Rural Funder Virtual Roundtable: Craig Showalter

Craig Showalter, Wyoming Community Foundation

Title: President & CEO
On the job since: 2011
Geographic scope: State of Wyoming
2015 rural funding: $6.1M
Staffing: 17 FTE

How has your career prepared you for your current role?

With over 30 years of experience working in the nonprofit sector, my diverse experience working on behalf of communities and individuals has prepared me well for my role of CEO for WYCF. Any nonprofit leader that has worked for even a short period of time in this sector quickly learns to be a jack of many trades. Limited resources provide experience in all areas of nonprofit leadership. Nonprofit executives are often the HR, finance, operations, public relations and chief fundraisers for their organizations. It’s something new and different every day; that’s what makes a career in the nonprofit sector so meaningful and personally rewarding!

What are the most important issues for rural grantees in your community?

Without question, boom/bust and economic down cycles makes it difficult for nonprofits to achieve sustainability, much less the ability to grow and thrive. Since the '80s, tax dollars available to support local community nonprofits has consistently dwindled as the appetite for supporting local programs through taxation has become the bane of both political parties. The nonprofit sector has worked diligently to fund the gap, while competition for charitable funds has also increased exponentially. There's also the misperception by many that nonprofits should find other ways to support operations and funds raised should be used only to support programs.   

What are your core strategies for addressing these issues?

WYCF has greatly increased staff and resources on the fund development side of our business model.  We encourage  organizations we fund to be good business people and also encourage them to focus on endowment building to grow their organizations to sustainability. Additionally, we provide Wyoming nonprofits with resources in the areas of governance, strategic planning, recruitment and retention of professional staff. We also host a biennial Wyoming Nonprofit Conference, which provides attendees with resources and the best national presenters on current best practice techniques and models for the sector.

How are demographics changing in your region, and how is your funding strategy addressing these changes?

Wyoming is a very homogenous state and like many other areas of the country, our population is aging. With a state population somewhere north of 500,000 people, I always say our biggest challenge is geography. Though WYCF frequently partners with national organizations on key social issues, our funding strategy is one of funding many small grants and leveraging monies from our donors who have invested in our donor-advised and agency-endowed funds. We utilize our local advisory boards and knowledge of local communities to assure we fund the right organizations that utilize resources to meet local needs.  WYCF is one of the few remaining organizations in Wyoming that still funds operations for nonprofits.

What has been a big success for your organization?

In the last five years, we have increased our annual distributions from roughly $3 million annually to $6 million.

What’s the biggest rural funding challenge your organization is tackling right now?

Wyoming is a rural state dependent on mineral taxes to sustain services for its citizens. The loss of expected revenue is significantly impacting every Wyoming community.  Unemployment is rising significantly which further impacts local economies. The net effect is that there is not one issue but many.

What’s one more question we should ask, and how would you answer it?

Q. What is does the “culture of philanthropy look like in your sphere of influence and what are you doing to improve it?
A. Developing slowly by building constituent relationships, one person at a time!

Craig Showalter is president and CEO of Wyoming Community Foundation, joining us this month for our virtual roundtable with rural funders.