Nonprofit Spotlight: Philanthropy matchmaking event comes to Rifle
Rural Philanthropy Days Program Manager, Leah Rausch
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Mountain RPD Event Coordinator, Lauren Suhrbier
Kasey Nispel - Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce
Western Garfield County will be the place for representatives of area nonprofits to meet with private funders when Rifle hosts Mountain Rural Philanthropy Days June 24-26.
Rural Philanthropy Days (RPD) is a statewide program of Colorado’s Community Resource Center, which provides educational and other resources to the state’s nonprofit organizations. The twice-yearly conference, which rotates among eight Colorado regions is a three-day event that offers training and collaboration opportunities as well as providing time for grant seekers to meet with grant makers.
This will be Rifle’s first time to host the Mountain RPD (Glenwood Springs hosted it in the late 1990s), which covers Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Summit and Lake counties.
Registration, which is under way for both nonprofit organizations and private funders, is expected to sell out.
Deadlines for grant seekers: early bird registration, $125, through Sunday, May 3; regular registration, $150, May 4 through June 3.
For grant makers: $150 through June 3.
A limited number of scholarships, which will pay the registration fee, are available to nonprofit organizations. Applications, which must be submitted by Sunday, are available online along with eligibility criteria and guidelines.
HISTORY AND GROWTH
Community Resource Center (CRC), which has been helping Colorado nonprofits accomplish their goals since 1981, learned in the early 1990s that only 3 percent of grants awarded in Colorado by private funders went to groups beyond the Front Range. Research indicated a combination of factors was responsible for low levels of private funding in rural areas: lack of knowledge about key problems in these non-metro communities, less opportunity for collaboration among nonprofits and fewer chances for local nonprofit representatives to connect with private funders.
In 1991, the Anschutz Family Foundation started the RPD program with a conference in Grand Junction and combined forces with CRC in 1997 to spread the program statewide. Since then, many other philanthropic organizations have contributed to RPD’s ongoing success. The program now boasts 12 core funders, who last year contributed over $45 million to Colorado’s rural communities.
The RPD program has been a driving force in increasing the number and value of grants to smaller communities throughout Colorado. Six years after the 2007 Mountain RPD, the total value of grants from the core funders in the five-county region reflected a 30 percent increase ($3,096,202 to $4,008,433) and the average grant size increased by more than 40 percent. Now, more than 30 percent of grants from Colorado’s private funders benefit nonurban communities, and many view the state as a model for successful, sustainable rural philanthropy.
Leah Rausch, RPD program manager, said the benefits of attending RPD conferences are three-fold. First is accomplishing the goal of increased grant funding in nonurban areas. Nonprofit-to-nonprofit networking is another important benefit that can spark ideas about new ways to meet common challenges and often leads to new collaborations among groups.
Rausch described the third major benefit of RPD participation as “capacity building.” Nonprofit representatives have access to high-level professional development sessions that focus on fundraising, financial and volunteer management, and board development. Conference sessions also help participants develop long-range planning and leadership skills.
For this year’s Mountain RPD, Rausch and Abel Wurmnest of the Anschutz Family Foundation will present preconference training sessions June 3 in Glenwood Springs and June 4 in Avon and Breckenridge. Sessions are included in the registration fee and, although participation by first-time RPD attendees is required, they will also be valuable to veteran nonprofit operatives. Presenters will help organization representatives position themselves and tell their stories to best compete with Denver-area entities for grants.
A key element of RPD conferences is “convening communities.” That helps foundation representatives and others truly understand the character of a region and how grant money can be most effective in an area. Representing the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce, Kasey Nispel was instrumental in organizing business and other community leaders last fall to provide an overall vision for the 2015 conference.
Listening to the RPD communities is something CRC takes seriously. To help foundation representatives and others better understand the character and specific challenges in different regions, CRC instituted “listening tours” in 2013. Rifle’s listening tour was in February of this year and featured meetings among grant makers and government, health care, school and business leaders in the Mountain RPD region.
Community Resource Center gathers a great deal of data about rural community needs and successes in preparing and carrying out Rural Philanthropy Days conferences. To further its mission of helping Colorado’s nonprofits achieve their goals, it makes this information available free on its website. Resources include reports on listening tours and community solutions sessions at RPD conferences.
CRC has also created an online database of grants awarded in the state, an excellent research tool for nonprofits organizations and others seeking to understand grant funding trends.
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