SHERIDAN — While area residents know Sheridan has nonprofits and foundations aplenty, a meeting of nonprofit representatives from around the state at the Historic Sheridan Inn Tuesday reinforced that belief.
The event, “Local Matters: Philanthropy is … Right Next Door” featured speakers from around the region who spoke about the latest trends in philanthropy.
CEO of Philanthropy Northwest Jeff Clarke presented findings on trends in giving. Using the most recent data available from 2012, his organization examined trends from six regional states including Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. While most of the states declined in giving, Philanthropy Northwest found Wyoming’s giving increased by 16 percent.
The figures suggest almost $21 million in gifts were made in the state of Wyoming. Of the top 10 grantmakers in Wyoming, several local foundations were among the largest givers. These included Whitney Benefits (No. 5), the Homer and Mildred Scott Foundation (No. 7) and the Joseph J. Scott Foundation (No. 9). The Community Foundation of Jackson Hole was listed as the top grant maker in the state.
Statistics also indicate high philanthropic activity in most areas compared to the rest of the region. Sectors that saw the highest giving in Wyoming were human services at 33 percent, education (24 percent) and environmental/animal-related sectors (22 percent).
According to Philanthropy Northwest’s studies, only an estimated 1/53rd of individual philanthropic giving nationwide took place within the six-state region.
“We are a predominately rural region,” Clarke said. “… if you look at where large philanthropy is concentrated, it’s in urban areas. So there are some very interesting implications for us on how we grow that piece of the pie.”
From a local perspective, Jody Shields, managing director of the Wyoming Nonprofit Network, presented her organization’s findings about the Wyoming nonprofit sector.
Sheridan County has 178 registered nonprofit organizations, 141 of which have filed an annual return. Sheridan County has the seventh most organizations of all counties in the state.
While revenue streams for local nonprofits stayed mainly consistent with the rest of the state, perhaps the most surprising was the amount of revenue generated from special events.
Despite the time and effort it takes for nonprofits to put on fundraisers and other events, special events only draw in around 1 percent of all contributions.
“I know a lot of nonprofits work really hard on those annual events, and it really shows you how small of a percentage that is when you look at the big picture,” Shields said.
A panel of trustees and CEOs from regional foundations discussed philanthropic strategy with many of the nonprofits.
One of those on the panel was Lyn Walin Ziecenbein, the CEO Emeritus of the Peter Kiewit Foundation out of Omaha, Nebraska. Sharing her insight, she said the most attractive nonprofits are those who focus on sustainability and not simply short-term goals.
“So when (foundations) leave and pull out, the ability is there in that community to sustain and move on. It’s not just the projects … it’s the process,” she said.
The panel also stressed the importance of nonprofits observing quality business principals and the impact millennials will have in the nonprofit industry.
The meeting wrapped up with a familiar face in Jay McGinnis, Sheridan County YMCA executive director.
McGinnis stressed the importance of building relationships with all philanthropists, even those who do not have mass amounts of wealth, and the impacts everyone can have on local organizations. He gave several examples of how a small gift in people’s will and testament have been able to establish long-lasting programs that have a positive impact on the community.