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Carrie Morgridge discusses philanthropy

Carrie Morgridge

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Carrie Morgridge encourages readers to go to morgridgefamilyfoundation.org and share their own stories of giving on the blog page.

Carrie Morgridge came back to her roots in the Roaring Fork Valley to discuss her book, "Every Gift Matters: How Your Passion Can Change the World," and her philanthropic philosophy.

The Morgridge name is known in the valley for, among other things, the Colorado Mountain College Aspen Morgridge Family Academic Center.

When her family moved to Aspen, Morgridge didn't know much about giving yet. The Aspen Valley Community Foundation was where she learned about how to give and how to hold people accountable.

"The check-writing is the start, not the finish," Morgridge said. "For effective giving, I look for leadership."

One of her first donations was to the Wildwood preschool in the amount of $10,000 to build a new library.

"As our children grew up, so did our giving," Morgridge said. "And I just wanted to keep doing it."

Morgridge said she owes her life to Aspen, but in the beginning, it was a rocky road with some investment mistakes.

But she, along the Morgridge Family Foundation, found its philanthropic footing in education and literacy efforts. The foundation then soon expanded into health and wellness, conservation, the arts and empowering women.

Morgridge long had an affinity for literacy and getting children to read. When she lived in Aspen, she would go to the Aspen Thrift Store and load up on books. She would then take the books to the Denver Public Schools.

It soon turned into a partnership, Morgridge said. Within a year, she had taken needy kids 3,000 books and 1,000 pounds of jackets.

"We've always deeply cared about literacy, but it was about finding the right fit," Morgridge said.

Book Trust, a program that brings books to low-income kids, was that right fit. Last year, the program raised $150,000 with $1 donations.

"There's this euphoric joy in giving. But honestly, some of my favorite moments have been the smaller donations," Morgridge said.

Morgridge sits on the CMC Board of Overseers, which she described as a private think tank for President Carrie Hauser. The overseers don't have voting rights, but are student- and future-oriented.

"She'll take what she wants to make this university better," Morgridge said.

Investing in education means investing in students, Morgridge said. To do that, it means investing in teachers. STEM in particular is pivotal to them, she said.

Share Fair Nation, a Denver-based, open-source platform, trains teachers on how to integrate technology into the classroom. The organization has trained more than 10,000 teachers so far.

The platform also helps kids to get a hands-on experience with STEM. So far 5,000 kids have been able to gain that experience.

The Morgridge Family Foundation in particular focuses on what it calls "effective philanthropy." In 15 years of giving, she has fine-tuned her expectations when donating.

"You are expecting them to spend the money where you advise them to spend the money," Morgridge said. "Don't expect anything in return; yet hold the people accountable you gave the money to."

Leadership is the most important quality Morgridge looks for when deciding who and where to donate. Within leadership, she said, is a built-in component of trust.

"Effective philanthropy means for some a gift for investment in leadership, which means an investment in education," Morgridge said. "If it's not your passion, learn how to say no. Don't be bullied into a grant."

But at the end of the day, it comes down to passion. Passion is Morgridge's philanthropic compass. She wants people to understand her passions.

Morgridge also wants women to have a voice.

"Women are smart. We are intelligent. If you want to get involved, sit on a board. Have your voice heard," Morgridge said. "Not that I'm making a political statement, but they should have a seat at the table with men."

An Amazon best-seller, Morgridge's first book's proceeds all go to a job-force GED program.

She said the family foundation is working with churches and faith-based organizations to make more people aware of the school-to-prison pipeline. The goal is to give nonviolent juvenile offenders a second chance to get a job and gain skills.