RANCHO SANTA FE — At the heart of every philanthropic act is a story. Rancho Santa Fe Foundation President and CEO Christy Wilson’s job is to help philanthropists connect with causes that speak to them, and to facilitate positive relationships between donors and their beneficiaries.
One recent such successful partnership was with Ted Vallas, owner and CEO of California Pacific Airlines, who chose to support three local organizations whose missions are near and dear to his heart.
“People who choose to be philanthropic usually have a cause that they have a connection to,“ Wilson said. “People want to give to a cause that matters to them. It’s about finding that connecting point for them.”
The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation was established in 1981 as a community foundation. “The primary focus was originally on Rancho Santa Fe,” Wilson said. “But 37 years ago the needs in the greater San Diego community weren’t as broad.” Over time, the foundation’s focus and structure changed. “Prior to my hiring, there was no executive leadership, there was no office,” Wilson said. “I was the first employee.”
These days, the foundation proudly boasts more than $120 million in assets and has given close to $73 million in grants out to the community over the last 37 years. “We have six full-time staff people now,” Wilson said.
The Rancho Santa Fe Foundation does have a discretionary grant program, but most of its grants are through donor advised funds.
“This is when a donor wants to direct their philanthropy, they know exactly where they want their money to go,” Wilson said, adding that this is the most common type of donation the foundation sees.
Ted Vallas fell into this category, wanting to give back to his community and help three organizations that he had a connection to at the same time. “Ted contacted us and wanted to donate $1 million in growth stock to the RSF Foundation to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs in North County, the Helen Woodward Animal Center and to Honor Flight,” Wilson said. “It’s an extraordinary gift.”
“Ted had experience growing up with the Boys & Girls Clubs, and he’s been privileged to work with North County clubs as he sees the value in after-school activities and mentoring to kids who might not otherwise have that opportunity.”
The Vallas family are also animal lovers, hence their support of Helen Woodward Animal Center. “Animals are a huge part of their lives, and something they have a strong connection to,” Wilson said. “They want to make sure the center will have additional funds necessary for animal rescue, animal care.
Honor Flight helps veterans by flying them to see memorials for wars that they fought in. “Many veterans live on limited incomes and can’t afford and wouldn’t be inclined to fly to see these memorials,” Wilson said. “Ted served his country, and it’s important for him to help enable veterans to go back and see where they have been memorialized.”
Even with generous contributions such as that from Ted Vallas, the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation always looks to contributions of all sizes to do the good work it does. “We’ve been pretty successful, we are growing but steadily,” Wilson said. “We are one of approximately 750 community foundations in the U.S., and one of 16 here in San Diego County.”
Wilson and the foundation are grateful that Vallas chose them for his generous endowment. “It means everything to us that he has confidence in the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation, and that he trusts us to make sure the support he’s providing to those three organizations is thoughtfully placed and impactful so that it helps the organizations continue the work that they do.”
To learn more about the Rancho Santa Fe Foundation and how you can have the greatest impact with your charitable giving, visit www.rsffoundation.com or call (858) 756-6557.