Our Approach to Funding
At Fund for Idaho, we are driven by a deep commitment to uplift and empower grassroots organizations that are working tirelessly to tackle the most pressing issues in our communities. Our goal is to catalyze positive change, not just in Idaho, but beyond. We are proud to be a part of a movement that champions greater equity, justice, and sustainability, and our unwavering commitment to our mission drives us to create a more compassionate, environmentally sound, and healthy society for all.
At Fund for Idaho, we have a unique grant-making approach that sets us apart from other foundations. We collaborate with both donors and social change activists to direct our grants towards organizations addressing the root causes of problems. By bringing together these diverse perspectives, we ensure that our grant-making process is strategic and impactful, with a focus on gender equity, racial and ethnic equality, and environmental integrity.
Our work is based and guided by the following tenets:
- Generosity is the virtue that produces peace.
- We envision Idaho as a place where we are all valued, honored, and respected.
- We are accountable to the communities we serve.
- Inclusiveness and transparency are the hallmarks of our staff, our board, and our work.
- Our processes foster the creation of respectful peer relationships between donors and those who benefit from philanthropy.
- Creating and maintaing relationships with activist groups on the group is critical to the success of our organization.
- It is our duty to raise awareness of social and environmental justice in Idaho.
Fund for Idaho Board
Fund for Idaho is blessed with a solid Board of Directors that has many years’ experience helping young organizations grow and thrive.
Gary is an experienced community organizer, a leadership and organizational coach, and experienced fundraiser with 35 years’ experience in the public policy arena. He excels in nonprofit leadership, grassroots organizing, coaching, and volunteer management. He served as a Senior Organizer for Community Change for 25 years. He worked locally, statewide, and in a national context building local, statewide and national social change initiatives, community based nonprofit organizations and coalitions. He has particular skills in rural organizing, having built organizations and networks in states like Montana, South Dakota and Idaho. For two years, Gary served as director of the nationwide field operation for Community Change, including supervising all issue-based teams, all technical assistance and field building programs; as well as the public policy operation. His B.A. from State University of New York Empire State College focused in Community Organizing and helped prepare him for his long career making the world a more just place for all.
Gail Heylmun has worked in many capacities to help nonprofits address many issues: social justice, environmental contamination, and conflicts between individuals and groups. She brings 30 years’ experience with nonprofit startups, including Idaho Community Action Network, Common Ground Conciliation, Inc., The Rural Collaborative, The Idaho Nonprofit Center, and The Sounding Board, to name a few. She has designed and implemented program development, facilitated grant fundraising, administration and reporting and implemented effective volunteer management systems. She has put her experience in nonprofit fundraising, organizational and program startup, mediation, and volunteer management to use for the Fund for Idaho since 2006, serving as Executive Director. Gail’s B.A. from SUNY Empire State College focused on environmental policy implementation, and it has served her well.
Kim Steinberg has worked for many years to empower people of all abilities to have more engaged and fulfilling lives regardless of the challenges they face. She has extensive experience in nonprofit leadership and building coalitions and strategic alliances. She has coordinated and managed personnel in multiple offices and implemented a successful earned income business that established long term sustainability for a nonprofit. Her policy expertise helped her develop and coordinate legislative and grassroots advocacy on behalf of the constituents she served. Kim is a certified mediator and has worked for a range of nonprofits, from Common Ground Conciliation, Inc., The State Independent Living Council, Living Independence Network Corp. (LINC) to the American Cancer Society.
Wendy Wilson has spent a lifetime working to help people take effective action to protect the earth. She is currently engaged with volunteer programs, suicide prevention, STEM education, and land stewardship projects. She has 20 years of experience in community engagement, planning, leadership, and fundraising. She has 10 years’ experience in federal grant management, compliance, and evaluation. Wendy has raised over $10 million through membership, donors, and innovative business partnerships. Her experience includes human health, education, and environmental programs. She is an expert facilitator, collaborator, and transition leader. We are grateful that Wendy is willing to share her talents as a Fund for Idaho board member. Her BS from University of Michigan in Natural Resources Management and Policy has prepared her for a lifetime of work in many roles.
How It All Started
In 2002, Jim Hansen (UVI), Liz Merrill (Social Justice Fund NW), and Gary Sandusky (ICAN) drove down to Bliss, ID, to visit Christopher Hormel (Snake River Alliance, GEPI). As they all talked, they concluded that what Idaho needed was its own publicly supported foundation to fund grassroots work to counter the activities of extremists who denied the pain and suffering in the lives of some of their fellow citizens. That was the seed that grew into Fund for Idaho.
Among the many others with the vision to help this seed to grow were Lisa Leff (Trillium Asset Management), Diane Ronayne (writer, photographer, City Club of Boise), and Rick Johnson (ICL).
Fund for Idaho is the fruit of their labor – a publicly supported foundation started by activists to support the grassroots work of activist organizations in Idaho. These groups take on the root causes of social and environmental justice issues so that Idaho can become a more just, compassionate and healthy place for all its residents, regardless of their race, gender, class, ethnic background, or sexual orientation.
Why It Started
Over the last 25 years, conservative forces have risen to power in Idaho – forces that place no importance on the well-being of all Idaho’s citizens. They have instituted policies that perpetuate the privilege of the wealthy and powerful at great cost to those who lack power or money, especially women, minorities and low-income people. Driven by personal experiences in their communities, small nonprofits have organized to address these inequities and injustices.
One of the main obstacles these grassroots groups encounter is lack of available funding – a trend that has increased over the last 20 years as the few large foundations with a history of funding progressive work in Idaho have moved their funding to “blue” states instead of funding in red states like Idaho. This trend has been intensified by the economic downturn as all endowed foundations have lost assets, leaving less money available for grants. In Idaho, this has resulted in groups with solid track records having to close their doors.
Fund for Idaho’s founders recognized that the state needed its own source of funding to provide consistent support to our local grassroots groups. The small grants from Fund for Idaho have become life and death for many of the groups we fund. In addition, most foundations award grants with no input from groups actively working in the issue areas they support, so groups doing the work with the most impact work may not be funded.