Rifle, region prepare for Rural Philanthropy Days | PostIndependent.com

Rifle, region prepare for Rural Philanthropy Days

Ryan Hoffman

Nonprofits in Garfield and surrounding counties are gearing up for the start of Rural Mountain Philanthropy Days, a three-day conference bringing together 300 nonprofits and donors that begins Wednesday at Coal Ridge High School.

Established 24 years ago, Rural Philanthropy Days was originally created by the Anschutz Family Foundation in partnership with the Community Resource Center, to spread private funding beyond the Front Range to nonprofits in rural regions of the state.

At the time, the Community Resource Center observed only 3 percent of grants funded by Colorado’s private funding community were awarded outside the Front Range, according to the CRC website. Since then, that number has grown to 30 percent, and RPD has grown into a statewide program. Every four years RPD works with two of the eight regions across the state to organize a rurally based conference.

The Mountain Region — an area including Garfield, Lake, Pitkin, Summit and Eagle counties — received 854 grants from the 12 core RFD foundations totaling more than $28.1 million between 2009 and 2014. Garfield County alone received $1.7 million in 2014.

However, the conference is more than just an opportunity to pitch an organization to private funders, said Julie Olson, executive director of Advocate Safehouse Project, a nonprofit based in Glenwood Springs that assists victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Olson, who has been involved with RPD since the ’90s, said the conference presents a valuable networking opportunity with other organizations and funders both locally and across the state.

“You have to know who and what is out there and if you only stay in one area you’re missing out,” she said. “It can help take you to the next level.”

While not entirely attributable to RPD, Olson noted that the Advocate Safehouse Project had a budget around $110,000 in 1995. The number currently stands around $450,000.

News like that is what has some first-time participants excited about the opportunity.

“More than anything it gives us an opportunity to have face-to-face interactions with several of the foundations,” said Lee Price, director of the River Center in New Castle.

About 95 percent of the River Center’s funding comes from local sources, according to Price. For smaller organizations, it can be difficult to arrange in-person meetings with larger foundations.

“We just might not get that opportunity that the groups get on the Front Range,” Price said.

Natalie Bowman, executive director of the Rifle Housing Authority, said she hopes her organization can successfully lobby for roughly $3 million needed to complete a new affordable housing unit in Rifle. But even if the organization is unsuccessful, Bowman said the educational and networking opportunities should be valuable.

“And it’s a cool thing to have this here in Rifle,” she added.

Other nonprofits have expressed similar feelings over the past 10 months, said Andrea Maddalone, president and CEO of the Rifle Chamber of Commerce, which has been heavily involved in promoting the event since Rifle was announced as the primary host site.

Since RPD was established, the number of nonprofits across the state has increased dramatically, especially in rural parts of the state where services are needed, said Leah Rausch, RPD program manager. That fact makes RPD’s mission increasingly important, she added.

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