The Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) spent more than a little time lately hearing about nonprofit funding in Grand County. Megan Ledin, Executive Director of the Grand Foundation, went before the Commission twice in recent weeks to provide an annual update on the administration of the 2018 Grand County BOCC block grant and to inform the Board about three new donor advised funds that will be providing grant monies to the community.

Ledin first spoke during public comment a few weeks ago to report on the 2018 block grant for the Grand County Commissioners Fund, administered by the Grand Foundation. She presented a “simple graph” to the Board and a brief summary of its administration. She stated that, of 29 applicants, only 16 organizations were eligible for a grant award, due to the BOCC’s 2016 decision to focus fund distribution among health and human services and educational entities. She indicated that the entirety of the $225,000 grant had been distributed, with $214,500 going to health and human service oriented entities and $15,500 being granted to educational organizations. Unlike previous years, no additional detailed distribution of those taxpayer dollars was provided during the presentation.

She further asked Commissioners about the 2019 grant cycle, requesting guidance about whether the Grand Foundation could expect to administer and facilitate such a block grant for the coming year and indicating that, historically, nonprofits have been given about three months to work on and submit their grant applications for County funds. She highlighted several recent collaborations and restructurings– such as the Grand County Council on Aging and Grand Angels, formerly independent agencies, now taken under the umbrella of Mountain Family Center– and stated that these organizations will “need more time to approach how they’ll write their grants.”

All three commissioners indicated satisfaction with the Grand Foundations administration of the grant funds, with Chair Merrit Linke stating that “you do a much better job than we do. It takes the political motivation out of these things.” He and Commissioner Kristen Manguso expressed desire for the Foundation to continue in the management of the block grant. Commissioner Rich Ciminio, however, voiced concern about committing to any grant funding prior to the County’s own budget decisions being made. He explained, “I feel uncomfortable. I feel my hands are tied. We need to go into budget discussions with a clean slate.”

Ledin agreed that the Foundation could start working to educate the local nonprofits about the fact that the deadline would be pushed back further this year, stating, “It’s your timeline we’re working on.”

“I just think that makes it really hard on our nonprofits,” Manguso responded, stating that even if the amount changed, there was a placeholder in the proposed budget for the block grant, repeating information provided by County Manager Lee Staab.

In the end, Ledin stated, “My professional opinion is [the nonprofits] should always be looking forward for other funding from other resources anyways. So I don’t think a month is going to really hurt them.” She affirmed to continue communicating with the Manager’s Office in order to best convey information to the nonprofit community.

Ledin reappeared for a scheduled conversation with commissioners this week, informing and educating the Board about three new donor advised funds that are being represented by the Grand Foundation, and which will have funds available to community members and entities as soon as next week in the case of one of the funds. She reminded the Board that donor advised funds, like the Grand County Commissioners Fund, are monies granted to a foundation by an individual, corporation, or other foundation with a specific mission for the money’s distribution, “becoming assets of the community and being administered, facilitated and distributed based on that mission.” She then introduced the Grand County Housing Assistance Fund, the designated Blue Valley Ranch Youth Fund, and another as-yet-unnamed Grand County youth philanthropic fund.

The Grand County Housing Assistance Fund will provide rental assistance, down payment assistance, and move-in assistance to current residents of the County or those new residents with an employer sponsorship for housing. The fund has come out of a $100,000 collaborative grant application by the Grand Foundation, Grand County Economic Development, and the Grand County Housing Authority, made to the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation. Owner of the Henderson mine and mill, Freeport-McMoRan has pledged $1,000,000 to Grand and Clear Creek Counties over the next five years to support economic development and, in 2017, an ongoing community partner panel identified housing availability and assistance as a critical issue for the county’s growth and development.

The $100,000 is the first grant awarded to Grand County under the pledge, with $20,000 going toward a formal housing needs assessment, $25,000 to the Mountain Family Center for their existing housing assistance program, $10,000 for the development of an “all-housing” website for the County, and $45,000 for the Grand County Housing Assistance Fund. The last was dependent on matching funds, which has been met, bringing $90,000 in seed money to the new fund. The fund will be facilitated by committee, with representatives from each of the three applicant entities and someone from each municipality, explained Ledin. The fund will have quarterly grant cycles with the first applications available online on October 1 for a November 1 deadline. The application will detail all requirements and guidelines.

A second fund, the Blue Valley Ranch Youth Fund, was recently established with nearly $207,000 to go to youth activities in Grand and Summit Counties. The monies represent the royalties from a highly-contested gravel pit associated with the Highway 9 Improvement Project, a transportation first that saw private, local, state, and federal funds coming together to improve the safety of a dangerous 11-mile stretch of road between Kremmling and Silverthorne. In spite of much resident opposition, the then-BOCC granted a special use permit to Blue Valley Ranch in order to open a project-specific aggregate site, a decision highly dependent on the Ranch’s dedication to giving all proceeds back to the community youth.

Ledin indicated that 90 percent, or about $189,000 will be available to help fund youth activities for Grand County residents and about 10 percent or $18,000 would go to the Summit Foundation for Summit County youth. Example grants could be used to help with 4H activity fees or competition fees for sporting activities. Applications for this grant will be available online next Monday, the 17th. Individuals are encouraged to apply and funds will be distributed to the appropriate organizations.

The final fund is one established by the Grand Foundation with the purpose of actually involving local youth in nonprofit giving. Ledin explained that the Foundation is putting $10,000 into the fund with the intent of creating a youth-run committee that will “accept, vet, review, and award out applications to Grand County nonprofits, so they can understand what it’s like to give out money and what our world is.”  

The program will begin at Middle Park High School for the 2018-19 school year and expand to West Grand High School the following year, a delay requested by the West Grand administration. Ledin envisions a committee made up of three students from each grade, with students providing an essay-type application as to why they are interested in participating. She sees the program as helping to get students involved more directly with local nonprofits, helping community service hours and potentially developing internship opportunities, though she admits, “that is the pipe-dream. It will be a very fluid process.”