Rural Philanthropy Days History
Sue Anschutz-Rodgers
Steve Graham

In 1989, only three percent of grants from Colorado’s private funding community were awarded outside of the Front Range. In response, the Anschutz Family Foundation initiated the Colorado Rural Philanthropy Days (RPD) program in partnership with Community Resource Center (CRC) as a way to encourage Front Range foundations to travel to, and become better acquainted with, different rural regions in the state.

In 1991, some of the nonprofits decided they would hold a “Philanthropy Day” in Grand Junction. They invited funders from the Front Range, including Sue Anschutz-Rodgers, because the majority of the funders are on the Front Range. On Sue’s drive back to Denver, she began thinking that rural Colorado was being left out of the mix. Her vision was that funders need to go to the nonprofits out in the state. Sue asked CRC’s executive director, Steve Graham, to join with the Anschutz Family Foundation in creating a statewide event known as “Rural Philanthropy Days.”  Sue’s vision was to create an opportunity to build relationships between grantmakers who are concentrated along the Front Range and rural nonprofit organizations.

Sue, with her strong rural roots and interest in rural philanthropy, hosted a number of meetings and sent countless letters to Colorado grantmakers, both public and private, in an attempt to secure their support and participation. For the first few years, RPD events were only held in those geographic areas farthest from the Front Range including Colorado’s Western Slope region, the Southwest region, and in the San Luis Valley region, with participation from just four to five Front Range foundations.

By 1997, the RPD program had expanded to include four rural regions, covering all corners of the state. In 2000, those four rural regions were split into seven smaller regions, providing for two annual RPD events held in different regions of the state. Later in 2004, an eighth region was established, allowing each region to host a RPD conference every four years on a rotating cycle.

Colorado Rural Philanthropy Days has successfully connected nonprofits in Colorado’s rural communities with the skills, resources, and partnerships necessary to amplify their work. The RPD program has had an immeasurable impact on Colorado’s rural communities which extends far beyond the millions of dollars invested in these communities and has resulted in significant capacity-building for these organizations.

To this day, the Anschutz Family Foundation maintains an ongoing mission and an unwavering commitment to supporting nonprofit partners in rural Colorado.