Three Things to Know About the San Diego Foundation’s Grantmaking


Among the nonprofit crowd in and around San Diego, the San Diego Foundation (TSDF) is a household name. It has been an integral part of the local giving scene since 1975. This is a community funder that has over 1,900 funds under management and has given out over $1 billion to local nonprofits since inception. In 2017, it made $50.9 million in grants. 

Here are three things to know about TSDF's grantmaking and what it's been up to lately. 

1. Most Competitive Grants Come from the Regional Affiliates

Every community foundation looks and acts a bit differently, and some rely on their hyper-localized affiliates more than others. TSDF is one of the funders who really embraces its regional affiliate foundations, and a majority of its competitive grants are awarded through them.

Regional affiliates exist in the following Southern California communities and regularly award grants that are zeroed in on local nonprofits: 4SRanch-Del Sur, Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Escondido, La Jolla, Oceanside, Ramona, and Rancho Bernardo. Browse through the recent press releases to get a better sense of what each of these regional affiliates tends to prioritize and fund.

2. Improving Access to Nature Is a Key Interest Right Now

However, TSDF does occasionally welcome letters of interest from nonprofits throughout its operating area that aren’t specific to one of those regional affiliates. For example, there’s been a big push lately to increase access to nature and the outdoors for areas that don’t have many parks and for underserved communities.

The most recent grant cycle to address this interest was focused on creating and sustaining access to natural amenities where green space is limited, protecting nature through conservation and restoration, and supporting public policies to expand and protect wildlands and green space. This has been a big interest of TSDF for several years now, and the foundation has awarded at least $1.3 million through 33 grants to over 50 groups working on such projects in San Diego County. The most recent grants on this topic have been between $25,000 and $75,000 each.

3. Science and Technology Are Driving Economic Grants

Boosting the San Diego County economy continues to be another big interest for this funder, and it’s approaching economic funding in some pretty interesting ways. The funder has been looking at STEM education as a way to fuel innovation and the local economy, starting with students from underserved communities. For example, TSDF awarded 10 grants totaling $632,934 last year for this purpose to support findings in a report called “Our Greater San Diego Vision.”

The big idea behind this approach is based on the fact that regional innovation makes up more than 25 percent of San Diego’s economic activity. Therefore, it is thought that STEM grants for young adults will perpetuate and expand this momentum into the future. Past grantees include the Elementary Institute of Science, Ocean Discovery Institute, and San Diego Mesa College. More recently, TSDF has been pointing out that there is a strong economic case for inclusion and getting minorities interested in STEM subjects to fuel the local economy.