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With over 150 non-profit organizations in the Yampa Valley, it’s hard to even know where to begin when it comes to knowing the who, how, and when to give. That’s exactly why the Yampa Valley Community Foundation was founded in 1979 with a mission to “connect people who care with causes that matter.”

“We are really focused on what it is that people care about and value in The Yampa Valley and working to preserve those key characteristics,” says YVCF Executive Director, Tim Wohlgenant. “We’ve held meetings with local leaders in every cultural and economic cross sector of the community from Phippsburg all the way to Craig to learn more about what matters most to people. We want to know about the challenges this community has to face that threaten the quality of life people love so much. That has been our orientation in the work we do.”

YVCF supports health and human services, recreational sports, environment, arts, culture, and education. “We run the gamut, but as we do that work, we’re also trying to think about the bigger picture.” Wohlgenant believes the reason there are so many non-profit organizations in the Yampa Valley and in Steamboat Springs is due to the strong sense of community that encourages people to get involved and want to make a difference. For a small town, Steamboat also has a wide variety of cultural organizations, in part because of the non-profits that support it. “Steamboat definitely punches above its weight in the cultural space,” Wohlgenant says. “At YVCF, we often help facilitate collaborations between these organizations that are really valuable and that allow people to thrive.”

How does YVCF manage to coordinate efforts between so many non-profits and the larger community? Their approach has in fact been carefully formulated with what Wohlgenant describes as “four strategic pillars.” The first is to improve non-profit effectiveness through training YVCF provides to help with the business side of running a non-profit, including board recruitment, budget management and other skills. “There’s always room to become a better business,” Wohlgenant says.

The second pillar is what Wohlgenant refers to as meaningful philanthropy. “I always say it’s easy to give away money poorly, but it’s way more challenging to give away money effectively and strategically. If you really want to make a difference, it requires more thought. We work with donors to help them understand what they’re most passionate about.” YVCF helps community members be more strategic in their giving and then connect them with work that aligns with their passions, interests, and background. Wohlgenant says this is an especially useful service to people who are new to the area.

“When people first move here, they only hear about the biggest organizations that are well known and deserving. But they may not be aware some of the smaller non-profits that might be more closely aligned with their interests and passions,” he says. As part of this effort, YVCF also helps create “giving circles,” people who come together to pool money to create change. These giving circles raised over $105,000 in 2021. YVCF also honors individual, business, and youth philanthropists of the year to acknowledge and identify generous people in the community.

Grant writing is the third pillar of YVCF’s work, and the organization has consistently raised more money each consecutive year to foster its annual grant cycle, including almost a half million dollars in 2021. The work the organization does with grants is multifaceted, including managing funds that raise grants and ensuring that grant making is effective and easy for non-profits to apply for. “Ultimately it’s about getting money out the door and making a difference,” Wohlgenant says. Part of that effort also means managing several funds including scholarships, and non-profit endowments. “Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty has a fund they donate for grantmaking, and we are really proud of that collaboration. It’s a great example of a business who is engaged and cares about people in this community,” Wohlgenant says.

Last but not least, building community is the fourth pillar, focusing on the larger issues, bringing people together to develop alignment, and connecting the people who have money with the causes they care about most.

Community Fund

Wohlgenant cites the Brown Ranch affordable housing project, which was facilitated by a large anonymous donation coordinated by YVCF. “We were lucky enough to run into a donor who was very interested in protecting Steamboat and its local community. They approached us to ask about some of the bigger challenges and what they could do to help.” Wohlgenant had just been meeting with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority about ways to address the affordable housing crisis and they had discussed the purchase of Brown Ranch. “The stars aligned, and we were very fortunate to be able to help facilitate the purchase of the land. While there is still a lot of work to do, it’s a really great start.”

The organization has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. “I think Covid brought out a lot of generosity in people, and a lot of people stepped up to help.” In turn, YVCF became more proactive in its outreach, especially to people who are new to the community. The organization is thrilled to be breaking ground for its new office in downtown Steamboat and a newly designed website.

“When people move here, it’s important for them to understand the history and culture as well as the lifestyle. It’s a different pace of life where people share the same values,” Wohlgenant says. “It’s also important for locals to remember newcomers are coming here for same reason as people who have been here 30 years. Helping new people get involved with philanthropy is a great way to become part of the community.”

// yvcf.org