Reaching out to rural Colorado

Posted by Joanne Kelley, Executive Director, Colorado Association of Funders

I’m pretty sure Rick Cohen was posing a rhetorical question in his recent post about why Colorado’s “Rural Philanthropy Days” works. In his Nonprofit Quarterly  blog, Cohen referred to the mountain region’s version of the event, which took place in Edwards last week.

“Since the last Rural Philanthropy Days [in the mountain region] four years ago, 14 donors increased their grant support to rural areas by 202 percent,” Cohen wrote. “Someone should talk to those 14 grantmakers and ask them what it is that got them to up their rural nonprofit grantmaking.”

You can read the complete Cohen post here.

And here’s an excerpt from the comment I posted in response:

I think a big part of the answer is that this is a year-in and year-out effort aimed at strengthening relationships between funders and nonprofits in the far reaches of the state. The Denver funders know these folks because they keep returning to see and hear about the good work they’re all doing.
Here’s a link to something we wrote about it in our report, “Seeing Potential, Creating Change: The Reach and Impact of Colorado Philanthropy.”

Colorado foundations are headed next to the San Luis Valley in September.

Here’s a blurb from the invite:

“This year’s event will be held in the town of Saguache, listed as one of Colorado’s most endangered places by Colorado Preservation Inc. in 2009. The event location gives attendees a view of the rustic beauty of the Valley and some of the challenges rural isolation poses.”

By the way, Rural Philanthropy Days has worked so well that we realized we could do an even better job of building relationships in the metro areas, too. We launched what we call the “C3 Forum” last year in partnership with the Colorado Nonprofit Association and Community Resource Center, the nonprofit that organizes Rural Philanthropy Days. The C3 Forum is a full day of small group discussions between funders and nonprofits. We’ll be in Loveland on July 12 and expect about 75 funders and 350 nonprofits to spend the day connecting and networking. Come out and join us!

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Connecting the dots

Scott Downes, The Colorado Trust

‘Connecting the Dots’

The Colorado Trust’s Scott Downes talks about “collective impact” and how “interconnected strategies will help move us closer to making sure that every Coloradan can get the coverage and care they need to stay healthy.”

To read his blog post about his participation in the Colorado Children’s Campaign‘s It’s About Kids retreat in Pueblo, click here.

Please join the conversation by adding a comment below or by letting us know what you think at caf@coloradofunders.org.

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CAF Legislative Review Offers Mixed Review on Session

Reported by Christie McElhinney, Vice President of Communications & Public Affairs, The Colorado Trust

A panel of Colorado lawmakers offered mixed reviews this week as they recapped the just-concluded legislative session for members of the Colorado Association of Funders .

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, Senate Majority Leader John Morse, along with House Minority Whip Claire Levy, represented the Democrats. House Speaker Frank McNulty and Sen. Shawn Mitchell offered the Republican view on the session.

Speaking to foundation leaders and funders gathered at the Denver Public Library, the panelists discussed the challenges presented by having a different party in control of each chamber. This year marked the first time since 2002 that the chambers have been split — with the Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans in control of the House.

The panelists agreed that compromise was key.

“We spent some time learning how to operate in a mixed environment,” Levy said. “What suffered were the core missions within each party.”

Sen. John Morse

Morse noted that “The results were mixed, just like the Legislature.” He added that he felt the media spent too much time focusing its coverage on the fights.

Still, the panelists pointed to a number of accomplishments. Shaffer said the Legislature “accomplished three or three and one-half of our five priorities.” Passing legislation to balance the budget, create a health care coverage exchange and overhaul the unemployment insurance trust fund were among the goals achieved, while agreement was not reached on constitutional reform or redistricting.

In response to a question posed by moderator Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post about whether the K-12 education system would likely suffer more cuts in the future, panelists offered disparate views while largely agreeing that the answer was “yes.”

Mitchell said, “Resources for K-12 and the postsecondary education systems, and other vital services, requires a rebounding economy.” However, he said, he doesn’t think the state’s education system is underfunded.

While noting that the state’s education systems now account for about 54 cents of every $1 of the general fund, Senator Morse expressed concern that more funding is needed, particularly in light of a spike in special needs kids. Still, he agreed that the legislature would most likely be required to make as many cuts to education next year as they did this year.

The panelists offered very different points of view when asked about the health care coverage exchange, which Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law earlier in the day.

House Speaker Frank McNulty

Speaker of the House McNulty said he “does not support federal health care reform,” and is “concerned about the effects this [federal law] could have in Colorado. We need to build a firewall.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Senator Shaffer said the health care coverage exchange is “about providing affordable access for Coloradans.” Noting that the idea of an exchange originated in the bipartisan plan developed by Colorado’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Healthcare Reform, Shaffer said “We need to focus on what we can do here in Colorado.”

McElhinney is a member of the Colorado Association of Funders’ Communications Committee.

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Celebrating philanthropy in Colorado

Posted by Joanne Kelley, Executive Director, Colorado Association of Funders

We created this blog so we would have a way of regularly sharing stories and news about philanthropy in Colorado.

Once a year, almost 1,000 people come together to do the same. National Philanthropy Day has become an annual tradition in Colorado. It’s a chance to reflect on the important work of philanthropists, grantmakers, fundraisers and volunteers. Celebrating their good work helps to raise awareness about what can be accomplished when we reach out to help others.

