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Wanted: Info about local nonprofits
Possible $5 million community reward

Can you name a local nonprofit agency in Archuleta County? Can you name three, or five?

Your ability to know your local nonprofits could mean a huge reward to the community. In the months leading up to the Rural Philanthropy Days event in June, knowledge and support of our area nonprofits will play a big role in acquiring local grants from state funders who are ready and willing to provide support to rural southwest Colorado communities.

The annual Rural Philanthropy Days (RPD) event is held in each region of the state and comes to southwest Colorado just once every four years. According to the 2010 steering committee, “RPD offers a powerful opportunity for Colorado’s funding community to interact with the nonprofit organizations in rural Colorado.”

The 2010 RPD event will take place in Mancos June 9-11. The event will feature representatives from Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties working together to show the state funders why our corner of Colorado is deserving of their grant money.

Deanna Devereaux is the event coordinator for the 2010 Rural Philanthropy Days and emphasizes that “southwest Colorado RPD is about bringing money into our community.”

The 2006 event brought $3.5 million in new grants to southwest Colorado. The goal for the 2010 event is $5 million.

“The funders need us as much as we need them,” Devereaux says. She is working with nonprofits in each county, as well as with the Community Resource Center (CRC) out of Denver, to ensure involvement and knowledge of the event. At a January meeting to begin the information process about RPD, two dozen nonprofit leaders from Archuleta County turned out to hear members of the RPD steering committee speak about the event, offer ideas, and encourage teamwork among local organizations.

Carol Nickell, the new Executive Director of the CRC, reminded the attendees, “A nonprofit is a tax status, not a business model.”

The Community Resource Center is nearly 30 years old and is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities and strategies to develop nonprofit and community groups to strengthen Colorado. A 2009 CRC report, along with a report from the Colorado Nonprofit Association, details studies on the value of nonprofits in a community. In addition to needed volunteer work and services, Nickell says that nonprofits employ nearly 10 percent of the workforce throughout the nation. According to the reports, Colorado ranks 16th of all 50 states in the number of nonprofits per capita and generated over $13 billion in revenues in 2008. Colorado’s nonprofit sector is the third largest industry in the state with 123,000 full time employees. Devereaux notes that the resources brought to the community are extremely undervalued in the business community, mainly because business owners are not aware of what the services are.

The 2010 Rural Philanthropy Days event is the perfect opportunity to bring attention to the value and services that nonprofits offer to our community.

“RPD was originally about grant makers and grant seekers,” Devereaux says. “Now, it’s about the communities.”

She emphasizes that RPD is the perfect opportunity for nonprofits to work together both within the county and between counties, and to bring in community leaders to support the efforts. Getting the entire county involved in supporting the event is a main goal. This coordination will play a huge part in getting the attention of funders at the three-day RPD event in June.

In addition to Carol Nickell at the CRC and RPD director Devereaux, local event spearheading committee members are Julie Simmons, executive director of Colorado Housing Inc. and treasurer of the Archuleta County Housing Authority; Robbie Schwartz, executive director of the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs; Don Goodwin, executive director of the Archuleta County Education Center; and Mary Jo Coulehan, executive director of the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce.

At a Jan. 14 nonprofit organization networking meeting, committee members outlined to the audience the format of the RPD event in Mancos. At the Wednesday evening reception, front-range funders such as Anschutz Family Foundation, Gates Foundation, the Daniels Fund, Adolf Coors Foundation, USDA, El Pomar Foundation, and over 30 more will be seeking out organizations that support their own mission. A representative from each of the five counties will have a chance to speak to the audience for 15 minutes about their community and the role nonprofits play. The CRC will work closely with town and county leaders and administrators in the weeks leading up to the event to make sure everyone is on the same page for this brief but important presentation.

“The public should know what the nonprofits in their community are doing,” stresses Devereaux. Some of the larger funders have been known to walk the streets of a town before the event and ask people what they know about local nonprofits.

“It is important to get the nonprofit information out to the community so all of the residents are on board,” Devereaux says.

At the January networking meeting, several community members volunteered to be on a committee that will work on profiling the community and coming up with a written and verbal presentation that will ensure representation for all of the nonprofit sectors of the county. The community profile and existing county needs play an integral part for funders in determining the areas where funding is needed most.

Lisa Scott, a local nonprofit veteran and participant at the 2006 RPD event, offered some sage advice regarding the 15 minutes to summarize our county. “The idea is to not just use the time to speak and be talking heads on stage, but to be creative and make our county stand out,” she says. Scott also adds that the community profile should state how we are different and more exciting, and what we are doing to make the area better.

“There is a lot of competition for funds out there,” she notes. “This opportunity only comes to us once every four years, but the funders listen to pitches twice a year.”

On day two of the RPD event, nonprofit organizations can participate in all-day trainings that cover topics such as capacity building, board 101, and working with the media. Some of the workshops will be conducted by the funders. The day will end with a “dine-around” event where participants can choose to sit in on informal round table discussions at various locations around Mancos. The discussions will cover a dozen various issues concerning nonprofits.

The real fun, though, begins on Friday morning at the main venue when each funder will be seated at a large round table with a representative from eight or nine nonprofits. The funders will describe their interests to those seated at the table, then each representative has 90 seconds to pitch their cause and try and convince the funder why their organization should receive a grant. A bell will sound to signify the end of the round and participants then move to another table for the next round. There are five rounds in all, which means five good opportunities to talk to funders and share a quick overview of each organization. If a nonprofit brings two representatives, they can split up and have 10 opportunities for their pitch.

The Community Resource Council and RPD steering committee will host a series of meetings prior to the event that will offer training and tips on how to compose a 90-second speech, as well as to help nonprofits remain aligned with the main county profile.

Lynne Bridges, the executive director of Seeds of Learning Early Childhood Center, has attended past RPD events and notes that funders don’t decide on the spot whether to fund you, but they will give you a red or a green light on whether you can submit for a grant. “Choosing which five tables to sit at is a strategy that evolves over the years,” she says.

“It’s sometimes like musical chairs to get a seat with the funder you want to pitch to,” adds Schwartz, and both she and Bridges are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience to help our county nonprofits give the best showing possible in order to earn maximum grants for our community.

“Regardless of who gets funded and who doesn’t, we’re all still here and we all still volunteer for each other,” notes Simmons. “It is healthy that we all build relationships with each other, both before and after the RPD event.”

Coulehan reminds the community that we need all county nonprofits involved in this event. “Don’t miss out on this great opportunity for funding,” she says. “Any grants received will benefit the entire community, and this event is the best return on an investment than almost anything you’re doing in your nonprofit.”

For those not involved with a nonprofit, knowledge of local organizations is just as important, as well as getting the word out about this event to others who may want to be involved. A local networking committee is being formed with a mission to engage other nonprofits and municipalities and communicate the RPD message and strategies. 

Community members are invited to visit the RPD Web site at southwestrpd.org to learn more about the event. For information about Archuleta County nonprofit organizations or a schedule of upcoming local RPD meetings, visit pagosanonprofit.com.