Philanthropy Days underway in Garfield County
Rural Mountain Philanthropy Days, a three-day conference bringing together 300 nonprofits and donors, started Wednesday much to the anticipation of local nonprofits eager about the opportunity to network and hopefully tap into outside funding sources.
The conference kicked off at Coal Ridge High School with a series of workshops ranging from giving trends in Colorado, to how nonprofits can maximize their messaging. The event shifts to Colorado Mountain College in Rifle today, Thursday.
Rural Philanthropy Days was established 24 years ago 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.
Still, many rural-based nonprofits face challenges when it comes to growing funding streams beyond the local community.
“We do have great local support,” said Heather Mullen, executive director of the Rifle Animal Shelter, “but as far as relationships with funders and grants outside this area it’s difficult to get that relationship.”
The opportunity to meet with some of those major foundations and donors here in Rifle and western Garfield County has Mullen and others excited to be attending the RPD conference for the first time.
“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.
Other nonprofits have expressed similar feelings over the past 10 months leading up to the conference, 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 Colorado 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.
Along with a lack of access to larger outside donors, nonprofits in general also face high turnover in leadership positions, often leading to a lack of knowledge in terms of the administrative work of running a nonprofit, according to Rausch. The conference features educational workshops to help in leadership and development.
The education aspect combined with the opportunity to network with other organizations and funders both locally and across the state makes RPD a valuable resource for nonprofits, said Julie Olson, executive director of Advocate Safehouse Project, a nonprofit based in Glenwood Springs that assists victims of domestic and sexual violence.
While not entirely attributable to RPD, Olson, who has been involved with RPD since the ’90s, noted that the Advocate Safehouse Project had a budget around $110,000 in 1995. The number currently stands around $450,000.
“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.”
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The city of Rifle plans to allocate grant funding for improvements to Railroad Avenue and Third Street.