Whitefish Community Foundation awarded more than $6.2 million to 77 Flathead Valley nonprofit organizations during the Great Fish Awards Celebration Tuesday evening. The total amount awarded included $5,298,898 donated by 3,111 donors during the five-week Great Fish Community Challenge, plus $924,331 from the Great Fish Match Fund.

The Great Fish Match is made possible by Whitefish Community Foundation’s Circle of Giving and those who donated directly to the match fund during the Challenge. This year’s percentage match was the largest in the history of the Challenge at 62 percent on the first $20,000 raised by each nonprofit, resulting in a maximum matching grant of $12,400 per organization. Whitefish Community Foundation also awarded $39,700 in incentive grants throughout the Challenge, bringing the grand total awarded through this year’s Great Fish Community Challenge to $6,262,929, a 23 percent increase over last year.

“We are amazed by our donors and inspired by our local nonprofits. The spirit of the Challenge is ‘teamwork,’ and this year, we all worked together to create a truly astounding impact for our nonprofit community,” Whitefish Community Foundation President/CEO Alan Davis said.

The Great Fish Community Challenge is a charitable giving campaign that offers donors the opportunity to give to multiple organizations with one transaction. Whitefish Community Foundation organizes and administers the Challenge free of charge for qualifying nonprofits. The estimated cost of this year’s Challenge was approximately $329,529, a value of over $4,200 to each participating nonprofit. Since 2015, the Great Fish Community Challenge has raised over $28 million for more than 90 Flathead Valley charities.

Whitefish Community Foundation presented numerous special awards Tuesday evening, including the $7,500 Great Fish Award given annually to an organization that demonstrates tremendous leadership and dedication toward advancing their mission and impacting the critical needs in local communities. Nate Chute Foundation was selected as the 2023 Great Fish Award recipient for the organization’s work to support, educate and empower the Flathead Valley to promote mental wellness and reduce suicide.

Flathead Electric Cooperative received the Corporate Citizenship Award for the company’s leadership in philanthropy during the Great Fish Community Challenge and beyond. Flathead Electric Co-op encouraged company employees to donate to the Challenge by matching their contributions dollar-to-dollar. Flathead Electric Co-op has a long history of supporting nonprofit programs and projects in the Flathead Valley through its Round up for Safety grant program, which has provided more than $4 million to local nonprofits since inception. Flathead Electric Co-op selected CASA for Kids to receive the $2,500 grant that accompanied the award.

Whitefish Community Foundation also recognized longtime Flathead Valley resident Jim Hollensteiner with the Connie Heckathorn “Cheers for Volunteers” Award for his decades of service to local nonprofits, including Northwest Montana History Museum, Flathead Lakers, Kalispell Rotary and others. The award was created in honor of Whitefish Community Foundation co-founder Connie Heckathorn, who passed away in 2021 and left a rich legacy of community projects and volunteer service. Hollensteiner selected Northwest Montana History Museum to receive the $2,500 grant that accompanied the award.

Photo by Heidi Desch/Daily Inter Lake