Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Summit Foundation: A unique community foundation

Community foundations are nonprofits that serve a large region of people by working to improve the quality of life in their area. The Summit Foundation is the only community foundation in Summit County and is a little different than your average foundation — read on to learn how!

How do community foundations differ from other nonprofit organizations?

Instead of specializing in certain programs or a specific need like individual nonprofits, foundations research the entire community to find the areas of greatest need. Then a foundation's board and staff identify individual nonprofits and programs best suited to meet these needs. By granting funds to multiple nonprofit organizations in one region, community foundations can cover a larger scope of programs and meet more needs than one small nonprofit.

Why invest in a community foundation like The Summit Foundation?

Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations create permanent charitable funds, such as Donor Advised Funds or Scholarship Funds to help their region meet challenges and needs as they arise. The foundation manages these funds to meet a donor's desires.

The Summit Foundation (TSF) provides donors with thorough research on community need, effectiveness of programs, and recommendations from experienced board members who interview all grantees. With more than 90 nonprofit organizations funded this past year, TSF also ensures a broad distribution of funds throughout the community.

The Summit Foundation is like a United Way, right?

Well, yes and no. The Summit Foundation is a unique organization in that it shares some characteristics similar to United Way and characteristics more typical of the average community foundation. The majority of community foundations were founded from large endowment gifts, meaning the organizations operate from the interest on these large sums of money. Because of this, most community foundations do not undertake (or need to perform) large annual fundraising campaigns to meet the financial needs of their communities.

United Way agencies on the other hand, operate mostly through annual charitable contributions, like donations obtained through payroll deduction programs. The Summit Foundation utilizes a combination of all strategies mentioned above in order to be most effective in Summit County.

What else makes The Summit Foundation unique?

The Summit Foundation is one of a few community foundations in the U.S. established by a ski resort. TSF began as the charitable arm of the Breckenridge Development Corporation, which in 1984 decided to broaden the impact and scope of charitable work in our community by turning their giving arm into a stand-alone nonprofit, The Summit Foundation.

Want to know another great thing about being established by a ski resort? Thanks to the generosity of our local ski area partners, TSF is one of a few foundations able to sell transferable ski privileges as a fundraising mechanism. So you can support our community by purchasing a ski pass that can be used not only for yourself, but for all your friends, family, and clients too!

Utilizing multiple fundraising strategies, TSF is able to accomplish a very high distribution (or giving) ratio. The Summit Foundation is able to grant a tremendous – and increasing – amount back to the community each year.

What does all this mean for you?

It means if you would like to contribute to our community, but aren't sure where to put your funds, we can help! The Summit Foundation's board and staff take care of all the research for you. Each grant cycle, we research community needs, program effectiveness, and interview each nonprofit's staff to make sure your money is going to the most efficient and necessary programs. Each year, The Foundation donates nearly $1.5 million to local nonprofits operating in Health & Human Service, Education, Art & Culture, Sports & Recreation and Environmental Stewardship. Your gift to The Summit Foundation, at any level of support, can make a $1 million dollar impact.

Due to the generosity of local businesses, full and part-time residents, The Foundation has been able to make a difference in our mountain community by granting over $14.4 million since 1986!

Giving Back is written by Jennifer Stein and Kasey Geoghegan, specialists of marketing and development at The Summit Foundation, the leading philanthropic organization for Summit County and its neighboring communities. Submit questions to Giving Back at tsfevents@summitfoundation.org or visit summitfoundation.org.

Courtesy Summit Daily News