Report: Philanthropy Days ‘very successful’ |

Report: Philanthropy Days ‘very successful’

Ryan Hoffman

The true impact of Mountain Rural Philanthropy Days will be unknown for sometime, but a preliminary report released last week states participating nonprofits and funders reported overall positive experiences.

The three-day conference hopped around western Garfield County in late June, bringing together nonprofits from across a five-county region and funders, some traveling from the front range. More than 300 people attended the conference.

Of the 110 surveys compiled from those seeking grant funding, 88 percent reported learning a new skill that would increase their professional capacity, while 91 percent indicated their organization would be more effective as a result of attending the conference.

The numbers are similar to the 28 surveys collected from funders; 92 percent reported they built new relationships with regional nonprofit organizations and 91 percent reported they gained a better understanding of nonprofits in the mountain region.

In the week following the conference, executives from nonprofits in Garfield County — 38 percent of all registrants for the event were from Garfield County — stated that they found the educational aspects and networking opportunities to be beneficial.

“I thought it was great,” said Kimberly Loving, executive director of LIFT-UP. This was Loving’s first time attending the conference. “We went to some of the training classes and took away lots of information.”

Specifically, Loving said the classes on messaging and using social media could be helpful for fundraising efforts, especially as communication continues to shift to digital platforms.

Attendees with prior experience at Rural Philanthropy Days commented on the impressive presentation at this most recent conference, as well as the event’s growth and transformation since they last attended.

“I really thought this one had really progressed,” said Amy Barr, executive director of United Way Battlement to the Bells. Barr attended the conference four years ago in Edwards, and said the implementation of the listening a tour — a pre-event effort that identified several issues specific to the region — was a useful addition.

There is a significant difference between the Western Slope and the Front Range, and that difference translates to the nonprofit world, she said.

Barr and others attributed the success of this year’s event to the steering committee and organizing entities, such as the Rifle Chamber of Commerce.

Still, the reason many nonprofits cited for attending was to try and secure funding from the foundations and other groups from the Front Range. Due to the nature of the grant application process, the actual return on the relationships established at the conference will not be fully known for a year or so, said Leah Rausch, Rural Philanthropy Days program manager.

However, survey results in the initial report indicate that 93 percent of those seeking grants felt positive about the potential for future funding. On the last day of the conference, nonprofits had the opportunity to pitch their organization to a total of 28 funding entities. After the pitch, representatives would give the nonprofit a green light to apply for funding, a yellow light indicating more work could be done, or a red light.

The average grant-seeker reported receiving two green lights, one yellow light and one red light during the roundtable sessions.

Barbra Corcoran, executive director of CASA of the Ninth, a nonprofit that advocates for neglected and abused children in Colorado’s 9th Judicial District, received a green light from the El Pomar Foundation. While some nonprofits pitched a specific program, Corcoran said her organization, which formed in 2011, was seeking general funding. Casa of the Ninth hopes to add another staff member by the fall.

Outside the world of nonprofits and foundation representatives, the event did inject some money into the local economy. The 117 respondents who submitted spending logs, reported spending $28,050 during the conference. Aside from the sponsored events, which were catered by local restaurants, some smaller parties booked private dinners at local eateries, including Sammy’s Rocky Mountain Steakhouse in Rifle. Owner Donny Andre said he did twice as much business as normal on a Thursday, when the conference was in town. While the restaurant was not packed wall to wall, it was fund to mingle around the different parties, Andre said.

The report did find several challenges and complaints regarding the conference, including a lack of healthy food options at catered events, and difficulty in keeping government officials engaged during the community solutions portion of the conference. A series of solutions, mostly focused on planning and branding, also were included in the report.

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