a variety of charitable funds for both individuals, families, and nonprofit organizations. With a donor-advised fund, donors take a full deduction for the initial amount that opens the fund, distribute the money in the fund to their selected charitable organizations over time, and make additional tax-deductible gifts to the fund at any time. The RSFF also offers endowment funds for individual/family donors. These are permanent funds, in which the principal is invested and the interest provides income to support the nonprofit or charitable cause designated as the recipient by the donors. Nonprofit organizations may also establish endowment funds at the RSFF. These funds provide an ongoing source of income and sustainability for the organization into the future. If a nonprofit is not ready to establish an endowment but wants its reserves to have some potential investment earnings, the organization may establish a non-endowment. This type of fund is often used by nonprofits to build their reserves or for special projects. The Community Impact Fund is an RSF Foundation endowment fund that provides the resources for collective grantmaking in the community, such as North County Senior Connections. This fund was established and has been built over the years by visionary, generous donors who entrusted the RSFF with effective grantmaking in the community and region. We invite community members to contribute to this fund to build on this legacy and increase the impact of local collective giving focused on Rancho Santa Fe and San Diego County. Donors with an interest in supporting local military service members and their families may learn more and contribute to The Patriots Initiative on the RSFF website. The RSF Women’s Fund welcomes new members from Rancho Santa Fe and you can learn more on their website at www.rsfwomensfund.org.
Does the foundation host any events for the community?
We recently hosted a Get to Know the RSFF reception for community members. We plan to host another Get to Know reception in the fall.
If you could grant the community one wish, what would it be?
It would be the ability to build consensus around critical community issues through shared leadership by engaging all segments of the community. The RSFF wants to work with the community to make this possible.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
We invite readers to visit the website, to attend our events and convenings, or just pick up the phone to share their philanthropic interests and learn more about our work.
Alyce Ashcraft, Grants and Projects Committee Chair
Community: Rancho Santa Fe
Education: Arizona State University, B.A. English
Family: Husband – Jim; Sons – John and Tom; five grandchildren
Hobbies and Interests: Spending time with family, reading, traveling, painting
Favorite Moment with RSFF: As the newly appointed chairman of the Grants and Projects Committee in 2013, I was so proud when the board of directors approved the funding for North County Senior Connections. And then to see the food truck on the first day of service, with seniors waiting for their meals, was a great experience. I saw firsthand the successful rollout of this program.
Rancho Santa Fe Foundation