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We recently interviewed Maricela Rios, CEO of Human Options who opened their endowment fund at OCCF eighteen years ago. 

Read our Q & A below!  

OCCF- Tell us more about Human Options?  

Marciela Rios- We ignite social change by educating Orange County to recognize relationship violence as an issue that threatens everyone, advocating for those affected by abuse, extending a safe place for victims, and empowering survivors on their journey of healing. 

Our vision is a future in which every person and family in Orange County experiences safe, healthy relationship and lives free of fear. 

Human Options breaks the cycle of relationship violence at every stage—from prevention, identification, education and intervention, we support each family member on their journey to healing. 

Our clients inform our efforts to adapt to their changing needs and remove barriers. By forging partnerships and innovating strategies, we empower others to recognize signs of abuse and connect survivors to our services, thereby deepening our impact. Working collaboratively, we can address the many intersecting issues related to relationship violence. Some of our partners include health care organizations, law enforcement, housing services, financial empowerment, schools, and many more. 

Together, we are a powerful system of support that effectively responds to the complex needs of survivors.  

OCCF- Why did you decided to open an endowment fund with OCCF?  

Marciela Rios- After a successful capital campaign to build its Emergency Shelter, Human Options was able to move out of the Laguna Beach home it offered emergency shelter out of to its permanent location.  

Human Options co-founder, Anne Wright gifted us the Laguna Beach house where our first emergency shelter was established. The home of our original emergency shelter was sold and the proceeds went to establishing our endowment.  

Human Options was very familiar with OCCF and the purpose of an endowment fund through our past board president Judy Swayne who was the founding CEO of the OCCF.  We were in the best position to educate our board about the purpose and value of a fund at OCCF. 

Since its inception we were fortunate have several donors make catalytic investments in our Endowment. They believed that growing our endowment would leverage Human Options strengths, create space for innovation and future success. This conscious partnership between Human Options and our donors helped us build a solid financial foundation from which we are able to draw down support for our life saving programs on an annual basis.  

OCCF- What challenges have you faced in building your endowment?

Marciela Rios- Balancing the need to adequately fund our comprehensive services for victims and their families survivors (annual operating budget) and the need to ensure Human Options had the financial stability 0f long-term steady funding stream that ensures we can remain steadfast in our to serve survivors even during times of economic downturns can itself be a challenge. 

Over the years, Human Options board of directors has grappled with questions like; 1) What is the right size for our endowment? 2) How do we balance the decision to build our endowment versus fund a program expansion?   

OCCF- What do you see as the biggest opportunities for building your endowment?

Marciela Rios- A well-managed endowment sends a message of planned long-term stability, fiscal responsibility, and financial viability. It enhances the organization’s prestige and credibility. The endowment relieves pressure on the annual fund. We are able to inspire new investments in the endowment by demonstrating the impact of our long term planning which has enabled us to support victims and their families now and into the future. 

OCCF- Do you have any strategies in place to continue to grow your endowment fund?

Marciela Rios- This was an area we began to think about more intentionally at the start of 2020. Unfortunately, the impact of the pandemic on the victims of domestic violence and adapting our service delivery to meet the evolving needs of victims took priority. We are looking to re-engage in exploring strategies to build the endowment, including a policy around a percentage of bequest funds going toward endowment, a percentage of any surplus to go to toward the endowment and highlighting donor testimonials and why they invested.  

OCCF- What kind of marketing materials have you used to share the opportunity to invest? Have you used OCCF’s customized tool, Endowing Our Future?

Marciela Rios- This is an area in which we need to build muscle. We have not done much in this area beyond a few campaigns and stories in our Annual Report from time to time.