Local foundation offers help to nonprofits
EAGLE COUNTY —A relatively new local foundation aims to help nonprofits plug funding gaps they face when other sources dry up.
Our Community Foundation was created last year and is already successful, having provided $25,000 to the Vail Valley Salvation Army and landed outside assistance from Vista Volunteers to help local nonprofits.
“The Salvation Army is a wonderful organization for our neighbors, and it’s run on a boot string,” said Mike Rushmore, of the new foundation.
Our Community Foundation is a new affiliate with the long-established Western Colorado Community Foundation.
Rushmore also sits on the board of the Western Colorado Community Foundation, an umbrella organization that serves seven counties across Colorado’s Western Slope.
Rushmore approached local philanthropist Doe Browning with the concept, who said she found it “more than appealing.”
“We know we live in a blessed place, and we also know there is a great divide between some of the haves and the have nots,” Browning said. “If we’re going to continue claiming to be a world-class community, we have to treat everyone like they’re world class.”
Local business leader Beth Slifer added her support, as have others.
The goal was to create an entity that was above board and transparent, and that would be local, Browning said.
“It’s very ambitious on Mike’s part. They’re doing it to address needs; they’re not doing it for notoriety,” she said.
It simplifies giving, said Tsu Wolin-Brown, executive director of Vail Valley Salvation Army.
Our Community Foundation offers help to people who are unable to find the service organizations they need and coordinates between organizations.
“There’s a great opportunity for something like this in the valley,” said Bill Jensen, who sits on the local foundation’s board.
Rushmore and Jensen volunteered for a couple of nonprofit boards and said they were happy to do it.
“We realized there is an opportunity to do more through a foundation than the individual organizations can do on their own,” Jensen said.
Support, then spending
Instead of raising money and then identifying the problems, Our Community Foundation is raising the money and then figuring out where it can best serve the community. Take the Salvation Army, for instance. When it came to Rushmore’s attention that the Vail Valley Salvation Army was $25,000 short of the funding they needed, the new foundation stepped up and said it could help with that specific need.
Our Community Foundation started in 2014 as the fiscal agent for Eagle County Gives Day. It’s purely philanthropic — no one is getting paid one thin dime to do this. They secured their nonprofit status and have started to receive donations from benefactors around the valley.
That’s all very good, but this foundation has broader goals. For example, they applied for a grant from Vista Volunteers, and soon 10 volunteers will be working with local nonprofits, possibly in something like food security, to help coordinate efforts and see that people get the help they need.
In Grand Junction, the Western Colorado Community Foundation built a food truck to help coordinate and deliver food during the summer to people who really need it.
One of 400 nationwide
There are more than 400 of these community foundations around the country, Rushmore said.
Rushmore moved to Vail four years ago and saw that there was no comparable local foundation like those in Aspen, Park City and Summit County.
There is now.
“It seems like such an obvious solution,” Rushmore said.
Aspen’s local foundation generates $1.7 million a year, mostly from locals and not so much from second homeowners.
“People know the good things to do,” Rushmore said.
Among the local ironies: Edwards is rated the second-wealthiest community in the country. Yet many Guardian scholars — students from low-income families — come from there.
“Those kids are everywhere,” Rushmore said. “How do you solve that problem? That’s exactly what a community foundation does.”
Filling funding gaps
Our Community Fund helps nonprofits when other funding sources are no longer available.
A few years ago, Eagle County’s government had $23 million in its reserve fund. The legal requirement is around $14 million. When the economy tanked, the commissioners set up a grant fund to help local nonprofits through the recession.
For last couple of years the county has donated more than $2 million to those local nonprofits. However, the county went through contractions along with everyone else and that program bit the dust when they ran out of the extra money.
To help get it restarted, Our Community Foundation hosted 75 people representing about 50 local nonprofits. It was unstructured, so people could mingle and talk about how they might work together, Rushmore said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.