Wyoming Community Foundation



– [Narrator] Your
support helps us bring you programs you love. Go to wyomingpbs.org,
click on support, and become a sustaining
member or an annual member. It's easy and secure, thank you. (bubbling music) – [Craig B.] The Wyoming
Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization with it's headquarters
in Laramie. The group works to
connect people who care with causes that matter
to build a better Wyoming. We'll visit with
Craig Showalter, the Wyoming Community
Foundation President, Samin Dadelahi, Chief
Operating Officer and John Freeman, the founder of the Wyoming Community
Foundation and its
first president. The Wyoming Community
Foundation, next on
Wyoming Chronicle. (thundering music) – [Narrator] Support
for Wyoming PBS is provided by the Matthew
and Virgie O. Dragicevich Wyoming Foundation Trust. Honoring the rich history
and heritage of Wyoming. – And it's our pleasure
now to begin a discussion about the Wyoming Community
Foundation on Wyoming Chronicle. Craig Showalter, the
Wyoming Community Foundation's
president is with us. Craig, welcome. Samin Dadelahi, she's Wyoming
Community Foundation's Chief Operating Officer. Samin, welcome. – Thank you. – [Craig B.] And John Freeman, the Wyoming Community
Foundation's founder and it's first president
is with us today. John, welcome. – Thank you. – John, I wanna start with you. We'll get into a lot about the Wyoming Community
Foundation today, but you saw a need
many years ago about Wyoming needed a
community foundation. What are its roots? – Well, I think I have to
go back to my own roots which is I am
brought up at a time when we did not ask what
the country can do for us but what we can do
for the country. And so when I came to
Wyoming many, many years ago, noticed that the
nonprofit sector, the voluntary
organizations, were small, generally disorganized,
and lacking in money. And so in the mid-1980s, a brilliant mine
engineer from Gillette He was with Carter Mining, he and I decided to
establish a organization for assisting these
little nonprofits on how to become viable. – [Craig B.] Was this the
Wyoming Volunteer Citizen? – [John] Wyoming Volunteer
Assistance Corporation. – Okay,
– Excellent, yes. – And it was very
soon that we realized that the number one challenge
for all of these groups is long-term
financial sustenance. And so in 1989, we established the Wyoming
Community Foundation. And essentially, the
idea was to provide a certain amount of, really,
financial sustainability, but beneath it all was an ideal, a very practical ideal, and that is we want to
contribute to building vital communities that match
our magnificent scenery. So the focus has
been on community. – [Craig B.] The
mission that I've read is that you want to
connect people who care with causes that matter
to build a better Wyoming. – [John] Correct. – What is a better Wyoming? What does that mean? – Oh well, I guess
that's in the minds of the people that
we're working with. The wonderful thing about
a community foundation is that we can do a
lot of different things in a lot of different ways. And so it really
depends on the people that we're working
with and the needs that they're seeing
in their communities and how they want
to address them. We have a lot of
different mechanisms for working in
different communities. So we can address a lot of
different social issues. We work in every
charitable sector from homelessness to food banks to economic development
in underdeveloped areas, boys and girls
clubs, recreation, you name it and that's
something that we're working in. – And what about you, Craig? What is a better
Wyoming mean to you? – Well I think one of
the tremendous offerings of the Community
Foundation is the fact that we start with our donors. And the donors live
in those communities and they're closest to the
needs of those communities, so when they come
to us with an idea, they've identified
a community need, something they're
passionate about, something they want to make
their own contribution to to make their community better, doesn't mean that there's really nothing we can't help support, but I think the sweet
spot for us, if you will, is that we are touching on
the passions of our donors and they know best what's
needed for their community. – So let's get down
to the nuts and bolts about what is the Wyoming
Community Foundation, if I were to ask
you that question. I'll start with you John. What is it? What is the Wyoming
Community Foundation? – Well it is a charitable
nonprofit corporation. It is a philanthropic
institution. It is an institution
which is governed by a board of directors. It is not an end in itself. It basically, as
Craig mentioned, the donors are the most
important constituents, but other constituents
are the nonprofits as well as the
communities of the state. So that the
Community Foundation, you could almost look at it like when you go to your
local post office, and see all those
mailboxes there. The Community Foundation
is a collection of drawers and one drawer may be for
the Medicine Bow Museum. Another drawer might be for recreation or wildlife. It depends, again, on the
interest of the donors. – So Samin, you're out
and about in Wyoming, how do you get your message out about what the Wyoming
