Looking Back on 2020

January 21, 2021

A difficult year inspired immense generosity.

Thanks to the incredible engagement of impact-driven philanthropists, 2020 was a record-breaking year for The Denver Foundation. Giving was up across the board, demonstrating once again that this community always comes through in challenging times.

Contributions to the Foundation from individuals, families, businesses, and corporations totaled $202 million, the most in our history. Even more impressive, giving through and by The Denver Foundation also reached record levels, with the Foundation and our fundholders awarding over $113 million in grants to thousands of nonprofits.

These figures are remarkable as they represent significant increases over 2019, a year that also broke records. Contributions to the Foundation and its funds increased by 54%, while grantmaking out of the Foundation was up 16%.

“The Denver Foundation’s community of donors and fundholders showed up in incredible ways to meet the challenging moments of 2020,” says Dace West, Chief Impact Officer. “Their generosity made it possible for the Foundation and nonprofits to help communities across Colorado. The impact of giving through the Foundation last year was deep, meaningful, and long-lasting.”

What drove this generosity? Many people told us they were motivated to give by compounding crises including the global pandemic, a national reckoning with racial injustice, and a number of natural disasters. The Denver Foundation welcomed many new donors and fundholders in 2020. We worked closely with donors and their professional advisors to manage a number of large gifts and complex assets, including gift annuities and estate transfers. In keeping with our broad definition of what makes a “philanthropist,” and knowing that our community is built and supported by all of us, we encouraged and embraced gifts of every size and type.

Many donors and fundholders chose to co-invest with The Denver Foundation on pandemic-relief initiatives, including the longstanding, donor-supported Critical Needs Fund. In March, we mobilized this fund to address the urgent needs of people across Colorado, generating $2.6 million by year’s end.

Donors and fundholders also gave generously to support Help Colorado Now, founded by Governor Jared Polis; the COVID-19 Arts & Culture Relief Fund, which has so far granted $1.2 million to 41 nonprofits in Denver; and the Black Resilience in Colorado (BRIC) Fund, which recently distributed nearly $468,00 in its first round of grants to Black-led and Black-serving organizations.

The data used in this article has not yet been audited. Data for the Critical Needs Fund represents activity between March 13, 2020 and December 31, 2020.