A conversation with the new Executive Director of the Chaffee County Community Foundation Betsy Dittenber merged into how it found its footing in the county, as well as short-term and longer-term goals.
“I think the pandemic defined why you really need to have a community foundation,” said Dittenber of the CCCF. “We’re glad that it was here before COVID and before the Decker Fire. It was a real demonstration of why a community foundation exists.”
The timing of the launch of CCCF three years ago was indeed timely. A wildfire threatening the city of Salida was only the opening salvo in Chaffee County. Within months, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, shocking residents and the business community in the midst of what is normally a high-tourism season. In each crisis, the foundation responded, supporting service businesses with continuity grants, coordinating with Chaffee Human Services and providing funding to distribute to residents in need.
Dittenber said that the CCCF is now preparing to approve a grant program providing some additional safety net funding distributed to folks who are still in need. The grant particulars should be finalized by Dec. 16, to go out by the end of December. The idea is to help meet some of the continuing needs of the community.
Asked about where the foundation going, she said “the next chapter of the foundation could really be likened to moving from a sapling to a shade tree — we are three years old. We are now a juvenile — the next step is to build stability into that plan…the processes and functions that will be needed to sustain growth.”
Going further into the analogy about the role of the CCCF, she said “We see this as a tree image – we have the roots; those are the donors and funders giving back into the community. The tree canopy is the social services. But we are the strong trunk — lifting the tree up higher, offering more shade for the entire community.”
Asked about the CCCF focus areas at this point in time, Dittenber described three “arms” of emphasis.
“First is supporting our nonprofit network on the ground. We’re doing amazing work; we need to build a high-impact network, which is necessary for all nonprofits — to help us build capacity to support our community needs.”
“A second arm is really fine-tuning the donor experience,” she continued. “This will involve setting up donor-advised funds, learning how they want the distribution of their funds to be arranged. We need to get some of our area of impact funds more defined because this is how we’re making an impact. Partnering on special projects like Jane’s Place is a role we can play — getting bigger projects off the ground.”
Dittenber described the third arm of focus for CCCF as “getting the stability of the foundation in place — making sure we have the capacity internally so we can jump on opportunities when they are available. This is what is going allow us to create long-term solutions so that things can move forward.
She was not short on analogies that appeal to different audiences. “When you’re a community foundation you are not the football team, not the ball, not the cheerleaders — you are the field where the game is taking place. If you don’t have a field — you don’t have a football game.”
Asked about the credit and thanks ascribed to the foundation, she chuckled. “Well, that’s not our role. You don’t get the glory — you provide the role of the person behind the curtain, making sure that that success can happen. Moving forward we can be driving the conversations so the solutions to challenges can be discussed.
The long-term goals and budget for 2022 won’t be announced until Jan. 4.
With Colorado Gives Day on Tuesday Dec. 7, Dittenber reminded us of the need that the CCCF meets. “Being a foundation isn’t always the sexiest cause to give to, but we can extend the life of their funds — they can go further.”
For further information about CCCF, see https://arkvalleyvoice.com/a-gift-to-cccf-reaches-across-the-community/
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