Celebrating 25 Years as a Community Catalyst

Community Foundation Boulder County volunteers work to restore a wildlife area. Photo courtesy The Community Foundation Boulder County

Congratulations to the Community Foundation Boulder County.

After a quarter-century of successfully serving as a community catalyst, Boulder County’s leader in advancing our culture of philanthropy and making transformational change is celebrating.

And there is plenty to celebrate.

The Community Foundation has a long list of impactful programs and initiatives to improve the quality of life for all Boulder County residents.

But they have not done this on their own. With a strong belief that ‘we accomplish more together than alone,’ the foundation collaborates with donors, partners and grant recipients.

The evidence of success is strong. From a community-minded, financially lean beginning, today the foundation provides the community with multimillion-dollar grantmaking resources, a broadly relied upon TRENDS Report, and a track record of leadership.

Since its founding in 1991, the Community Foundation has granted nearly $68 million to nonprofits, and an endowment of more than $52.3 million has been established.

Donations and strategic resources have gone to improve health and human services, basic needs, children and youth, education, civic engagement, arts and culture, and animals and the environment.

“We touch just about any issue area,” says Gretchen Minekime, the foundation’s vice president of communications.

Donors make up a diverse group, too.

“Our donors range from someone who donates $50 to someone who donates $1 million, and everyone in between,” explains Minekime, noting that the foundation works with donors to ensure their contribution goes to areas that fit their interests.

Inspiring Ideas, Igniting Action

It all began in 1990, when a small, inspired group of people came together to create an avenue for charitable giving.

From the beginning, the goal was to go beyond the transactional role of providing grants. The founders voiced a collective mission of creating innovative, long-lasting ways to ignite change.

That kernel of an idea was formally organized in 1991 as the Boulder Area Community Foundation – today, known as the Community Foundation Boulder County.

“It was very grassroots and started with very little money by a group of people who wanted to address issues in the community, which is different than starting because of receiving a lot of money in a trust,” says Minekime, who has been with the organization since 2002.

“The founding documents were visionary 25 years ago and still inspire me today,” says Josie Heath, president of the foundation since 1995 and retiring at the end of this year.

Josie Heath, president of the foundation since 1995 is retiring at the end of this year

Josie Heath, president of the foundation since 1995 is retiring at the end of this year


Though Heath was not involved in the initial meetings – she was in the middle of a run for the U.S. Senate – she knows the story well.

Initially lead by Stan Black, an attorney with one of Boulder County’s oldest law firms, Hutchinson, Black & Cook, a group of community-minded friends and associates set out to establish a local vehicle for charitable giving.

The founders’ initial ‘possibilities to consider’ still guide the foundation today. The far-reaching statements outlined key intentions, including:

“I like it to be risk-taking, to facilitate new things, new approaches to community needs.”

“It should be one of the first places people turn to for help with public issues not supported by traditional sources of funding.”

“It needs to deal with root causes, not just Band-Aids.”

“It should serve as a ‘hub’ for the exchange of ideas.”

Start-up Days

After the first several years, the foundation had “only a few thousand dollars to give as grants and one charitable trust,” recalls Heath. So, the board asked Heath to make a recommendation on the foundation’s future.

“I could see that other community foundations had been more than transactional. They had really been involved with community leadership work,” says Heath.

“I recommended that we continue as a standalone foundation, and that we really think about how we could partner with nonprofits so that they wouldn’t see us as a competitor for dollars,” says Heath.

This exploration led to the start of Community Ventures  – a day to help nonprofits learn more about fundraising and collaborating with other organizations.

This was a formative milestone that would guide the foundation’s future collaborations.

“We began thinking about bigger issues that we could take on together,” recalls Heath.

Another milestone came when the Boulder County Healthy Communities Initiative, a group looking at how best to measure the quality of life of Boulder County, became a part of the foundation.

“That’s really the origin of our TRENDS work,” says Heath, referring to the biennial Boulder County TRENDS Report, a cornerstone for the foundation’s informed decision-making.

The Boulder Source is pleased to honor the Community Foundation Boulder County as our October Featured Friend. As part of the 25th anniversary, the foundation has refined its focus around three key principles that guide its efforts to make a difference countywide: informed decision-making; accomplishing more together than alone; and being responsive to community needs. Stay tuned for Part 2 in our series, as we celebrate the positive impact this organization has made.   

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Photos courtesy Community Foundation Boulder County