New initiative pairs Summit County nonprofits with retired executives |

New initiative pairs Summit County nonprofits with retired executives

Summit Historical Society tour guide Jean Adams shares information the history of Lake Dillon during a boat tour. The nonprofit recently partnered with retired business consultant Lee Henry through the Summit Foundation's NRG Program to brainstorm new fundraising strategies.
Krista Driscoll / |

Savvy retirees can jump into the business of helping nonprofits, thanks to a new Summit Foundation program. The Nonprofit Resources for Grantees (NRG) program expands on the resources the Foundation offers, partnering local organizations with knowledgeable, executive volunteers to offer free consulting.

“As The Summit Foundation, we have a role in value added services for nonprofits. It’s about more than giving grants,” Summit Foundation executive director Jeanne Bistranin said. “We’ve decided to really elevate that support for nonprofits.”

In addition to the workshops the foundation offers, the executive directors of area nonprofits will have an opportunity to meet every few months for networking and discussion.

“It’s an opportunity for them to network with each other and learn with each other,” Bistranin said.

The most unique facet of the program, however, is the Volunteer Executive Corps. she said local philanthropist and former business consultant Lee Henry cooked up the idea.

“We have so many retired executives in the community (who) are so smart and have so much to offer,” Bistranin explained. “What if we matched them up with nonprofits on a short-term basis?”

She added they had seen success in facilitating these partnerships a few times in the past, matching high-level executive volunteers to organizations that have expressed a specific goal or need.

“The Summit Foundation staff facilitates the introduction of the volunteer to the nonprofit based on the specific need,” Summit Foundation program officer Megan Nuttelman wrote. “This pairing allows for one-to-one expertise that the nonprofit organization may not otherwise be able to afford.”

So far, she added, about 10 executives have offered their services.


The Summit Historical Society (SHS), who approached The Summit Foundation with the goal of raising more funds to support their programs, was one of the first to test drive the program. SHS president Sandra Mather was pleased with the ideas that sprouted from several weeks of discussion with Henry.

“They were all focusing on how we could have financial stability — we don’t have a Breckenridge funding us. We don’t have a Frisco funding us,” Mather said. “He was able to give us all sorts of ideas as to how we might move forward.”

Currently, Mather said, the society relies on small grants and volunteer efforts to raise funds. For example, last year the nonprofit reported total revenues of $123,341, with just over $76,000 in grants. The prior year, the SHS reported $16,252 in grants.

Some of Henry’s suggestions included creative approaches to fundraising and historical programming.

“He just wanted to give us ideas about how to proceed — thinking outside of the box,” Mather said.

From her perspective, the funding is critical to preserving structures with historical value throughout the county.

“This end of the county, we’re gonna lose them if we don’t do something,” Mather said.

SHS will also continue in collaborative efforts with the other nonprofits throughout the county, including the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance and Frisco Historic Park and Museum. The three entities are currently working on a project to interview longtime residents of the Lower Blue and record their stories to pass on to future generations.

“There are all sorts of people we need to start interviewing now,” she said, noting Summit County’s vast history. “I could live to 150 or 200, and I still wouldn’t know everything.”

The Breckenridge Film Festival also had the opportunity to enter a similar short-term partnership. The nonprofit was paired with a local man last spring, who brought his years of finance experience with boards in the past.

“We were really excited about it because, as we continue to grow our board and get that expertise on our board, it’s really helpful to be able to tap those resources,” Breckenridge Film Festival director Janice Kurbjun said. “It was helpful to circle back on the work we’ve done in the past three years and get feedback. We’re lucky now to have a talented treasurer on our board who can guide our future progress.”

Looking at the bigger picture, she said the additional local resources will be a boon for area nonprofits. Bistranin noted the cost of hiring a consultant for finances or strategic planning can add up quickly.

“Not everyone wants to serve on a board,” Kurbjun said. “I think this program provides an opportunity for people to lend a hand in the community and share their expertise while not necessarily having to be a full-time board member. It not only benefits the nonprofits, but it benefits the people who want to give.”

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