Stories of Impact

Aspen Community Foundation releases Closing Gaps, Creating Youth Opportunities

  • August 22, 2016
  • Reports,Stories of Impact
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CAF member Aspen Community Foundation (ACF) recently released its 2016 report, Closing Gaps, Creating Youth Opportunities. We are pleased to share this report with you which details the impacts that have been made since the launch of the Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative (CCI) in 2012.

About the Aspen to Parachute Cradle to Career Initiative:

CCI has used the strategy of collective impact to broaden its work from concept development and action planning to forming collaborations, implementing projects, and measuring outcomes. ACF serves as the backbone organization for CCI by guiding the vision and strategy of the group’s work. ACF has created a Cradle to Career Fund to support CCI efforts. The mission of CCI is to ensure every child from Aspen to Parachute is ready for kindergarten and graduates from high school ready for college or career. CCI serves the children of working class families located in between Aspen and Parachute, which are often overlooked due to the area’s many affluent visitors. CCI brings nonprofits, schools, governments, civic groups, businesses, and philanthropy together to implement collaborative and innovative ways of working together. The success of CCI lies in the shared vision, mutual trust, and unwavering investment of these partner organizations, schools, and agencies.

About Closing Gaps, Creating Youth Opportunities:

This report offers an overview of how the region’s children are doing and how the collaborative projects of CCI partner organizations are helping. The report details four goals for youth: All children should be ready for kindergarten, All children should develop the social and life assets for success and happiness, All children should success academically, and All children should graduate high school ready for college and career. Closing Gaps highlights the ways CCI has begun to move the needle toward greater youth success in the Aspen to Parachute region.

Please click here to download Closing Gaps, Creating Youth Opportunities, and contact email hidden; JavaScript is required to learn more.

An anniversary of a ‘moment of a lifetime’

This week marks four years since we started this blog. It also marks four years since I had the life-changing chance to donate bone marrow to my younger brother. Colleagues occasionally get up the nerve to ask me if he’s still doing OK.

To mark the fourth anniversary of an experience I still can’t completely wrap my head around, we’re sharing a 2011 blog post below. (It also contains a link to the inaugural 2010 blog titled, “Moment of a Lifetime”).

Oh, and my brother? Happily, he’s still doing great.


Originally posted on Aug. 4, 2011

Tom (with his two-year-old daughter Leela) on the first road trip doctors cleared him to take almost a year after the transplant.

We launched the Colorado Giving Voice blog in August 2010 with my personal reflections about donating bone marrow to my brother, Tom. He just left me a voicemail on his drive home from a checkup at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, where the transplant took place exactly a year earlier. All’s well.

The experience inspired me to prepare the following remarks recently when I was asked to speak about philanthropy.

I’m going to guess you’re all philanthropists – every one of you.

Some people have a million or even a billion dollars or more to start a foundation.

You might donate through a community foundation or your workplace.

Or you might give of your time, money or self in other ways.

Bill Daniels made a fortune in the cable television industry and left his billion dollar estate to a foundation that’s already invested $300 million in the past decade in the areas Daniels cared about most.

The Penrose family, which built the Broadmoor resort and made money in mining, started El Pomar Foundation, which seeks advice from people all over the state to help it decide where to make grants to help local residents.

That same year El Pomar was founded, the Boettchers, who made money in industries like cement and happened to have their own iconic hotel – the Brown Palace — also started a foundation that invests in capital intensive projects such as senior centers and boys and girls clubs.

Bonfils-Stanton. Buell. Coors. Johnson. These are all names now associated with Colorado’s foundation sector.

Western Union and Xcel Energy are among the many companies that have set up corporate foundations to invest in worthy causes. And new generations of entrepreneurs have been creating foundations, too. Software entrepreneur Tim Gill started the Gay and Lesbian Fund and Gill Foundation. David Merage founded Hot Pockets and used some of the proceeds from the sale of the company to set up a Colorado foundation focused on areas such as early childhood learning.

There are many, many small foundations with less than a million in assets.

In the span of just a decade, the number of Colorado foundations more than doubled, jumping to more than 1,200 from 600. Assets more than tripled, topping $10 billion vs $3 billion a decade earlier. Total foundation giving in Colorado rose to almost $700 million a year from $169 million.

While foundation investments took a hit during the recent economic downturn, we’re seeing things slowly recovery along with the rest of the economy.

