Vibrant Communities

While Colorado as a whole is enjoying a period of economic growth, the benefits of the new economy are not spread evenly. The Front Range and some mountain towns are growing in size and prosperity, while many rural communities are in decline as mining, oil, and gas industries exit and family farms and ranches struggle. Meanwhile, Colorado also has a persistent wage gap by race and ethnicity — and income distribution in the state is more unequal today than the 1920s.

The Gates Family Foundation is committed to helping urban and rural communities grow stronger and more resilient, so that all of Colorado’s residents have vibrant environments in which to live, work, and play. We believe in the power of community-driven solutions, and seek to empower underrepresented residents and stakeholders who are working to advance equity and opportunity in their communities. We support the long-term sustainability of Colorado’s cities and towns, by investing in infrastructure and projects that strengthen local assets and foster connections in all corners of the state:

Bicycle Colorado – Colorado Pedal Project

Multi-Modal Mobility

As Colorado’s population density increases, traffic congestion threatens our quality of life. Mobility options such as public transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and shared vehicles can improve air quality, encourage economic development, and provide opportunities for safe, healthy, active travel.

The Foundation supports efforts to build transportation systems that empower residents to move efficiently and affordably. We prioritize transportation infrastructure that also fosters placemaking and community development, such as enhanced sidewalk spaces, safe pathways to schools and community facilities, affordable housing and development along public transit lines, and connections between trails and parks.

See recent Multi-Modal Mobility grants

Food Systems and Agriculture

Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project 

Ranching and farming are not only a way of life in Colorado, but also significant economic drivers. Food production has a major impact on statewide economic health, fresh food access, and land and water usage. Colorado’s agricultural industry has been under strain due to shifting commodity markets, competition for land and water resources, and intensifying weather patterns. As older farmers and ranchers retire, more of Colorado’s farm and ranch land will be threatened and could be removed from productive use.

To confront these challenges, the Gates Family Foundation supports farmers and ranchers as they adopt more efficient aggregation, processing, and distribution strategies — such as local food hubs and cooperatives — and innovate to develop more profitable supply chains and new institutional markets, such as local school districts and hospitals. We invest in projects that create value for food producers and their communities, strengthen economic opportunity throughout the supply chain, conserve our state’s land and water resources, preserve agricultural communities and promote multi-generational land transfer, and increase access to fresh, healthy food options for all Coloradans.

See recent Food Systems and Agriculture grants

Informed Communities and Local News

Journalist Erica Meltzer covers education for Chalkbeat Colorado (Photo: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Journalist Erica Meltzer covers education for Chalkbeat Colorado (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Informed, engaged communities are vital to a well-functioning democracy and key to the future of many important issues in our state – public education, natural resources, community development, and more. Trustworthy, rigorous, fact-based local news is a fundamental component of healthy, thriving communities – and its absence is an indicator of failing communities.

Gates has supported public media as a civic institution for decades, and nonprofit digital startups since 2011 as in-depth news coverage of our strategic priority issues has declined. Through the Colorado Media Project, the Foundation also works to galvanize support for public service journalism and help local newsrooms evolve in ways that meet the needs of more Coloradans in the digital age.

See recent Informed Communities grants

Access to Economic Opportunity

Tabor Opera House

Tabor Opera House, Leadville

Communities thrive when residents have access to good jobs, affordable housing, and economic mobility. As many mountain towns and cities along Colorado’s Front Range experience rapid growth and investment, the rising cost of living is pushing low- and moderate-income residents farther from the opportunities they need to attain a high quality of life. In rural areas experiencing job loss, residents are grappling with ways to create new opportunities and livelihoods that sustain communities into the 21st century. Across the state, entrepreneurs who are women, low to moderate-income, and people of color continue to face greater barriers to accessing capital, limiting innovation and job creation in Colorado communities.

The Gates Family Foundation supports innovative approaches to local community wealth building such as community land trusts, support for non-traditional entrepreneurs, and small business incubation. We also encourage projects that revitalize main streets, support heritage tourism, and develop or enhance a locally-driven creative economy. We look for projects that have both public and private stakeholder involvement, broad community support, and a demonstrable pathway to increase jobs and economic opportunity for local residents.

See recent Access to Economic Opportunity Grants

Placemaking

5280 Loop, Downtown Denver

5280 Loop, Downtown Denver

Robust public spaces create opportunities for people to gather, recreate, and celebrate. If done well, they also can promote local tourism and economic activity. Particularly in Colorado’s rural communities, public gathering spaces are important cultural and civic infrastructure that require intentional planning, community input, and funding. As municipal budgets are stretched thin, communities must rely more heavily on public-private partnerships to offer public services and facilities.

The Foundation supports public space enhancements, rural main streets, public parks and plazas, and greenways that enhance quality of life for all residents. We prioritize projects that significantly leverage other public and private resources and provide meaningful benefits to the community. Our strategic grantmaking in this area generally supports demonstration projects and pre-construction planning, while our capital grants program supports bricks-and-mortar projects.

See recent Placemaking grants

Community Planning

Elevation Community Land Trust

Elevation Community Land Trust

Without adequate planning, growth and development can be detrimental to communities. The land use patterns that Colorado establishes today will shape quality of life and resource consumption patterns for decades to come.

