A major milestone for the Montrose Community Foundation

Sara Plumhoff

The Montrose Community Foundation is 30 years old this year—an anniversary well-worth celebrating. Since its creation by Montrose Rotary Club members Cliff Baldridge, Curt Robinson, Steve Mathis, and Kelvin Kent in 1989, the Foundation has provided millions of dollars to a variety of worthy causes in Montrose and neighboring communities. Initially, the Foundation specialized in scholarships, but expanded into other charitable work in 2006.

Executive Director Sara Plumhoff  was recently a guest speaker at The Forum, in Montrose. She has worked for the Foundation for more than five years. Plumhoff has 25 years of experience in marketing, working with nonprofit and for-profit businesses in the fields of health care, tourism, finance, economic development, science, and the arts.

A graduate of the University of Richmond, Plumhoff is originally from the Midwest. She and her husband Jim settled in Montrose in 2012.

So, what exactly is a “community foundation”, anyway? ” It’s a pretty simple concept,” Plumhoff’ said. “It means that we are building, over a long period of time, substantial funds that are helping the community.”

The Montrose Community Foundation provides that help by making grants. “We are a grant-making public charity. So, we are a 501(c) (3),” she explained, i.e. a federally tax-exempt non-profit organization. Donations come from the public, and are tax-deductible.

As the Foundation’s name implies, it has a local focus. “For us, that’s Montrose and the surrounding area. We’ve given grants out in Ridgway, Ouray, Telluride, and Delta, so that’s the surrounding area,” Plumhoff explained.

The Foundation is organized around several different funds, according to Plumhoff. “Fiscal funds are the ones you’ve probably heard about the most.” They are relatively short-term charitable projects. “It can be us incubating an organization,” Plumhoff said. “For instance, the Montrose Center for the Arts came under our auspices three years ago, before they were a 501(c) (3).” Now that they are a 501(c)(3), they will soon no longer be under the Community Foundation. “They now have their own space, their own leadership, and their own financial ability.”

Currently, the Foundation is incubating 27 other non-profits, including the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival.

Of course, the Community Foundation still operates scholarship funds. Plumhoff said, “We have twelve of these right now. It started with organizations and families who wanted to create a fund to give to students. “We give out about $70,000 a year in scholarships.”

Then, there are Donor-Advised Funds, which are set up by businesses and families. Plumhoff explained how it works. “Basically, you give the money to an organization like the Montrose Community Fund, and you get a federal tax benefit in the year that those gifts are given.

“Once you give the gifts, they are held at the Community Foundation. And, you use it like a ‘giving savings account,” she explained. “You call the Community Foundation and say ‘There is a great program that I want to give to’. Then, the Foundation reviews the request and gives the grant out.” The Foundation currently has seven Donor Advised Funds.

There is another fund that shares many of the same characteristics, which Plumhoff also explained. “The Field of Interest Fund is similar, except it goes out to a specific cause but not a specific organization.”

Then there are Agency Non-Profit Funds. As the name implies, “These are funds that we run for agencies in the community that are non-profits.” Plumhoff said that “This money is actually held in our accounts, but booked as an asset for the other organizations.” So, the Community Foundation is just holding the money for those groups. “Usually, those funds have been set up by the nonprofit’s board. The board has decided how they can be used. The benefit for them is that the Community Foundation manages the finances for them, so they don’t have to hire professional investment advisers.”

As of April 30, 2019, the Montrose Community Foundation had total assets of $4.57 million. “31 percent of our funds assets are held in scholarship endowed funds; those are our largest funds.” The Agency Non-profit Funds amount to about 17 percent, she said. “Our Donor Advisement Funds are about 16 percent. Our endowment for the arts has about $700, 000 in it.”

The Community Foundation spends just 2 percent of its assets  to run its everyday operations. Consequently, the organization has to do some fundraising at times.


About the author

Dave Segal

Dave Segal

Dave Segal, a Detroit native, has been a journalist since 1977. He has worked as a reporter, commentator, and news director at radio stations in Detroit, Denver, and Montrose.

Dave has been writing and editing for the Monitor since its first print issue in 2003. He is editor and senior writer for the digital magazine. On the side, Dave has also done freelance writing, media relations, and a variety of volunteer work.