“Colorado Giving Voice” Blog

Colorado joins other community foundations at White House in marking 100 years

  • December 4, 2014
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The White House organized and hosted a convening on Dec. 2 to recognize the 100th anniversary of community foundations.

We were joined by  Josie Heath, CEO of The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County and Sheila Bugdanowitz, CEO of Rose Community Foundation as well as other community foundation leaders and regional association leaders from around the country. The day served as an opportunity to reflect on the centennial accomplishments and the future promise of what has been called “a uniquely American innovation.”

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“Stories worth telling” — A new resource from foundation with storied past of its own

  • October 6, 2014
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I’ve been fortunate to begin getting to know Julie Rogers, who retired earlier this year from the Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C. After spending 28 years at the helm of the foundation, Rogers has decided to put down roots here in Colorado.

One of the legacies Roger’s left to the D.C. region was her leadership in creating our colleague organization there, the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.  She’s also been an active proponent of the nationwide Forum Network, which is made up of 34 regional associations of grantmakers with more than 5,500 participating organizations, making it the largest network in American philanthropy.

Like many foundations, Meyer has a story behind it that goes beyond the source of its wealth – in this case, investment banking. According to the foundation’s website, Eugene Meyer served under seven U.S. presidents and held positions ranging from head of the War Finance Corp., to chairman of the Federal Reserve to founding president of the World Bank. His storied past includes the 1933 purchase of the Washington Post, where he served as publisher and chairmen until his death 26 years later. Agnes Ernst Meyer, his wife, was an accomplished investigative journalist, literary translator, author and activist.

But the stories the foundation perhaps cares about most are those waiting to be told by the many nonprofits it supports. Rogers shared with me this just released publication on storytelling. With support from Meyer, it was produced by  Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication.

The “Stories Worth Telling” project follows the old newspaper editor’s adage of “show me, don’t tell me” by providing examples of compelling stories that have actually worked for nonprofits trying to increase fundraising and bolster outreach efforts.

The project was intended to benefit Meyer Foundation’s grantees. But it’s available for any nonprofit looking to turn its stories into great ones.





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. BeTheMatch.org 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.

#Philanthropy: What I did on my summer advocacy ‘staycation’

  • August 7, 2014
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Joe Ignat, Nord Family Foundation, Sheila Bugdanowitz, Rose Community Foundation and Joanne Kelley, Colorado Association of Funders catch up with Congresswoman Diana DeGette in her Denver office on Aug. 7, 2014

Tucked away in a brick office building next to the newest Trader Joe’s in town, the senior member of Colorado’s congressional delegation meets with visitors in a conference room distinguished by plaques and framed mementos from nonprofits and others recognizing her service over the years.

In the nation’s capital, the state’s only current female member of Congress has a spacious office with a coveted view from her desk window that extends down the mall to the iconic Washington Monument.

When it comes to getting Rep. Diana DeGette’s undivided time and attention, however, the home turf trumps all that.

We sat down with her this week to talk about Colorado philanthropy and how it’s making a difference in her district. We asked for her support in ensuring Congress preserves the full value of the charitable deduction when it considers tax reform in the coming year.

We also heard about her work as a member of the far-reaching Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as her leadership on a new initiative called 21st Century Cures. (Stay tuned for information on a Sept. 3, 2014, roundtable DeGette and her staff are planning on the topic in Denver before she heads back to Washington.)

In our more than half-hour meeting, there were no buzzing sounds beckoning her to floor votes, or schedulers popping their heads through the door to signal the next meeting should have started already. There were no airplane flights involved, hotel bills to pay or taxis to catch. Parking was free. And we had enough time for genuine conversation.

Turns out “recess” might be a good idea after all?



New giving data strikes optimistic note

2013_giving_usa_book_cover_imageIndividual donors continue to power gains in charitable giving, with overall contributions approaching their pre-recession high, according to annual Giving USA data released this week.

“While this has been a particularly slow recovery, many charities are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said L. Gregg Carlson, chair of Giving USA Foundation, which publishes the report.” Donors are increasingly more comfortable giving to the causes they care about and at a level in keeping with the impact they would like to make.”

