Park City nonprofit ready for big give
July 15, 2008
The nonprofit Park City Foundation finally is up and running. Although the charitable organization began doling out money through donor-directed grants in early 2004, it only recently established a community fund that allows nonprofits in Park City to apply for grants.
Former Park City Mayor Brad Olch conceived the charitable organization in 2004. It may have taken some time, about four years, but the foundation is set to offer more than $100,000 in grants to other Park City nonprofits by the end of 2008, according to executive director Trisha Worthington.
The deadline for 501(c)(3) nonprofits to apply for PCF grants is Oct. 1 with charitable cash being distributed by December.
That additional dough doubles the $100,000 the foundation has awarded in the last six months through the wishes of specific benefactors to nearly 20 nonprofits in Park City, including the National Ability Center, Recycle Utah, the Peace House Women’s Shelter, the Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis and the International Ski History Association, according to Worthington and the foundation’s Web site, parkcityfoundation.org.
The money gifted ranges from $250 to $25,000, which was awarded the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
The mission of the PCF is to work with donors and nonprofits to promote philanthropy and help connect nonprofit organizations with the know-how and resources needed to serve the community, she said, adding that the PCF is the first foundation of its kind in Utah.
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The PCF is different from organizations such as United Way because it offers donor services to help large-scale givers manage their philanthropic money. "It’s an alternative to starting your own foundation and having to hire an executive director," she said. The PCF to find worthy nonprofit organizations and supports a broad base of programs. United Way, on the other hand, targets service organizations.
"Community foundations like the Park City Foundation don’t have one mission," explained Worthington. "We really take a look at the entire community. We’re trying to get people to collaborate to solve issues."
The Foundation courts donors, hosts meetings with executive directors from various nonprofits in town, and puts nonprofit leaders in touch with educators from the Utah Nonprofits Association, an umbrella organization committed to strengthening the not-for-profit community in the state.
"I see our role is encouraging nonprofits to address community issues together," Worthington said.
One of the most impressive feats so far for the young foundation is to compile a directory of active nonprofits in Park City, a kind of charity white pages. That may seem like a lot, but Worthington and program mnager Kate Wright said they were surprised the number wasn’t greater. When they first took on the task, the number of nonprofits was rumored to be 200. As it turns out, the number of active nonprofits in town is closer to 85, Worthington said.
Wright, who has spent time in the Peace Corps and worked on welfare-to-work programs, added that nonprofit organizations should try to tackle important issues not by dividing and conquering, but by working together.
More organizations mean more bureaucracy and more overhead, she warned.
"I would never discourage someone from wanting to start a nonprofit," she said. "But I would encourage someone to look at an issue and see who’s doing the work already."
A new day
The solid footing PCF boasts today is a far cry from its first four years as a startup. The foundation remained little more than Olch’s brainchild until money from the Powdr Corp., which owns Park City Mountain Resort, and other donors started pouring in.
Today, PCF has a Web site, two full-time staff members, a board of directors and enough money to cover its operating costs through 2011. Olch is still the chairman of the organization.
Worthington said the fact that administrative costs are covered means the every dollar donated to PCF is invested back into the community. "The administrative grant from Powdr Corp. is to keep us viable so we can get our footing," she said.
The concept of a community foundation in which money is pooled and invested to promote philanthropy may be a new concept to some, but it is widely practiced in resort towns and big cities, Worthington said.
"There are about 700 community foundations nationwide," she said. "Park City is one of the last resort towns to add it."
Olch said it took donors time to warm up to the idea but today the organization works with nine philanthropic entities. "I just think it took our donors a while to figure out that this was a good way to help the community," Olch said in a telephone interview. "We don’t have any programs. But we do provide a service for donors and nonprofits because we’re a really good link. We help people decide where monies should go and make sure nonprofits are viable."
Wright and Worthington have spent time meeting with nonprofits to assess their needs, and in some cases, given money based on a particular donor’s wishes. It’s not just the big not-for-profit organizations that benefit from a community foundation, some say, but the smaller nonprofits that don’t have the resources to hire a large staff or hold lucrative benefit events.
The Peace House Women’s Shelter in Park City has received $10,000 over the last two years from the PCF, money that has gone toward upgrades and improvements in the shelter and computers. "We don’t have the ability to set up an endowment fund," executive director Jane Patten said. "They know how to handle all that. They help us not just in regular grants but also by increasing the importance of giving within our own community. I think it strengthens the whole nonprofit community."
Carol Potter of Mountain Trails Foundation applied for grants with a community foundation in her hometown, Cadillac, Mich., where she worked for the visitor’s bureau. She said she was "delighted" to hear about the PCF. "I think there’s a lot of organizations that would benefit," she said. "Community foundations are great building blocks for bigger grants, state and federal grants."
Potter said she would often leverage her $4,000 or $5,000 grant into $100,000 at the state level and federal levels by proving the viability of her projects with less money. "Community foundations give legitimacy to your project," she explained. "A guy in Washington, D.C., isn’t going to have a clue about what we’re doing with the Rail Trail, but the community foundation does."
Another unique aspect of the PCF is that it allows large-scale donors to choose how their philanthropy dollars will be spent.
In addition to Olch, board members are Susan Pearlstine of Pearlstine Distributors, Andrew Bland with Archive America, Bill Coleman of Land Equity Partner, Tom Bakalay and Myles Rademan with Park City Municipal , John Cumming of Powdr Corp., J. Taylor Crandall of Oak Hill Capital, Willy Scott Pottruck of the Pottruck Family Foundation, Mark Thorne of Talisker Mountain, Inc., Stephen Tyler of JPMorgan, and Jim Hill with East West Partners, according to a press release.