Member Spotlight: Christy Wilson

Each month we highlight our members and showcase how their work supports our new strategic framework.

Rancho Santa Fe Foundation connects donors with regional and global needs through visionary community leadership, personalized service and effective grantmaking. Their Community Impact Fund pays out approximately $180,000 per year to nonprofits addressing a specific focus area each year. The 2018 area was Workforce Development for Transition Age Youth.

  1. In your 20+ years leading Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, how have you seen the foundation grow/evolve?
    When I was hired as the first Executive Director in 1997,RSF Foundation was nearly 17 years old, having been established in 1981. Up until that time, the mission of the Foundation was focused on “improving the quality of life in Rancho Santa Fe” with a particular focus on preservation of open space. Since 1997, our mission has become almost entirely focused on deploying our local philanthropic resources out into the broader community in San Diego, nationally and globally. In the last 21+ years, the Foundation has made more than $76 million in grants all over the world and currently has assets of $121 million.
  2. Under your guidance, the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund was formed in 2004. Why was this fund/initiative important to you?
    I cannot actually take credit for the formation of the Rancho Santa Fe Women’s Fund. In 2004, my board chair, Gayle Gillies Mize brought the idea to me as a way to involve more women in our community in a collective giving model. She and several others had a tremendous idea, and in my role I was able to help the members create a model by which each member makes a tax deductible contribution to a pooled giving fund from which the annual grants are made. The Women’s Fund is a donor advised fund at the Foundation. The grants they make each year strengthen our grantmaking efforts and many of their members have personal funds at the Foundation. But most importantly, the women have become very strategic and intentional grantmakers in their own right.
  3. What are some approaches to strengthening effective philanthropy that RSF Foundation takes?
    RSF Foundation is a relatively small community foundation and as such we have the ability to be more nimble and flexible than a larger organization might be. We value the personal relationships we have with our donors. We are able to offer educational opportunities during the year to expand our donor knowledge and awareness of community needs, we provide research and site visit opportunities to those who seek them and above all we encourage our donors to use the charitable assets that they have set aside to the best use possible for the causes they care about.
  4. What are your recommendations for someone who is interested in charitable giving but has no experience?
    Working with a community foundation is the best way possible to begin the journey. Community foundations work with thousands of nonprofits in the region and we have colleagues all over the country should donors seek opportunities in other parts of the country. Our staff are professionals who are committed on a daily basis to providing efficient and effective service to those who seek our assistance. For one who is new to philanthropy, give us a call and we will be glad to help you learn and experience the joy of purposeful giving.
  5. What trends are you seeing in the field? 
    The world and our communities are changing faster than ever and the need for strong and committed community engagement is increasing all the time. I see the more senior members of our community continuing to pursue the more traditional forms of charitable giving. The younger generations are becoming more engaged in their philanthropy through social impact investing and focused on causes that have a strong social equity component to them. But regardless of the generation, and the vehicles by which donors choose to give, philanthropy is strong and when it is well done, it can change our communities for the better.

Learn more at Rancho Santa Fe Foundation.