Community Foundation is? – (laughs) well that's
a great question because our message can be
a little bit complicated because it's a big
message and it's broad and it really depends
on who we're talking to. And so I think part of what
a community foundation, in my mind, is duty,
loyalty, and responsibility. We have a duty of
care to the community of Wyoming, to the entire state. And we have a loyalty to
the citizens of Wyoming. We always are looking
to do the best job that we can in this state. And we have a responsibility,
again, to our donors. And so when we have money that we have available
for a community, we want to make it known that we have funds
that are available and we work very closely
with the nonprofit sector. Again, we don't
provide those services. We work with the
nonprofit organizations that are in the community that
are providing those services. And so we send out letters, we go visit with
executive directors, we work directly with the
nonprofit organizations to let them know that
we have funds available and how they can
access those funds. – So priorities in an
individual community, and we can talk about
communities as in a city, a part of a city, or
the whole broad state, but priorities can be different from one part of the
state to the other, but you can help them all. – Oh, they're
absolutely different. And I think one
of the key things, John talked about the fact
that we're a public charity, how we differ from
most public charities, is that we spend a lot
of our time and resources helping to raise funds
for those nonprofits in their communities. So we're not out raising
the money ourselves to support a program
or a project per se and that we're gonna deliver
the service, as Samin said. We are actively working
to develop resources for those local communities. I often tell people that in challenging times
and tough times, our board has a very
difficult job, right? So we may distribute
seven, nine, maybe ten million
dollars a year, a lot of that money comes
from individual donors and we leverage resources that
we have from other sources to we make something happen. But it's programs that
maybe are providing nutrition programs
or afterschool
programs for children or milk for children
that aren't fed, and sometimes
people lose sight of how challenging it can be for
young families in this state. And oftentimes when the state or federal government
starts cutting back funds, it leaves a gap,
it leaves a void, and that's where we
kinda try to step in, acknowledging that we
can't meet every need. And our board has a dubious
job of trying to identify the most pressing
needs in the community and evaluating the
resources that we have and the resources of
others to bridge those gaps and make life a
little bit better for the people in
those communities. – Craig, give us an idea
of your board makeup. John's a former president,
the first president. – Right. – You're president today. How is your board organized? – Yeah, we have
a rockstar board. They come from all
corners of the state. We pay particular
attention to geography. We make sure that we have
a good balance of time and people that have
different skills and talents. It's a difficult board
from the standpoint of it's a real working board. So our committees
do a lot of work. It's not a
ceremonial-type board. So we try to attract people that make a difference
in their communities. But we make sure that we have a great representation
statewide, not over-representing
one community or another. – I'm sure you're
not, overwhelmed
isn't the right word, but there is need in Wyoming, and I'm curious as to, for
people who don't know about you or have not had a
relationship with you, what do you tell them today on how they can
start that process? Samin, what would tell the
group who is watching say they might be able to help me. – To give us a call,
to look our website. One of the things about Wyoming that's really
interesting is that there are a lot of
people in Wyoming who want to help, right? And so when you go to
Sheridan, or you go to Buffalo, or you go to Casper,
or you go to Gillette, or you go to a lot of
different communities, we have private foundations and we have resources
that are available in many communities
across the state. And what is
interesting is we have very few statewide resources. So the number of statewide
foundations in Wyoming are pretty small. You can count them
on one hand, frankly. And Wyoming Community Foundation is one of the only
statewide foundations. And that is really
what is unique about Wyoming
Community Foundation is that we're accessible to
all nonprofits across the state and we're truly accessible. We're online, you can
go to our website, you can get
information about us, we're open five days a
week from eight to five. You can call, you can
contact a real person and you can talk to one
of our program staff if you have an idea and
you don't understand the information
that's on our website, you don't know what our
grant programs look like, you can actually talk to
somebody and ask questions. – And I know that's critical because some communities
are better organized, they have better
infrastructure to go out and develop that relationship
with you from start to finish and really leverage
it, so to speak. And others may not
have the expertise. – Oh yeah.
