Thank You Image

It was another wild ending to the 5th annual Great Fish Community Challenge with $733,800 raised in the last week of the challenge and $246,000 in the last day. 

Whitefish Community Foundation awarded a grand total of $2,824,355 at the 5th annual Great Fish Awards Presentation on October 10th to 53 participating charities. “The Challenge was another amazing success with 80% of the charities raising more money this year over last year,” said Linda Maetzold, Board Chair. “On average we have increased the amount raised each year by 25%,” she said. Nonprofits raised $2,302,615 during the 7-week Challenge, an increase of $397,000 over last year. The average raised by participating nonprofits grew from $34,000 in 2018 to $43,000 in 2019.

The number of donors increased by 500 to over 2,000 donors this year. “This is exactly what we want to see,” said Linda Engh-Grady, President of Whitefish Community Foundation. “Our goal was to see more people giving this year and we succeeded. Throughout the campaign we pushed incentives and marketing to encourage more giving and expand our reach. It was a success,” said Engh-Grady. 

Whitefish Community Foundation announced a 49% match on the first $20,000 raised by each nonprofit. This added a maximum match of $9,800 on top of what the charities raised through the public for a total match of $485,139. “We could not organize the Challenge without the support and growth of our Circle of Giving program,” said Maetzold. “Our Circle donors are the backbone of the Match fund and they make this campaign a success,” she said.

Over $36,000 was distributed through the incentive and special awards, in addition to the match for a grand total of $2,824,355 including all public donations. The average gift per donor increased from 2.68 to 2.84 this year. “The formula works,” said Engh-Grady. “Donors give to more charities when it is quick and easy to do with just one gift and this is a win win for charities,” she said.

Several special awards were presented at the event.  The prestigious Great Fish Award, is presented each year to an organization that embodies the spirit of the Challenge to tell their story, build awareness of their impact, and shows commitment to supporting cross-pollination between fellow nonprofits.  The award is accompanied with at $7,500 grant.  The 2019 Great Fish Award was presented to CASA for Kids who have used the campaign to expand grass roots support, growing from 50 donors and $46,000 raised in 2015 to 189 donors and $109,000 raised this year.

DREAM Adaptive Recreation received the Doris Schumm Community Spirit Award and a $2,500 grant to support the important work they do to ensure that our disabled community members can enjoy the outdoor recreation opportunities the Flathead Valley has to offer. DREAM was selected to recognize the growth and impact of their adaptive sports program, and for the outstanding participation they demonstrate in the Great Fish Community Challenge over the past five years.

The Howard family presented the Jean Howard Memorial Award and $5,000 to the Abbie Shelter.  This annual award recognizes a charity for providing outstanding work in the health and human services field, which is an area that is of great importance to the Howard family.  The Abbie Shelter provides shelter and services for victims of domestic and sexual violence in the Flathead Valley.

Whitefish Legacy Partners was presented the Russ and Mary Jane Street Community Service Award and a $2,500 grant.  Legacy Partners was selected for this award for the work they do to support conservation, recreation, and education on the lands around Whitefish for future generations, and for the support and leadership they demonstrate in the Great Fish Community Challenge.

First Interstate Bank received the Corporate Citizenship Award recognizing their corporate donations and matching gifts to participating nonprofits, their hosting of the Great Fish Launch event, and the number of employees who volunteered their time throughout the Challenge and at the Color Run.  The bank directed the Corporate Citizenship Award of $2,500 to the Nate Chute Foundation for their suicide prevention work.

The Biggest Catch Award and a $2,500 grant was presented to the Abbie Shelter for having the largest number of donors in the challenge. Whitefish Review won the Poetry Slam contest and was awarded $1,000 for their outstanding performance.

Four new awards were given this year and were selected by the Whitefish Community Foundation’s staff.  These staff awards highlight nonprofits who demonstrated outstanding commitment to the Challenge in several areas.  Each were awarded a $500 grant.  The Fish Teamwork Award was presented to Child Bridge for doing an outstanding job organizing the lunch service for the Great Fish Challenge Color Run.  Lighthouse Christian Home received the Best New Fish on the Block Award for their outstanding performance as a first year participant in the Challenge.  The Top Fish Form Award went to Big Brothers Big Sisters for paying close attention to the rules especially with many new staffers involved with their organization.  The Finest Fishing Award went to Farm Hands/Nourish the Flathead for the excellent marketing of the Challenge.

Thank you to all the donors whose gifts will make a lasting impact in our community.