But foundations aren’t ATM machines. And they’re not even just about charity.

Think of them as venture capitalists for social change. This is the description Gov. John Hickenlooper used recently when he was explaining how more than 30 foundations came together to provide the initial support and expertise for Denver’s campaign to end homelessness in a decade.

You might be surprised to know what types of things foundations have provided the seed money for: the 911 system, Sesame Street, even a study that showed painting white stripes on the outer edge as well as the inner edge of highway lanes prevented collisions.

A number of Colorado foundations – including The Colorado Trust and Colorado Health Foundation — are focused on tackling the health care crisis in creative ways, either by working to build public will for health reform or by encouraging and teaching school cafeteria lunch ladies how to cook healthy food from scratch

For those of you who don’t have a billion or a million dollars to give, there’s still plenty of opportunity to be generous. Community foundations in cities and counties all over this state are pooling money from people of more modest means so they can collectively have a larger impact in their communities.

There are workplace giving programs (Mile High United Way, Community Shares of Colorado, and Caring Connection, for example) where employees can contribute a specified amount toward favorite causes. It’s an extremely effective way to make sure you regularly open your heart and your wallet

If you don’t think you can make a difference, consider this:

Individuals are responsible for the most of the charitable giving in this country. That adds up to about 75 percent of the hundreds of billions donated in this country every year.

You don’t even have to contribute money to be a philanthropist. Maybe you’ve volunteered time or you’ve had an unexpected chance to help others in need.

Last summer when I returned home from my summer vacation there was a Fedex box waiting on my doorstep. There was a test kit for collecting tissue samples to see if my bone marrow might be a match for a patient who urgently needed a transplant.

In this case it was for my brother. He had just been diagnosed with a life threatening condition called Aplastic Anemia. I’m grateful to be able to say he’s doing fine a year later.

While I did this for my brother, I discovered that people do things like this all the time for strangers. is only one way to find out about how this works. There are all kinds of nonprofits helping people make these sorts of connections.

This is what philanthropy is really all about. Sure, the money helps. But its true definition is ultimately about showing compassion for humankind.

Everyone can be a philanthropist.

You can start a foundation.

You can donate to a community foundation or give through your workplace.

Or you can donate directly to a cause you care about – whether that involves giving of your time, money, or yourself.

There’s a philanthropist in all of us.

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

Learn about how to help wildfire relief efforts

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Our thoughts go out to those affected by the Black Forest wildfire. Here are some ways to help provide immediate assistance:

Help Colorado Now has information about how to provide financial support to agencies responding to disasters and is a joint partnership between Colorado Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Colorado Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

The Pikes Peak Community Foundation has launched an Emergency Relief Fund to benefit nonprofits providing disaster relief in the region.


The Philanthropic Response to Oklahoma; How You Can Help

Our hearts go out to Oklahoma. Click here for information on how to help — from our colleagues at the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers:

On Capitol Hill, a story’s worth 1,000 words

Sen. Michael Bennet catches up today (Mar. 22) with Colorado foundation leaders in the historic Vice President’s Room in the Capitol just before he heads to the chamber to vote on the bi-partisan “crowdfunding” legislation he introduced.

In the news business, some of the best advice I ever got from an editor was: “Show me. Don’t tell me.”

In other words, the most compelling articles are usually packed with descriptions and real examples and people speaking for themselves. You have to go out and talk to people, connect with them, weave it all together. That’s what makes a good story. That’s what makes an impression.

It’s true of most things. And it was true when Colorado foundation leaders traveled to Washington this week for face-to-face meetings with the nine members of Colorado’s congressional delegation.

There were 14 of us in all — representing just about every type of funder making grants to nonprofits in communities all over the state (and every one of the state’s congressional districts.)

We had foundations of every size and stripe.  Some of them fund broadly and others focus on a single issue. Some focus on the entire state, while others invest locally and in rural communities. We had corporate foundations, family foundations, even out-of-state foundations with family connections to Colorado.

It’s no accident that we managed to get ample time with all nine members of our congressional delegation.  Just as a good story captures your attention, our diverse group did just that.

Thanks to all of our members of Congress and their staffers who made time to meet with us this week to exchange ideas and hear about the work our members are doing in communities across the state. Thanks to the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and the Council on Foundations for organizing the annual Foundations on the Hill event.

