More than 250 Southwest Colorado nonprofit organizations are registered for Rural Philanthropy Days, a three-day conference centered in Durango next week meant to connect nonprofits with each other and to educate major philanthropic funding sources about rural communities’ needs.
The conference will be hosted by Community Resource Center America, a Denver-based nonprofit, and is scheduled to begin on Wednesday after a private kickoff party at the Powerhouse on Tuesday.
Tiffany Brodersen, a co-chairwoman of the Rural Philanthropy Days steering committee that has about 40 members from Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties, said a broad spectrum of nonprofits is signed up to participate in a variety of workshops and panels.
One panel is about “decolonizing philanthropy,” while another aims to spotlight happenings across the five-county region, she said. Other activities include skill-building workshops and exploring collaboration opportunities.
Front Range funders who don’t get much exposure to the rural communities of Southwest Colorado will take a walking tour of Durango in addition to touring the towns of Ignacio and Silverton, she said. Another smaller tour will take funders to area farms and ranches to showcase rural agriculture.
“It’s a really unique opportunity because it does bring together those regional funders, and then those Front Range funders that fund (across the state) but maybe haven’t been down here recently,” she said.
Jeff Susor, executive director of the Powerhouse, said the goal is to highlight rural areas and organizations that don’t get as much attention from large philanthropic entities such as the Gates Family Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation.
He said Rural Philanthropy Days, which is only held in Southwest Colorado every four years (it has been five years since the last one because of an interruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic), is a “fantastic” opportunity for area nonprofits.
The last conference in 2018 was held in Cortez. Susor said he attended meetings as a member of the Powerhouse board of directors and casually met a funder who would become one of the Powerhouse’s most major funders.
“That had a big impact, just getting face time with somebody who didn’t realize what we were doing in the community and was looking for a way to really invest in science education here,” he said.
Briggen Wrinkle, executive director of the Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado, said a group called Rural Action Network is sending 11 funders to the region for Rural Philanthropy Days. The Buell, Daniels and El POMAR foundations are also participating.
In total, about 70 funders from foundations on the Front Range will attend the conference, she said.
“Following an RPD (Rural Philanthropy Days), our statewide funding triples,” she said. ” … A tripling of the amount of money that’s coming here is incredible. So many of our nonprofits do such great work, but they’re limited by the funding. And so to increase their funding just increases the impact they’re making for our community, which is so terrific.”
One hundred eighty nonprofits in the five-county region participated in the Cortez conference in 2018, Brodersen said.
Area nonprofits operate in several sectors, most of all health and human services, followed by arts and culture, education, and environment, according to a nonprofit economic impact report from September 2018. That year, area nonprofits reported having more than $20 million in local banks and earned a combined total of $106.4 million in revenue.
The economic impact report says every dollar spent by nonprofits has a ripple effect through the community. Nonprofit employees eat and shop locally, and so do tourists attending nonprofit arts and cultural events; and nonprofits supply affordable child care and provide housing assistance to the unhoused and underserved.
The city of Durango in addition to a slew of other entities sponsored the conference; the city donated $5,000 for this year’s event.
A schedule of Rural Philanthropy Days events is available online at https://bit.ly/45Reicy.
An earlier version of this story misidentified the Gates Family Foundation.