Rural Funder Virtual Roundtable: Mary Rutherford

Mary Rutherford, Montana Community Foundation

Title: President & CEO
On the job since: 2014
Geographic scope: State of Montana
2015 funding to rural communities: $3.6M
Staffing: 15 FTE

How has your career prepared you for your current role?

Twenty years’ focus on philanthropy has prepared me for this role.  My early career was spent in marketing before transitioning to the nonprofit sector.  My career in philanthropy began when I first served as the executive director of a small rural community hospital foundation.  I then went on to lead fundraising efforts for a capital campaign at a university before transitioning to leading fundraising efforts at a university system and heading up a statewide university foundation.  Each step along the way taught me things that have been invaluable in my current role.  Understanding community involvement, the importance of volunteerism and support, fundraising, and complex systems.  Each place and each element has been invaluable in preparing me for this role.  In addition to my career, earning a master’s degree in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University, was an important component that helped prepare me for my current role.

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

Strong, community leadership and community sustainability.

What are your core strategies for addressing these issues?

The realization that communities know their challenges, realities and potential better than anyone.  They also know how best to solve their challenges.  Our core strategy is helping them see the potential, help them develop a roadmap to their desired destination, and support them in doing everything they can possibly do for themselves.

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

The maturing of Montanans, and those leaving rural communities and even the state for economic opportunity.  Our strategy has been to help local communities capture the occurring intergenerational transfer of wealth to build permanent endowed funds for the benefit of those communities.

What has been a big success for your organization?

Partnering with local communities and organizations to build endowments. In two years, we’ve seen exponential growth in the size and number of permanent endowments, as well as the number of planned gifts and bequest expectancies, all for the benefit of Montana.

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

Actualizing the intergenerational transfer of wealth to benefit Montana communities.

Mary Rutherford is president and CEO of Montana Community Foundation, joining us this month for our virtual roundtable with rural funders.