– Right now, so. – That's right, and we also
right-sized our process. We have different expectations
for an organization with a budget of 500
thousand dollars a year or two million dollars a year. So a small organization that
maybe has income and expenses of around 15 thousand dollars. Our expectation for
that organization and what we need from them is gonna be a
little bit different than then expectations
that we have for a much larger organization. And we'll help walk them
through that process. Also some organization
doesn't have any paid staff, they're an all-volunteer
organization and we also know how to work with organizations
like that, as well. – John, go ahead. – I would also add that as a
statewide community foundation, one of the reasons the
Community Foundation was started in the opinion of its
founding directors was essentially to
harness local energies and local interests for
the common statewide good. And one of the things
that we have missed in Wyoming in the past is a mechanism to knit
the state together and that can be done
much more easily through a philanthropic,
non-governmental organization than it can through government. – In fact, one of
the things I've read is that Wyoming is
one of the last states to develop a community
foundation concept. Is that correct?
– That's correct, yes. – John, tell me, and
I'll ask each of you, and I'll start with you John. You've been around the longest. What programs or
grants, in your mind, that you're most satisfied
with, I guess, in your time? Is there's something that
really stands out to you of some work that you've done
that you're really proud of? – I don't think
there's one particular, but as the Community
Foundation grew, there were really more
exciting projects. Originally, one of our
most favorite projects were projects that
would help with the beautification
of communities. If you look at the
west side of Dubois, you will see a lot of conifers and those conifers were
made possible in part by the Community Foundation
in partnership with a local logger who
was really interested in improving the looks of
west part of Dubois. – I know exactly the conifers
you're talking about. I've driven by them many
times and they are beautiful. – Yeah and so
initially they were very small
community-oriented projects. But I can think of a
project in the early 2000s, maybe 2002, when the Community
Foundation was responsible for bringing together groups of different persuasions to deal with the issues
of access to public lands which involves the Wildlife
Federation, as I recall, and the plot growers. And so that's a very
important function of a statewide
community foundation and that is to bring
parties together to solve problems
in a reasonable way. – Collectively collaborism.
– Yep. So I would say the most
exciting, more recently to me, has been the activities of
the Community Foundation to expand and improve care for kids afterschool. – Afterschool programs.
– Yes. – Samin, what rings the bell
at the top of your list? – I think one of the
really interesting things that we've been able to do is leverage national foundation
funds into Wyoming. And so one of the ways that
we are able to do that is by acting as both a match
funder with national foundations and acting as the middle man. So we receive the grant funding
from the national foundation and then we become the
administrator, basically, on those funds. And with that we
form partnerships with the University of Wyoming, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
to help the revitalizing Nursing Education
of Wyoming Program which is part of the
Baccalaureate Nursing Program with University of Wyoming
in the community colleges. So that's one that
we actively worked on for many, many years with them. And also with the
Knight Foundation and the Wild File
and most recently with Charles Stewart Mott
Foundation for years and years for the Wyoming
Afterschool Alliance, and now with the Annie
E. Casey Foundation, so we're the state's Kid
Counts partner, as well. And so by working with
these national foundations, we're bringing money in from
outside into rural Wyoming. And I think that's
really important and we're a perfect place to
get that money out statewide. – Craig, how 'bout you? – You know, you're asking
me to pick favorites. – Yeah, and it's hard to do.
