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Western Slope Rural Philanthropy Days

Tags: Regional Partnerships

Devanie Helman

As a first timer at Rural Philanthropy Days, I had no idea what to expect as we headed for the picturesque town of Ouray, Colorado – most well known as the “Switzerland of North America,” the home of ice climbing, or for some, winter weekends soaking in the hot pools.

Not only does Ouray have a lot to offer as a mountain community, but also three days full of valuable conversation.  With over 100 attendees, there were countless opportunities to make connections and build relationships, as well as many chances to learn more about the region and nonprofit sector. Rural Philanthropy Days highlighted best practices and inspired participants to do our best work. Many conference attendees, both Funders and Grant seekers, noted they were inspired by the variety and multitude of organizations, which represented multiple service areas and demographics.

Rural Philanthropy Days began 20 years ago as an idea from Sue Anschutz Rogers with the intent of connecting funders located in metro Denver and Colorado Springs to rural nonprofits.  This past week, the conference focused on seven counties on the Western Slope.  As a native of Gunnison, it was both fascinating and motivating to hear about what community leaders consider the region’s greatest challenges and what these incredible organizations are doing to improve the quality of life of these tiny towns nestled in the Colorado mountains.

Colorado is an exquisite state with a diverse population, and the issues each region faces are unique only to them.  Prior to Rural Philanthropy Days, the western slope counties identified affordable housing, access to healthcare, transportation, education, effective leadership, and senior care as the six cross-cutting regional themes.  Much of the conference was spent discussing these issues with a focus on solutions, not barriers.  Rural Philanthropy Days brings together some of the most dedicated individuals committed to creating change in their community and partnerships with funders.  The conversation doesn’t stop after the close of the conference, throughout the coming months, relationships will continue to grow, developing effective partnerships, with all working towards creating impact in the state of Colorado.

The impact of Rural Philanthropy Days on the region is considerable.  This year Boettcher and El Pomar share their 75th Anniversary, and as part of the celebration the two foundations created an interactive map highlighting the total grant dollars given to each county in the region by the various funders over the past four years.  A similar map will be created for the next Rural Philanthropy Days held in Winter Park in October.  Click on here to see the incredible impact the funders and nonprofits have made on the Western Slope since 2009.

The next Rural Philanthropy Days will be held in October in Winter Park.