Bringing together donors and nonprofits for collaboration and connection

March 14, 2023

In 2022, we heard from both fundholders and nonprofit partners that one of the key roles The Denver Foundation plays in the community is creating spaces for and helping to build and strengthen connections, particularly among donors and fundholders, and our nonprofit partners. 

In response, we planned two nonprofit donor salons in 2023, the first of which was held this month. This is an opportunity for donors and nonprofits to connect on a specific issue, like economic opportunity. During these salons, they learn from each other and identify ways each can engage to support Metro Denver.  

Dace West, chief impact officer of The Denver Foundation, kicked off the salon by emphasizing the need to be more intentional about bringing people together and creating a vibrant ecosystem for the community to thrive. 

The event featured representatives from different organizations who shared their experiences of working with individual donors and foundations to create economic opportunities in Denver. It also highlighted the innovation and collaboration happening among nonprofits in Denver. 

For this first nonprofit donor salon, we welcomed Tammy Bellofatto from Bayaud Enterprises, Alex Wise from CEDS Finance, Mark Smesrud from Center for Employment Opportunities, Yessica Holguin from the Center for Community Wealth Building, Angeles Ortega from Mi Casa Resource Center, Karen Geznick from Mile High WorkShop, and Jessica Sveen from Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute (RMMFI). 

One thing that was clear from the conversation was the collaboration that takes place among the nonprofits in attendance. They all work together to create economic opportunity in our community. They talked about referring clients to one another, and partnering on innovative projects. These organizations work to help people become entrepreneurs, or gain job skills to find and retain a stable income. 

Mark Smesrud from Center for Employment Opportunities talked about how he shares credentialling with Mile High WorkShop. Working together they are able to get their workers the credentials they need to be successful as they reintegrate into the workforce. 

Alex Wise from CEDS Finance talked about their collaboration with MiCasa and RMMFI. “We think about what our strategic value is. What will we do and what aren’t we going to do? We partner with MiCasa to train. We also have clients who come in and meet with a loan officer, but need help thinking through the strategy of their business. We send them to RMMFI to go through the ideation phase and get support.” 

Not only are nonprofits working together, but the collaboration between donors, foundations, and nonprofits is really making a difference.  

“There is a partnership and collaboration in the work,” says Jessica Sveen from Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute. “We are interested in solving these social problems together, with donor and foundation support.”

The conversation illuminated innovative projects that nonprofits were doing together. Yessica Holguin from the Center for Community Wealth Building highlighted how they partnered with other nonprofits to help businesses that were struggling during the pandemic. Following the George Floyd murder, she worked with RMMFI, CEDS, and others to create a directory of Black-owned businesses, a database now housed on This was one way that organizations that wanted to make a difference post-Geroge Floyd could find and support Black businesses, like caterers. It helped create new markets for these businesses. 

The salon showed how nonprofits collaborate to achieve their goals, and how individual donors and foundations play a vital role in that collaboration. The innovative ideas that were presented highlighted how nonprofits are always pushing boundaries to solve social problems in the community. The salon was an excellent way to showcase how nonprofits and donors are working together to make Denver stronger.  

We are looking forward to hosting more salons in the future to encourage collaboration and innovation and connection.  

You will be able to find stories about all these nonprofits on our blog in the coming months. You can find videos of the nonprofits highlighted at our inaugural event on our YouTube channel.