The report showed an increase of $9.69 billion by individuals in 2013. Giving by foundations rose an estimated 5.7 percent, the third consecutive annual increase.

In all,  U.S. individuals, corporations, foundations and bequests combined to contribute more than $335 billion, up 4.4 percent, to charitable organizations last year. 

Read more.



Report: Foundations key source of stability during challenging economies

  • June 9, 2014
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The Foundation Center has released a preview of its forthcoming report estimating overall U.S. foundation giving set a new record of almost $55 billion in 2013, even after adjusting for inflation. The forecast predicts foundation giving will continue to grow “a few points ahead of inflation” in 2014.

The creation of 11,000 new foundations – some of them large – since 2008 helped boost the overall giving, according to the preview of the “Key Facts” report.

The Foundation Center notes overall U.S. foundation assets fell by 17 percent in the 2008 market decline. But foundation giving dropped by only 2 percent the following year. That’s because some foundations held giving steady (or reduced their giving by far less than the decline in their assets) by increasing their annual payout rates.  “The takeaway: foundations are an important source of stability during challenging and volatile economic times.”

The full report will be available in the fall.

From the government? Here to help

We weren’t sure what to expect when Secretary of State Scott Gessler gathered together a group of leaders focused on strengthening the nonprofit community in Colorado.

Gessler, whose office oversees Colorado’s nonprofit sector, called the August 2012 meeting to find out what nonprofits needed most. We spent several hours at the Tivoli Center brainstorming issues with our partners from the Colorado Nonprofit Association, Colorado Nonprofit Development Center, Community Resource Center, Metro Volunteers and other organizations from throughout the state. Gessler initially met with foundation leaders to ask the same question: What’s the biggest issue nonprofits face?

The answer seemed like an obvious one (funding), but it wasn’t. Over and over, nonprofits said that building a strong and effective board of directors continued to rank highest among their biggest challenges.

The Secretary of State’s office and a group of volunteers from various nonprofits set out to find a solution that could help address the issue. They came up with a five-part online learning series focused on training nonprofit board members.

With the final module just completed, the entire series is now available to the public, for free. It’s easy to use, too. So far, 5,400 unique visitors have checked it out. You can find it here.

The Colorado Trust embarks on new ‘community-based’ grantmaking approach

  • May 30, 2014
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Scott Downes, Senior Program Officer, The Colorado Trust

In a blog post published on The Colorado Trust’s Community Connections blog, Scott Downes describes the foundation’s new community-based participatory grantmaking strategy.

“This is not about . . . generating ideas to impose on communities, but rather finding ways to help local groups and individuals develop, support and sustain solutions,” writes Downes, a senior program officer at The Colorado Trust, a foundation focused on achieving health equity. “Solutions to long-enduring, seemingly intractable challenges. It’s about creating real change – of, by and with communities.”

Read more.


Join colleagues for webinar on philanthropy’s role in advancing early childhood education

  • May 29, 2014
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The Colorado Association of Funders is part of “PolicyWorks for Philanthropy.” It’s a nationwide initiative to strengthen the capacity of regional associations of grantmakers and their members to take an active role  in advocacy and policy matters.

Join colleagues from across the country on a webinar to discuss the most recent trends in how philanthropy is working with state policymakers to encourage early childhood education. You’ll also hear about how regional associations of grantmakers are working with their members to address this issue. Presenter: Sara Slaughter, Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

When: Mon., June 16, 1:00 p.m. to 2 p.m. mountain time.

Register online by Friday, June 13.

Please note: This webinar is open to members and staff of CAF and other regional associations of grantmakers.





CAF members: Mark your calendars for our annual meeting with keynoter Lucy Bernholz

  • May 29, 2014
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We’re looking forward to bringing Lucy Bernholz to Denver this fall to discuss her work with CAF members. Thanks to CAF Board Chair Mary Gunn and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, where Bernholz is a visiting scholar, for connecting us with Bernholz and making her visit possible.


Bernholz is a visiting scholar at Stanford University and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Bernholz is also a visiting scholar at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University. A self-described philanthropy wonk, her widely followed philanthropy2173 blog offers insights into her work on the emergence of a “digital civil society.”

Stay tuned for details on our special program with Bernholz on Nov. 5.