OURAY – Grant-seekers from organizations across the Western Slope will have a unique opportunity to connect with Colorado’s most powerful and well-endowed foundations at the 2013 Western Slope Rural Philanthropy Days (RPD) conference on June 17-19 in Ouray.
The conference offers grantmakers and grantseekers the chance to discover common interests and strengthen partnerships to better meet the needs of Western Slope communities. Nonprofits, government, business and community leaders from Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel counties are expected to attend the three-day event, which will be taking place at multiple venues throughout Ouray County.
RPD began in 1991. Partnering with the Community Resource Center and the Anschutz Family Foundation, the event reaches out to rural communities across Colorado, to increase local access to funding, relationships and skill building opportunities. It comes to the Western Slope only once every four years.
At the time that RPD got started, just three percent of grant dollars from Colorado’s private foundations were awarded outside of the Front Range. As a result of the most recent RPDs held in Telluride and Crested Butte, grants to Western Slope communities have increased 120 percent, while the number of grants awarded has increased from 87 to 138, annually.
This can make a crucial difference for nonprofits of all kinds, during a time when the economy has caused local funding dollars designated for nonprofits to dry up.
Over 400 attendees are expected to show up for next week’s conference. On Monday, the majority of activity will be focused in Ouray, with registration at the school, and an opening reception at the Bachelor Syracuse Mine.
Tuesday, activity will be dispersed throughout Ouray, with programming at the school, community center, Beaumont Hotel and Wright Opera House. The day’s programs will focus on capacity-building workshops for nonprofits, as well as community solutions programs involving funders, government officials and nonprofits centered around six different topics that were identified in listening sessions that took place prior to the event in communities across the Western Slope.
These central themes include: access to health care and mental health services; affordable housing; education continuum from cradle to career which includes workforce development; effective leadership to affect change; multi-use transportation support; and senior care. Additional themes include a diversified economy, broadband access, arts and culture, and the environment.
On Tuesday evening, there is a large reception at Fellin Park, featuring a “Taste of the Western Slope” event with local food, vintners and brewery tastings, after which participants are set loose to have dinner on the town.
Everything culminates on Wednesday morning, at the “Funder Roundtables” at the 4-H Event Center in Ridgway. “Grant seekers sit at small tables with funders and make a presentation on their upcoming projects, and find out if the funders are interested,” Event Co-Chair Kat Papenbrock explained. “It’s really a ‘directed ask.’ The exciting thing is that, at past Rural Philanthropy Days events, 30-40 funders have showed up. This year, we have confirmed 70 different funders.”
Adding to the fun, there will be a youth track program, through which regional community youth programs will have access to a full day of philanthropy training, after which they will prepare and present a skit to illustrate their needs. Presentations of the skits take place at the Wright Opera House on Tuesday evening.
“In the past, they have gotten access to government officials and funders, and they get specific needs met right there in the room,” said Papenbrock. “It’s such a cool thing for young people to learn how the whole networking thing works.”
Rounding out the conference schedule are an impressive roster of guest speakers and performers, including the renowned Native American flautist R. Carlos Nakai and beloved regional poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, roundtable discussions, strategic investment workshops with funders and government officials, and “extracurricular” activities designed to showcase the community including a tour of the historic Potter Ranch.
“It is a fantastic, energizing event,” Papenbrock said. And, she added, it should lead to great things for the area’s many small nonprofit organizations, which are looking for ways to connect with the big funders who might support their endeavors.
For up-to-the-minute information about next week’s event, visit westernrpd.org.