Jeanne Bistranin is the new executive director of The Summit Foundation
Two large windows dominate one wall in Jeanne Bistranin’s new office. Sunlight pours in through tree branches, and the mild traffic of Harris Street offers a picturesque scene below.
The office is new not only in the amount of time Bistranin has spent in it — just about two weeks — but in appearance as well. It sits on the second floor of the newly renovated Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center. While it and its surroundings are modern-mountain new, its bones are old and carry the history of the community.
And as the new executive director of The Summit Foundation, that’s just what Bistranin likes about it.
BACKGROUND OF EXPERIENCE
After previous executive director Lee Zimmerman announced his plans to step down from the position after eight years, the foundation formed a search committee to find his replacement. They cast their net nationwide for a two-month application period, interviewed candidates and ultimately decided on Bistranin.
“Jeanne is a very knowledgeable person in this field,” said Zimmerman, who is working with her throughout the month of February to ease the transition. “She’s very community-minded and I think she will be a great asset to The Summit Foundation and to the community.”
Bistranin’s previously spent 15 years with the Adolph Coors Foundation, in Denver. The private family foundation offers grants to nonprofit organizations throughout the state. This has given her experience with nonprofits of a variety of sizes, missions and needs.
Bistranin evaluated grant proposals and conducted strategic reviews of each foundation’s history and how it was fulfilling its philanthropic mission. One of the latest initiatives she worked on was one that helped veterans transition from military to civilian life through employment.
“I like looking where there’s a need, how we can solve it, and put together a collaboration of people to tackle it,” Bistranin said.
Bistranin’s first experience working with nonprofits came through her first employer, telephone service company US West. She got a job at the company in 1980 after graduating from the University of Denver with a master’s degree in communications. This complemented her undergraduate degree in business and marketing from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
From service clerk, Bistranin eventually worked her way into a role with the US West Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, where she was responsible for grant donations throughout a five-state region.
“I got into philanthropy from the corporate side first,” she said, and she’s stuck with it ever since.
She’s also proud of her work as chair of the board of directors of the Emily Griffith Foundation, increasing fundraising efforts and support for the nonprofit.
“That’s a personal passion for me, is helping people to be able to have a good life, and that’s what they do,” she said.
COUNTY OF COLLABORATION
Bistranin said that she’s excited by the possibilities of narrowing her focus to a single county.
“When you have that specified area, you can really make a difference,” she said, “Identify what the gaps in the community are, what needs to be done.”
So far, she likes what she sees.
“This community, Summit County, people care so much, and they’re so giving,” she said. “You see the nonprofits and the government and the donors are all working together. You know, that’s an unusual situation.”
Building up a community and solving problems starts with collaboration, which can sometimes be difficult to achieve.
But after meeting with local leaders and nonprofits, she doesn’t see that problem here.
“If you already have that collaboration ongoing, that’s awesome,” she said. “It’s a great base to build on.”
As executive director of The Summit Foundation, Bistranin views her job as lending a hand to philanthropy in the county while maintaining a view of the long-term, larger picture.
“We have a good view of the whole landscape,” she said of the foundation, “so I think that our role is to bring people together, to talk about different things, to figure out ways that we can all collaborate, work together, to address these community issues.”
She’s also taking into consideration the role foundation takes on for the rest of the community.
“For us, we have that obligation to our donors and to the community to make sure that we’re good stewards and investing our money the best way possible, to have the best impact,” she said.
FROM COLLABORATION TO ACTION
Because there’s a solid base of communication within Summit’s nonprofit circles, Bistranin believes it won’t be long before she and the foundation can move on to the next step — action.
“I’m an action-oriented person, I think our board of trustees is action oriented,” she said. “They are so engaged and involved. It’s not a board in name only. I mean, they’re out there, on the committees, looking for things to do in the community, engaged. That’s great.”
Once the needs have been identified, she’s ready to see that they get met.
“The opportunities for The Summit Foundation to do more in the community are positive and she’s a great person to provide leadership with the board to do that,” Zimmerman said.
“I’ve been very fortunate that my entire career has been in working with community relations, philanthropy, nonprofits. I love it, of course. I mean, who wouldn’t?” Bistranin said with a laugh. “So I’m really excited to continue that, and I feel that this position is the perfect opportunity to take what I know and apply it within a geographical area.”
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