Impact: Deploying and Understanding Strategic Philanthropy

The Denver Foundation

Philanthropy is big business and according to Giving USA, Americans gave a record $373.25 billion in charitable gifts during 2015. In keeping with tradition, this represents about 2% of US gross domestic product (GDP).Also in keeping with tradition, donors cite a host of motivations for giving, including:

• To give back to the community
• For political or philosophical beliefs
• To address community issues
• To respond spontaneously to a need
• To honor another
• To set an example

The most often cited reason for giving, however, remains “to make a difference.” In short, people give money to have an impact in an area that matters to them. Altruism, not taxes, is driving philanthropy, and more than ever, donors want to know what difference their gifts are making. The Denver Foundation partners with hundreds of local philanthropists by offering a variety of charitable products that help people accomplish their goals. Through donor-advised, designated, field of interest, and scholarship funds, The Denver Foundation offers people a framework to fund the change they wish to see and promote. Here are some of the many stories of impact from our fundholders.

Measuring impact 

One way to gauge impact is through “dollars invested.” 

In 2015, the Foundation’s donor-advised funds made 2,959 grants, totaling $79 million, to a wide variety of local and national nonprofit organizations. During that same time, the Foundation’s scholarship funds awarded 1,024 scholarships at 94 schools, totaling $3.75 million.

Another way to analyze results is to see the categories where those dollars were invested

In 2015, donor-advised grants from The Denver Foundation were distributed to organizations in the following categories:

38% to education

18% to economic opportunity/community improvement

10% to hunger, homelessness, basic medical care, domestic violence

10% to arts, culture, humanities

9% to health

5% to youth, religion, animals, and the environment each

It’s also illustrative to drill down and understand specific grantmaking.

Since numbers alone won’t help us understand impact, we asked some of our fundholders for permission to share inspiring examples of the difference they’re making through their philanthropy.

Tom & Lisa Heule: Feeding disadvantaged students

Tom and Lisa Heule are deeply connected to their family, their community, and their Catholic faith. “Our faith informs everything we do,” the couple explains. So when the Heules learned of a “backpack food program” offered through a local nonprofit organization, they decided to create a similar program for Denver’s Catholic schools. Over 90% of local urban Catholic school students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and the Heules decided to use best practices in the field to help these students and their families. After consulting with professionals at Hunger Free Colorado and Food Bank of the Rockies, the Heules launched the program that now quietly sends backpacks full of food home to more than 1,000 students in 13 Denver Catholic schools. The Heules have organized it all—from giving and raising the support, to recruiting and training the more than 40 volunteers.

Joan MacLachlan and Alan Howard: Improving healthcare access

When local attorney Winston Howard died 10 years ago, he was remembered for his many remarkable leadership skills. His children, Joan H. MacLachlan and Alan Howard, are evidence of his equally remarkable skills as a parent and philanthropist. The Howards crafted their own brand of family philanthropy that includes honoring loved ones and helping those less fortunate. “Dad’s intention was clear,” notes Alan, now retired from his career as a professor at the University of Virginia, “we were to do something in honor of mother and to be responsible for it.” Together, Joan and Alan have chosen to make charitable investments in education and healthcare. “Since our mother was seriously ill for some time and benefited immensely from excellent nursing care, we have focused some of our efforts on nursing education,” explains Alan. They identified Frontier Nursing University (FNU) as a partner. FNU continues its original mission to train nurse midwives and nurse practitioners, originally by horseback in rural Appalachia and most recently as a highly rated online nursing program providing health services in rural and underserved areas. “We know what a difference nursing care made to our mother, and we want others to have access to proper, compassionate care, as well,” Joan notes.

