Whitefish Community Foundation – A Year in Review


I recently read an interesting comment by another community foundation asking why our sector identifies as something that it is not, rather than something that it is, “nonprofit.” While our sector is not profit seeking, it is impact seeking and really should be labeled FOR impact. Yes, nonprofits need to have a strong, positive balance sheet to further their mission, but the difference is we invest our profits in our communities. On behalf of the Whitefish Community Foundation, I would like to thank our nonprofit leaders, nonprofit staff, and nonprofit volunteers for all the impact you created this past year. Your hard work truly makes our community a great place to live!

Whitefish Community Foundation finished strong in 2019 thanks to our generous, community minded donors! The Circle of Giving ended the year with 87 members, greatly impacting the amount of grant money available to local nonprofits. The Community Foundation’s grant programs remained strong distributing over $5.5 million in grants through our robust grant programs. Investment returns ended the year on a high which translates into growth in our endowment funds to benefit local nonprofits and more money to grant out of our Donor Advised Funds (DAF). The Montana Endowment Tax Credit was renewed until 2026 allowing donors to continue to use this state tax credit to bolster permanent endowment funds and build nonprofit sustainability.

The Great Fish Community Challenge finished with another record year, raising over $2.8 million for 53 charities. The Community Foundation awarded a 49% match on the first $20,000 raised by each nonprofit amounting to an additional $9,800 on top of the public donations each nonprofit received.

In 2019, 32 nonprofits received a total of $89,000 through the Community Grant Program. Nonprofits applied for up to $4,000 in funding and applications were accepted in both spring and fall.  Another $37,000 was awarded through the Discretionary Grant Program. The Major Community Project Grant Program awarded $30,000 to the Stumptown Ice Den for the purchase of an electric Zamboni.

Whitefish Community Foundation serves the greater Whitefish area, working to improve the quality of life for all. Our grant programs not only serve Whitefish, they also reach beyond our community to benefit our neighbors that are providing services to the Whitefish community. In 2019, 45% of our grants benefited the work of nonprofits in our surrounding communities. The value of the Foundation’s advised funds increased by 20% in 2019. Those funds distributed almost $4.8 million to qualified charities. The grants distributed from Donor Advised Funds (DAF) greatly impacts the work of our local nonprofits, and the administration fees generated from our advised fund program are one of the primary sources of funding for the Foundation’s work. Endowment development continues to be an important part of the Foundation’s mission. In 2019, the Foundation opened three new endowment funds for local nonprofits bringing the total number of nonprofit endowment funds to 31 and permanently endowed assets to over $11 million. These endowments provided almost $300,000 in sustainable funding to local nonprofits last year.

What’s in store for 2020?

In 2020 we will be celebrating our 20th anniversary. Throughout the year we will be celebrating the foundation’s past, present and future by connecting people who care with projects that matter. We will continue to work to build more opportunities for donors to connect with important needs benefiting our community. We will also continue to build a strong Circle of Giving to provide important grant funding to our local nonprofits.  We are here to serve our community and we value the trust bestowed upon us by our donors, grantees, community leaders, and the people we serve.

The 6th annual Great Fish Community Challenge will launch July 30th and run seven weeks, ending September 18th. Nonprofits interested in participating in the Challenge must fill out an application that is due February 27th by 4 p.m. In 2019, 2,085 donors contributed to the Great Fish Community Challenge. With a possible 55 charities or more participating in the 2020 Challenge, our goals are to exceed the number of donors that gave during the 2019 campaign and raise more money to help benefit critical programs.

The Community Grant Program will be offered twice in 2020, with applications due in March and October. The maximum request for a Community Grant is $4,000. Nonprofits that do not participate in the Great Fish Community Challenge are eligible to apply. Community building projects that can benefit from the Major Community Project Grant Program will be a priority for the Foundation. We will continue to work with our DAF advisors to make bigger impact grants that are rooted in community. The Community Foundation is deeply committed to our work in service to the place we call home. We are very grateful for our many community relationships and we look forward to making new ones.


Linda Engh-Grady