– Kinda risky. – They're all great. – They really are all great. And one of the
things that I think we want to make clear to people is that they understand that
we do a lot offering grants. So we're providing 25
and 30,000 dollar grants that may keep their
local food panty open or whatever the
service might be. And that sometimes when
I travel across the state and across the country people say, well
what's the big thing? What's the one big thing you do? And if we were to
do one big things, if we were to take our
resources and put them into a big project or
two big projects, it would really be a
disservice to local nonprofits who really would
hurt the sector. – Craig, I'll continue
with you here. One of your tasks, I assume, is to cultivate relationships
and to cultivate support. As you go out and
about in Wyoming, what are people's priorities
in their decisions on whether to end up
supporting and giving. – That's a great question. And I'm a firm believer that you start with a
donor's passion. So if you can develop
a relationship, a genuine and honest
relationship with the donor and learn those things that are most important in
the world to them, then that's the beauty of
a community foundation. And as a fundraiser,
what you hope for is finding an
opportunity that matches. You can match the
passion of a donor with a needed service or program and you can marry
those two things up. Essentially, as a
community foundation, we have over 400 funds. So donors that have
established funds with us that can be used for
charitable projects. Some of them are very
specific and very restrictive, some of them are
unrestricted ad wide open. But the key is to
having that relationship and working with that donor because their not getting
a lot of benefit, right, when they make a
charitable gift, they might get a tax deduction. It's really that warm feeling
they get in their heart knowing that they've
done something good. – Just like people who
are interested in getting your assistance to help
with the grant or something, they can also reach out if they're interested,
perhaps, in giving. – Absolutely, and I spend about 30,000 miles a year on the road. And I tell people
that geography's our
biggest challenge. It's hard to be
efficient, you never know. and I remember one
particular instance where I received a call
from a donor in Gillette and they wanted to make
a very substantial gift. It was enough to be
quite excited about. So talked with the donor,
I said that's great, I'm gonna be in Gillette
in a couple of weeks. He goes that's fantastic,
I'll see you Thursday. It was like Tuesday. So clearly accommodated that but, again, it was because
he was driven and passionate about something he wanted to do. He didn't want to
wait two weeks. So what an amazing opportunity
to be able to go out there and help him
realize his passion. – I think too that this
could be a little complicated because many times our donors are nonprofit
organizations as well. And part of what we do with
nonprofit organizations is some of our nonprofit
organizations may not have, I would say the mechanism
to handle complicated gifts. That's not what
they're set up to do. So as they work
with their donors, they need someway of handling
of stock or a gift of estate or a gift of mineral royalties
or something like that. But they might not be able
to manage on their own, we can also help them with that. And so that nonprofit
organization can come to Community Foundation and we
can help them with that gift and help them manage how
they accept that gift and turn into a fund for them and that fund benefits
that organization and we help them with the
investment of that assets – And to follow up, that's
exactly the scenario with that donor in Gillette. He and his wife were
very passionate about
a program in town that in support
of their daughter, and they wanted to
establish an endowment to benefit that
organization in perpetuity. So that's a really
good example of how an individual donor set up
an endowment that provides perpetual lifetime
operating revenue for that particular program. – Well, if I may add
– Sure. – I think one of the
most attractive aspects as a community foundation
from my vantage point is the permanence,
the permanent nature. Here in the West, again,
in very general terms, the tendency is very short term. And the Community
Foundation, literally, through its endowments, those funds are here forever. – One of the things
that strikes me is that somebody may call
you with an idea that you've never
even thought about. – [Craig S.] Absolutely,
it happens all the time. – Haven't been on your
priority list at all and all of a sudden
because it's important to a localized region or
even a family in this case, you can still provide that
assistance and do it quickly. – Oh, that's when
it's the most fun because then it's something
really interesting and we get to do
something brand new and sometimes it's
complicated and we have to do a lot of research
and we get to do something that's really
cool, brand new to us whether it's from the
estate side of things because maybe it's a gift type that we've never handled before all the way to the
program side of things where now we're engaged in
something brand new to us that we've never
looked at before and we have to a lot of
research to try and figure out oh, how are we gonna
get involved in this
kind of program, how are we gonna
build this expertise, what nonprofits do
we have to look into? And it can be so much
fun, we love doing that. – Well I think that Craig can
comment on the relationship the Community
Foundation has developed with the professional
trusted advisors to the perspective
donor or the donors. And that's a very, I think, very important function of
a community foundation. – Yeah, that's a
really good point. If you're a small
nonprofit organization, the donor may be concerned that they may not be around
in 20 years or 30 years. So they will work with
their personal advisors and look for opportunities. Matter of fact, I
had a call this week from someone who's
very passionate about an art program that