And thanks to our 2012 Colorado foundation delegation:

Mark Anderson, Yampa Valley Community Foundation

Louise Atkinson, Women’s Foundation of Colorado

Sheila Bugdanowitz, Rose Community Foundation

Linda Childears, Daniels Fund

Ted Harms, The Anschutz Foundation

Mary Gunn, David and Lucile Packard Foundatoin

Heather Carroll, Edmondson Foundation

Susan Steele, Buell Foundation

Paul Major, Telluride Foundation

Monique Lovato, Xcel Energy

Joe Ignat, Nord Family Foundation

Mary Gunn, David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Tim Sweeney, Gill Foundation

Abel Wurmnest, Anschutz Family Foundation

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

Catching our breath in 2012

Posted by Joanne Kelley

The holiday season is over (for now) but we’re still talking about the various projects that members of the Colorado Association of Funders gathered for throughout the month of December. Thanks to our friend Rachel Mondragon at The Colorado Trust for posting about her experience at The Gathering Place on the foundation’s Community Connections blog and for creating a brief slide show complete with music.

Former CAF staffer Abel Wurmnest heads out in a snowstorm to prepare meals at Project Angelheart with Kumella Aiu, his new program officer colleague from the Anschutz Family Foundation. The Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation staff also shared kitchen duties that day.

Several dozen funders teamed up throughout the city, not only at The Gathering Place, but also at Metro CareRing, Urban Peak/The Spot, and Project Angelheart, to lend a hand and get a closer look at the vital work these organizations do for our communities.

Philanthropy’s ‘network effect’

“None of us is as smart as all of us.”  –Management guru Ken Blanchard

Did you know the Colorado Association of Funders is part of a network of organizations that regularly share expertise so we can all do a better job of serving our members in our respective local communities?
We hosted our colleagues from across the country here in Denver last month for the annual conference of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.

Jamie Van Leeuwen, senior policy advisor to Gov. John Hickenlooper, visits with Nancy Roberts, president of Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, after speaking about his work with CAF to build connections between the Governor’s office and cabinet and Colorado’s foundation sector.

We met right downtown, which allowed us to show off the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (Thanks to Buell Foundation for connecting us to folks who arranged behind the scenes tours) and the vibrant restaurant scene (Thanks to Craftworks Foundation and Western Union Foundation for sponsoring a great opening reception at the Rock Bottom Brewery. A bike ride along Cherry Creek on Denver B-cycles and a ballgame at Coors Field were also a hit with our visitors.
Aside from the Rocky Mountain backdrop and sightseeing, the main attraction and reason we all make the effort to get together each year is as simple as Blanchard’s observation above.
Collectively, our 35 associations serve roughly 4,000 foundations and funders. And by connecting almost daily through email discussions and conference calls, as well as at our annual conference, we’re able to exchange advice, stay informed and collaborate on the best ways to provide “on the ground” leadership in our geographic regions.

We all exist for the same reasons — to bring funders together and to strengthen philanthropy in our local communities. That work might involve developing new educational programs, improving our advocacy efforts, or finding more cost-effective, innovative ways of collecting data. If one of our members asks us a question and we don’t know the answer, this is generally the first place we turn for help. In this era of doing more with less, our network has become more relevant than ever. To learn more, go to

Posted by Joanne Kelley, executive director, Colorado Association of Funders

Thanks to those who made the C3 Forum a success

Posted by Joanne Kelley

Sincere thanks go out to the more than 375 of you who took part in the C3 Forum in Loveland on July 12.

This was the second year the Colorado Association of Funders collaborated with the Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Community Resource Center to bring funders and nonprofits together to network and learn from each other.

I thought the following note from Jeannine Truswell, executive director of the United Way of Weld County, summed it up well: “There are so many good things happening in our communities across Colorado. With all that is wrong with the world, it was energizing and uplifting to get us all together. For nonprofits to get away from the day to day and to elevate the conversations serves only to bring positive for all.”

You can also listen to Christie McElhinney of The Colorado Trust as she shares her take on the value of the C3 Forum. Click here to watch the video.

Thanks to all our member organizations that took part. For a complete list and to view photos of the day, click here.

Look forward to next year’s forum.

Joanne Kelley is executive director of the Colorado Association of Funders. Contact her at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

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!

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.

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