For 24 years, Rural Philanthropy Days has brought
together regional funders, local governments, business
leaders, and local nonprofit organizations to spur
positive change in the rural communities of Colorado.
“We reversed the typical process,”
said Anschutz-Rodgers. “The funders were going
to come to people, rather than the people going to the
At the conference, nonprofit attendees are able to attend
workshops and improve their skills, as well as network
with other nonprofits in the region and establish
collaborative ties. The conference allows nonprofit
professionals to share and learn from each other's
mistakes and how to overcome them.
Program participants are also given the chance to present
directly to grant funders and potentially acquire
The result has been an increase in funding to rural
Colorado communities and new nonprofit programs cropping
up across the state.
“Rural Philanthropy Days provides a good
platform to learn about successful program models
occurring in different regions throughout the
state,” said Leah Rausch, Rural Philanthropy
Days Program Manager. “This conference helps
participants understand how to bring high quality
services to rural communities without high
The heart of Rural Philanthropy Days is connecting people
across the region.
In order to better educate nonprofits on the various
grant opportunities available to them, Rural Philanthropy
Days is divided into eight distinct Colorado regions
based on unique characteristics and needs. Each region is
able to host their own conference every four years, while
benefiting from the expertise and planning assistance of
the Anschutz Family Foundation and CRC.
This year's conferences include Colorado's Mountain
region, held June 24-26, and the San Luis Valley region,
coming up on September 23-25. The nonprofit organizations
in these regions receive tailored advice on grant
opportunities from funders, and will be able to form
lasting connections with other nonprofits in their areas.
“The heart of Rural Philanthropy Days is
connecting people across the region,” said
Within the selected regions, one town is chosen to host
the conference for the three-day event. Rifle, Colorado
of the Mountain Region and Creede, Colorado of the San
Luis Valley Region are the sites of the 2015 conferences.
Creede is the smallest town to ever host the conference
with a population of fewer than 500 people. To put that
in perspective, anywhere from 250-400 people are present
at a single Rural Philanthropy Days event.
AV Hunter Trust
Adolph Coors Foundation
Anschutz Family Foundation
Caring for Colorado Foundation
El Pomar Foundation
Gates Family Foundation
Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation
The Colorado Health Foundation
The Colorado Trust
Rausch said the event has been a huge success. Each year,
participation grows and the event changes themes. With
different locations being selected every rotation, a
variety of communities and nonprofits are given the
chance to learn something new.
“The event just gets stronger and stronger each
year,” said Anschutz-Rodgers.
At a 2013 meeting of the Colorado Rural Funders, it was
suggested that a
funding impact map be constructed to measure the
financial impact of the 12 core funders in Colorado's
rural regions. The completed impact map is used by both
grantseekers and grantmakers to track foundation impacts.
In 2014, the 12 rural funders gave nearly $25 million in
A Model for Rural Philanthropy
“This conference format is definitely
replicable in other states,” said Rausch.
“When implementing a similar conference, keep
in mind each state's unique demographics.”
Rausch encourages other states wishing to implement a
similar conference to take travel restrictions into
consideration, as this may hinder the turnout of the
event. For Colorado, Rausch speculated that the state's
geography has actually worked in the conference's favor.
“Travel barriers create isolated communities in
the state, which is what makes the conference all that
more impactful for those who attend,” said
In order to make a similar conference as beneficial,
Rausch advises drawing people in by establishing a strong
presence of foundations with available grants. She also
stressed the importance of incorporating a networking
component into the event. Overall, planning well in
advance is necessary to create a successful conference,
along with gathering local input.
“Locals can really help execute the vision of
the conference,” said Rausch. “They
have their thumb on the pulse of the needs of local
Shedding Light/Giving Hope
This event has been able to sustain itself for almost a
quarter of a century, thanks to the positive word of
mouth from attendees and funders. The rural focus of the
conference sheds light on an often overlooked population
of the state.
“This event would not be possible without the
support of funders who are truly interested in funding
rural communities,” said Rausch.
Rural Philanthropy Days has effectively granted hope and
opportunity to communities in dire need, while
simultaneously changing the landscape of rural nonprofit
organizations across the state.