they want to support. But they're reluctant to support a fledgling startup
organization, so we have relationships
with state planning attorneys and financial advisors
across the state and so when they
look to opportunities for someone to
leave a planned gift or a very large nature
gift to that course, they're looking at an
organization that has stability, that's well-run operationally and has a good history
of serving the state. And that's when they come to us. Not only do they
have the luxury of having this stability of
the Community Foundation, they also have the
confidence to know that we're gonna
be around forever, this is our 30th anniversary
this year in 2019 and we're gonna be here
another 30 years, 60 years, 90, I mean perpetually. So our board is gonna be a
good steward of those funds, forever and ever and ever. – On your website,
you talk about the Wyoming Community
Foundation works to leveling the playing
field the difference between equality and equity. How does the
Community Foundation, the Wyoming Community
Foundation accomplish that or work to accomplish that? Because Wyoming is a big state, geography is a big deal and
they're are pockets of Wyoming that may not have as much
as other pockets of Wyoming. – I think that's a
really good question. I think one of the things that
we want people to understand is that equality and equity
are often used interchangeably. Yet those terms do not
mean the same thing. And having equal access to
opportunities and resources is something that we want
everybody to have, right? But equity is understanding
that not everyone has equal access to
those resources, right? Just because they're
in front of you doesn't mean that
everybody can get them. And so equity means that
some people need extra access in order to get to those
resources and opportunity. They need different
levels of resources in order to get to
those opportunities. One example, just as an example,
just to ring it out there is every Wyoming
high school graduate has equal access,
equal opportunity to the Path-Away scholarship,
to full Path-Away. And yet data shows that
first time graduates, students entering college
for the first time and low income students – First generation
in their family. – First generation, right, are getting proportionally
less Path-Away funding than other students, all
right, in Wyoming, okay. So we know that to be true,
that's what the data shows. So then that begs
the question, why? What structural barriers
are there in place for first generation
college students and low income
students in Wyoming that are decreasing their
ability to accessing a resource that's equally
accessible to everyone. And that's where the
Wyoming Community Foundation where we can come in,
where we have a role. We can ask ourselves what types of structural barriers
are out there. We know that one thing
that increases education and academic success
is equal access to high-quality summer learning
enrichment opportunities. And we know that
higher income students have more access to those
than lower income students. So if we can increase
access to all students that's going to help. We also know that
maybe parents who have never been in the college
system or in higher education don't understand how
important ACT prep courses are and don't understand
how important it is in eight or ninth grade to
be on a college prep course to get those courses set
and pay attention to them when you get into high school. So what we would do in programs as the Wyoming
Community Foundation is actively look for
grant applications that are coming into
the Community Foundation that are seeking ways to address those barriers, those
inequalities, right? That's equity, that's how we
would level the playing field. And that's what
we're trying to do. – Big challenge in this state. – It is. And there are people
that are trying to do it. We have wonderful nonprofits
that are looking at ways of making things more equitable. Because if we can use
our resources wisely, we can make them go further. Tell me about the Wyoming
Nonprofit Conference. What is that and
who has access to it and who can benefit from it? Well, it really kinda feeds off what Samin is talking about
in addition to the resources and programming that we provide one of the things
that we try to do is build the capacity
of the nonprofit sector. And it's hard for
us with the number of nonprofits in this state. And I can't even tell
you how many there are but they're plenty. – Hundreds, I'm sure
– Hundreds, thousands, I mean there's 44 in the
community of Dubois alone, to give you an example. So one of the challenges
that we face is yes, we have resources,
financial resources, that we can provide
to nonprofits to help them be more
efficient at what they do and be more effective and
serve people in a better way, but we may also come to an
organization that's in crisis. And we will help them through
that crisis period of time because it's such a
critical resource. But the nonprofit
conference is designed with the focus of
bringing absolutely the best national
talent that we can in the areas of
fundraising, governance, finances for nonprofit
organizations. Acknowledging that a
lot of these nonprofits don't have the capacity
or financial resources to go to a national conference. So we bring the national
conference here. We give them the best
access to the best help that we can afford. We also provide them
networking opportunities to build relationships
with other nonprofit leaders in the state. We invite the leadership, we
invite members of the board, we invite members of the staff. And by building those networks,
providing these resources, we're building capacity. – Craig Showalter, Samin
Dadelahi, and John Freeman thank you so much for joining
us today on Wyoming Chronicle. – Thank you
– Thank you for having us. (thundering music) – [Narrator] Support
for Wyoming PBS is provided by the Matthew
and Virgie O. Dragicevich Wyoming Foundation Trust. Honoring the rich history
and heritage of Wyoming.

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