The deadline for nominating worthy candidates for 11 different awards is July 22 — less than two months away. You can visit www.npdcolorado.org to learn more and to download nomination forms.

We hope to see you at the awards ceremony on Nov. 18th.

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‘From Innovation to Inventiveness’

Posted by Joanne Kelley, Executive Director, Colorado Association of Funders

John Mullaney, Executive Director, The Nord Family Foundation

We ran across this guest post on the “Let’s Talk Philanthropy” blog published by our colleagues at the Ohio Grantmakers Forum. It’s written by John Mullaney, executive director of the Ohio-based Nord Family Foundation. Nord also happens to be a member of the Colorado Association of Funders because the foundation makes grants to a variety of nonprofits here in Colorado.

You can read Mullaney’s thoughts in his post, “From Innovation to Inventiveness,” which touches on the foundation’s work in Denver and explains how the foundation took an invention in Cleveland and helped bring it to scale nationwide.

Join the conversation by commenting at the end of this post. And, remember, we’re looking for more stories to share about philanthropy. Please let us know if you have an idea or if you want to try out blogging yourself. Email me at jkelley@coloradofunders.org.

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‘Lasting Impressions’

The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation held an annual ceremony yesterday to honor achievements in the arts and humanities, community service, and science and medicine. The foundation also introduced its 2011 Livingston Fellows. They hail from five different nonprofit organizations and include Alyssa Kopf, CEO of Community Shares of Colorado and a board member of the Colorado Association of Funders.

We’re reprinting the reflections from a past winner of the Bonfils-Stanton community service award. The essay appeared in “Lasting Impressions,” a book published last year about the recipients of a prize that has become known as “Colorado’s Nobel.”

By Sam Gary

It’s an honor to be asked to share my personal philosophy. It’s also a little confusing because, at 83, I’m still trying to figure out if I have one. I don’t exactly have a philosopher’s background.

IBM used to have a one-word motto: Think. I was very young when it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t do well in school—I was always thinking about fishing when I should have been thinking about geometry. Teachers told me to try “doubly hard,” so I’d try triply hard, but it didn’t seem to get me anywhere.

Somehow I managed to make it through high school and several years in the Coast Guard and the Maritime Service, but I really had no direction. I had friends studying medicine and law, going into business, but there was nothing I felt driven to do. On top of that, I seemed to have a real limitation. Today, they call it dyslexia.

But since they made it easy for veterans to go to college, I ended up at Cazenovia Junior College—for women. I got a good job stoking the furnace in a girls’ dormitory. (An incentive was that my dog could live there with me, in the basement.) I thought no one would realize my major motivation wasn’t education but the opportunity to be around all those girls.

One man did, though—Charles Schwerin, the dorm master. He was smart enough to know what was going on, but we still had a comfortable, open relationship. He knew I was having trouble in school, but he never lectured me or told me to try doubly hard, and eventually he suggested I transfer to Syracuse University, a much more demanding school nearby. “You don’t have to love college,” he said, “you just need to hang in there.”

Hanging in there turned out to be a pretty important skill. I graduated from college in two-and-a-half years, with a grade point average of 2.5, which didn’t exactly catapult me into graduate school but impressed me all the same. In retrospect, I couldn’t have done it if Chuck hadn’t been only twenty miles away, reminding me that I could.

Nearly fifty years later, I called his old number in Massachusetts.

I said, “Chuck?”

After a long pause, he said, “Sam?”

He remembered me!

By this time, I was an established oilman. Since this was a more prestigious career than stoking the furnace in a girl’s dormitory, I’d sometimes been tempted to reinvent myself as an accomplished, hard-working person. But I knew much of my success was due to nothing more than my ability to get up in the morning, and to having gotten to connect with other people like Chuck. By then, I also knew that some people are born on the wrong end of the stick, through no fault of their own, without the basic tools it takes to participate in society. When I got involved in philanthropy, I realized that we have a tendency to put these people in cans, to try to fix them. When that doesn’t work, we tend to dismiss them as hopeless.

Instead of doing that with me, Chuck had given me a little encouragement, a little time to figure out how to think. It’s as if he looked at me and thought: Why not?         

Since then, I’ve approached a number of potentially impossible situations by asking that exact question: Why not? There are usually plenty of reasons not to do something, and it’s never hard to find someone who’s happy to point them out. Others have not only entertained the question, but hung in there with me as I tried to find an answer. I’ve been lucky.

If you want philosophy, how about this:

Recognize potential.

Hang in there.

Why not?

—–

In founding the Piton Foundation, Sam Gary pioneered a model of urban philanthropy that unites neighborhood schools, churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations to improve public education, create economic opportunity, and strengthen civic leadership.

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Diamonds in the rough

Posted by Joanne Kelley

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview seven incredible high school seniors competing for Daniels Fund scholarships.

I was so moved by their stories of beating the odds that the old news reporter in me began taking notes all over their applications so I could remember the precise details of their stories and keep them straight.

At the end of the day, I discovered I had to turn in the materials I’d scribbled on all afternoon. Fortunately, Denver Post columnist Tina Griego captured her own interview experience beautifully here.

The students I interviewed weren’t the same students, but they left me with the same impression: the future is brighter than we think.

To see a video about a surprise announcement of a small group of Daniels Scholar finalists in the metro area or for a full list of the 267 scholarship recipients announced today, click here.  

Joanne Kelley is the executive director of the Colorado Association of Funders.

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