Lisa Ruder Personifies Community Giving

Lisa Ruder - Escondido Philanthropist
Escondido Charitable Foundation members Nicholas and Ruth Tsoulos (left) pose with Lisa and Jim Ruder (right) at a recent ECF event.

The San Diego Foundation Regional Affiliate Program provides individuals with a means to get deeply involved in their communities and support the needs of their neighborhoods.

Every member has their own unique reasons for joining, but the groups are made up of residents from all backgrounds who come together to give together.

Lisa Ruder, former Chair of the Escondido Charitable Foundation (ECF), started her journey with the Regional Affiliate after being asked by a friend if she would be interested in attending an event.

Like many parents, Lisa participated in her children’s school PTA. Once they left home for college, she wanted to maintain her volunteerism and community leadership, but wasn’t exactly sure where to focus her attention next.

“I joined the Escondido Charitable Foundation because my friends were involved,” recalled Lisa. “I knew I wanted to give back to the community and working with like-minded peers seemed like the perfect way to do so.”

I knew I wanted to give back to the community and working with like-minded peers seemed like the perfect way to do so.”
– Lisa Ruder

At first, ECF was a social network. But that would change quickly for Lisa during her first year as a member.

As Lisa described, “Over time, I began to learn how strong our Escondido community was through the great sense of pride that members had in giving back to the place they called home.”

She continued, “ECF enabled me to learn about areas in the community I wasn’t aware of before I started. I understood the Escondido school system well, but I didn’t know about other important areas, such as arts & culture or homelessness.”

Throughout the year, ECF works directly with community leaders, such as the chief of police, superintendents and elected officials, to learn about the most pressing challenges of the area and determine how best to distribute grant funding.

ECF takes an active approach to supporting the community

“I believe what makes the Regional Affiliate Program so unique is that members get to learn about a wide variety of challenges and opportunities facing their specific community,” emphasized Lisa. “As opposed to niche organizations that may only support one topic, the Regional Affiliates explore an array of key areas that uncover broader community challenges.”

As a member of a Regional Affiliate, individuals also get to see the long term impact of their giving.

Lisa Ruder and Escondido Charitable Foundation Members
(Left to right) Escondido Charitable Foundation members Lisa Ruder, Rita Bowcock, Susan Greenstein and Donna Aeling.

For example, ECF granted money to the Escondido Creek Conservancy that helped open the Plaza Del Arroyo pocket park in 2014. Initially, the park provided increased access and opportunities for youth and families to get outside.

“Today, in addition to the environmental benefits to the community, the park is also helping the local economy,” explained Lisa. “Sitting adjacent to the park, Evan’s Tires has seen its business nearly double since the opening of Plaza Del Arroyo. The manager attributes the beginning of that increase to Plaza Del Arroyo.”

Strengthen Your Community

Every community is unique and the Regional Affiliate Program recognizes the diversity of each place.

Regional Affiliates explore an array of key areas that uncover broader community challenges.”
– Lisa Ruder

“For example, Escondido tends to be a community where many people who live here, work elsewhere,” noted Lisa. “The Regional Affiliate Program establishes a much stronger connection for individuals who want to learn about and invest in the place they live.”

Regional affiliates are led by a board of directors who live and work in your area. As a local member, you determine each year how charitable funds will be granted to nonprofit organizations positively impacting your community.

Since inception, more than 700 regional affiliate members have granted $4.4 million to strengthen their neighborhoods, and built local endowments of more than $4 million to improve the lives of future generations.

Are you interested in learning how you can help strengthen your neighborhood like Lisa?

Become a member of the Regional Affiliate Program to leverage charitable funds from your member fees, take collective action through grantmaking to improve your community, and build strong, resilient neighborhoods for your children and grandchildren.

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