The Foundation invests in community planning projects that have an explicit goal to create on-the-ground improvements for residents. We support projects and activities that advance smart growth and sustainable development, green building techniques, community engagement, and neighborhood revitalization and stabilization in distressed areas. Foundation resources in this area are highly limited, so investments are reserved for select, catalytic opportunities that leverage other public and private funding opportunities and demonstrate an exceptional opportunity for impact.

See recent Community Planning grants

How We Support Vibrant Communities

Strategic Grants

Foundation staff work closely with a diverse group of partners to initiate and support community projects that advance the strategic priorities and goals listed above. Examples include the launch of a community land trust to combat gentrification and displacement, food hub collaboration that supports small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers, and efforts to strengthen trustworthy, local journalism throughout the state. If you think your project or organization might be a fit, we encourage you to browse our past community grants or contact a team member below.

Capital Grants

Three times a year, we accept applications for projects that build vibrant communities and fit the criteria of our capital grants program. We support a wide range of rural and urban acquisition, construction, expansion, and renovation projects that are responsive to community needs, benefit Colorado and its residents, and fall into at least one of the following categories: arts and culture, community development, education, parks and recreation, or well-being of children, youth and families.

Impact Investments

Alongside grantmaking, impact investments deploy more of the Foundation’s capital in mission-aligned ways. Our impact investments in vibrant communities support acquisition of sites for affordable housing and other community uses in close proximity to transit stations, provide below-market-rate loans to small businesses in low-income communities in Colorado, and provide growth capital to Colorado companies that have potential to generate strong market returns alongside social and/or environmental benefits.

Vibrant Communities Team

Gates’ staff members bring an array of experiences and talents to work with our partners and communities.

Community News & Insights

Local Foundations Galvanize Support as Denverite and Colorado Public Radio Join Forces

Local Foundations Galvanize Support as Denverite and Colorado Public Radio Join Forces

The statewide public radio network will acquire the Denver-based digital newsroom, in a move that will strengthen local journalism and ... Learn More

Colorado Voices: Parks are Building Blocks for Community

Colorado Voices: Parks are Building Blocks for Community

"The park is the end result -- but it's really the process of creating the park that is the most powerful thing." Learn More

Together, Local Funders, Journalists, Citizens Begin To Reinvent Civic-Minded News

Together, Local Funders, Journalists, Citizens Begin To Reinvent Civic-Minded News

Originally posted on the Trust, Media and Democracy blog of the Knight Foundation and the Local News Lab blog of the Democracy Fund. ... Learn More

Vibrant Communities Grantmaking

Roughly 40% of the Foundation’s annual grant making budget is allocated to the capital grants program, and an additional 10% is devoted to addressing the strategic priorities for rural and urban community development that are listed above.

Year Grantee Amount Type Strategic Priority Area Served
2018 Colorado Industrial Areas Foundation $30,250

Strategic Grant

Education

Adams

2018 Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism $25,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Arapahoe

2018 New Legacy Charter High School $250,000

Capital Grant

Education

Arapahoe

2018 Rocky Mountain Preparatory School $5,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2018 RootED $4,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2018 Edgewater Collective $27,500

Strategic Grant

Education

Jefferson

2018 Jefferson County School District $40,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Jefferson

2018 Empower Schools, Inc. $21,519

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2018 America Succeeds $252,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2018 Colorado Succeeds $30,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Chaffee County

2018 Grassroots Foundation, Inc. $40,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Yuma

2018 Colorado League of Charter Schools $80,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2018 Colorado Education Organizing Funder Collaborative (CEO) $60,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2018 Colorado Youth Congress $60,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2018 Academy of Advanced Learning $50,000

Capital Grant

Education

Arapahoe

2018 RootED $300,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2018 Charter Board Partners $20,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2018 A+ Colorado $120,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2018 Education Reform Now $150,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2017 Ricardo Flores Magon Academy $200,000

Capital Grant

Education

Denver

2017 Colorado Charter Facility Solutions $80,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2017 A+ Colorado $5,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2017 Valley Settlement Project $80,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Garfield

2017 Lake County School District R-1 $150,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Lake

2017 Bellwether Education Partners Inc. $105,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2017 Colorado Children’s Campaign $100,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2017 Chalkbeat $150,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2016 Colorado Public Radio/KCFR $50,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2015 Rocky Mountain Preparatory School $850,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2016 Roots Elementary School $160,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2014 Teach For America $1,050,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2016 Mesa County Valley School District #51 $298,299

Strategic Grant

Education

Mesa

2018 Keystone Center $100,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Montezuma

2018 Roaring Fork School District $10,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Garfield

2018 Colorado Future Farmers of America Foundation $30,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2018 Civic Canopy $40,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2018 Climb Higher Colorado $40,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2018 Atlas Preparatory School $35,000

Capital Grant

Education

El Paso

2018 National Black Child Development Institute $25,000

Strategic Grant

Education

Denver

2018 Rural Education Community Planning Initiative $75,000

Strategic Grant

Education

* Statewide

2015 Colorado Charter Facility Solutions $5,000,000

Program-Related Investment

Education

* Statewide

2014 AXL Academy $250,000

Program-Related Investment

Education

Arapahoe