Friday, June 19, 2009

Up to Good - Guest Commentary from Jeff Pryor on Rural Philanthropy Days

By Jeff Pryor, Executive Director of the Anscutz Family Foundation

Rural Philanthropy Days is extraordinary event filled with people up to good. Not specific to a region, but common across Colorado - the people who work in the sector are stunningly impressive. For example, we had dine-arounds in Crested Butte and at my table were people who were involved in outreach effort to Native American Tribal lands, community theatre, youth leadership development, community center/cultural center, energy efficiency and sustainability.

As each of these organizations was, for not only did they represent unique missions, but also serving different communities in Western Colorado, they had much in common - an uncertain future, challenge to find the resources to sustain efforts and the desire to make a substantial difference. As the volunteers, board members of staff of these organizations strategize about improving sustainability, they begin to explore the concept of what they can do better together than they can do separately.

It was amazing to see the opportunity for exchange - of ideas, resources, facilities, introductions. Not a person left the table without some absolute benefit from the opportunity to reach out to compatriots in other organizations and in other locations.

Yet, with all of the energy assembled in the 400 people attending the event - and representing a vital resource to the state and each community involved, there still is a reason for the sector to be more engaging and speak with a stronger unified voice. For the sector represents approximately 8% of the states gross product, 6% of the workforce and generates over 13 billion in exposure and 1 billion in leveraged dollars from outside of Colorado - and if 400 people gathered for any other event, we'd see a sea of elected officials, press and other business leaders.

We must be more deliberate in sharing the value of the work of individual nonprofits and of the sector as a whole. Strengthening our abilities will result in strong organizations, more apt to manage challenging times and more able to attract resources. I am privileged to represent the Anschutz Family Foundation and work on behalf of many foundations who invest time, money and energy into Rural Philanthropy Days-- and I know that all of the foundations are impressed with the spirit of collaboration, the strength of conviction of individual leaders and the aggregate power that was assembled in the Gunnison Valley.

Our salute goes to the amazing steering committee and to the host of volunteers and supporters who made the record breaking event possible. As the Colorado Nonprofit Association works to advocate for the sector and the Community Resource Center continues its work to build organizational capacity, there is no doubt that the sector will gain in vibrancy and vitality.

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