Second Leash on Life: Investing in companion and wild animals

The donor who created the Second Leash on Life Fund prefers to keep his name private, but he wants people to know about companion and wild animals and their needs. “Animals have enriched my life, and I want to invest in addressing their health and well being,” he explains. A devoted dog person, the Second Leash on Life donor supports organizations providing direct services to animals, as well as those making change through policy channels. “I have long admired Pat Craig, who is addressing the captive wild animal crisis through The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg,” he notes. The sanctuary on Colorado’s eastern plains has made international headlines by rescuing abused wild animals from improper care in private collections, unethical zoos and circuses, and other deplorable conditions. This donor also supports organizations that rescue, rehabilitate, and adopt animals, and he supports Colorado Citizens for Canine Welfare, that works toward anti-cruelty legislation focused on ending puppy mills in the state. Finally, the donor helps low-income pet owners through organizations that offer low-cost veterinary services (included but not limited to spay and neuter services).

LatinasGive!: Connecting with racial identity

A women’s giving group that grew out of a tradition of community and civic engagement, LatinasGive! is now entering its third year of sharing the four Ts: Time, Talent, Treasure, and Testimony. Together, these dynamic women are investing directly in their community and honoring their heritage. Members are a close-knit group of engaged and recognized leaders who volunteer their time on various community efforts and celebrate their sisterhood through a shared vision of a strong and vibrant Latino community. They are also giving “treasure” through their donor-advised fund. “Our first grant cycle concluded in December 2015,” explains Chrissy Deal, LatinasGive! co-founder. “We chose to support organizations that nurture our cultural heritage and promote equity.” From feeding people (through programs at the GrowHaus) to feeding the soul (Denver Cafecito and Su Teatro) to stopping domestic violence (via the Latina Safehouse Initiative), this giving circle strategically selects grantees that are instrumental in creating meaningful change at the local level. Whenever possible, they support programs run by or for Latinas. “It is an honor to be part of a positive grassroots change. We hope to inspire future generations to continue the ongoing effort of investing directly in societal issues affecting our future," says LatinasGive! co-founder, Cynthia Gallegos.

Richard E. Dakin: Cybersecurity education

Created in honor of the late co-founder of the Colorado-based cybersecurity firm, Coalfire, the Richard E. Dakin Fund is supporting scholarship programs at universities here in Colorado and around the country that are demonstrating excellence in this emerging and important space. Mr. Dakin pioneered and provided protocols in cybersecurity best practices, risk management, and compliance consulting across many business sectors. "Rick was a visionary in cybersecurity,” says Larry Jones, Coalfire CEO. “This fund will help further the industry by providing individuals with access to cybersecurity-focused educational resources."

The Ryan Wesley Tucker Fund: Remembering a loved one and helping the homeless

Ryan Wesley Tucker brought a lot of joy to the community in his short 21 years. He was close to his family and his friends, he loved sports, and was studying business at Metro State University. He also cared about people who were less fortunate. He was especially concerned about helping people experiencing homelessness and had a heart for youth who found themselves alone and on the streets. Ryan’s family members—mother Rhonda and stepfather Floyd, father Art and stepmother Celeste—are determined to honor their son’s memory by continuing his commitment to those in need. They combine hands-on community service with grants from the fund to help people in need and to honor Ryan. Each year, the family members convene a community work day with friends, neighbors, and coworkers to tie homemade blankets, each bearing a label indicating “essence of Ryan.” They deliver these blankets and their grant check to the program of choice. So far, grants from the fund have supported The Delores Project, Aurora Warms the Night and the Aurora Interchurch Task Force.

A donor-advised fund—or any type of charitable fund—is a vehicle to help you organize your charitable giving. The exciting part comes when you find your focus, engage yourself, and follow the change you are funding. We look forward to featuring more stories of donor impact, and to learning from our fundholders as you engage in the work you find most important.

Are you ready to make a difference with your giving? The Denver Foundation helps generous people like you to make a difference in our community and beyond.We can help you create a personalized fund to accomplish your philanthropic goals. If you have questions, contact Kelly Purdy with the Philanthropic Services Group,