Guest column: Gallatin Valley is better together

By EJ Porth, Gallatin Valley Land Trust Associate Director

May 15, 2024

We have an organizational value at the Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) that we call “Better Together,” humbly recognizing that our ability to successfully complete our mission depends on the passion, expertise, and perspective of our partners. Nothing embodies this value and collaborative spirit more than One Valley Community Foundation’s annual Give Big Gallatin Valley initiative. For 10 years, One Valley has been hosting 24 hours of giving to local nonprofits. During that decade, the initiative has raised more than $17 million for everything from conservation and animals to seniors and housing.

We can’t take for granted the strength, vibrancy, and camaraderie of our nonprofit community thanks to leadership from One Valley. Over the last decade, One Valley has shifted the nonprofit community’s mindset from scarcity to abundance. They have increased the nonprofit sector’s impact by equipping organizations with trainings around best practices and directing funds to support programs. They have built community within nonprofits and have promoted a “rising tides lifts all boats” mentality. In this spirit, Give Big was born. We’re not competing, rather there’s enough goodwill and generosity in this community to support all our community’s needs.

From the very first fledging year, the goal was to demonstrate that everyone can be a philanthropist because a thriving community relies on the investments of time, treasures, and talents of every neighbor. I still remember the joy I felt in the early years of Give Big as a young professional. I had the privilege and resources to donate for the first time, choosing five causes that aligned with my values and contributing $20 to each. As I refreshed the webpage over and over to see the total grow and grow throughout the day, I saw the collective impact of my gift leveraged by others. As a donor, I felt proud. As a nonprofit employee, I felt seen. That first Give Big and every year since has been electric. Every year I am overcome with emotion when time and time again we break our own community records for dollars raised and donors engaged. Every year I am inspired when I see small organizations get the financial support and visibility they so deserve.

The Gallatin Valley’s spirit around nonprofits and philanthropy is incredibly strong and something newcomers notice when they first move to town. And it’s no surprise, in Montana’s rural history, we survived by relying heavily on our neighbors for support. Our nonprofits’ vital services and programs do yeoman’s work alongside government and business to support and build a vibrant, inclusive, and resilient community.

After a long winter, when I wonder if nonprofits have the stamina to continue addressing the urgent and complex challenges pressuring our growing community, Give Big rolls around, right on time. My anxiety about the future of this place subsides and my peers and I look forward once again with the hope of what’s possible. Each year, for a day in May, people of all stripes and colors join together to affirm the good work of nonprofit organizations and rejuvenate our spirits to keep pushing ahead.

During this year’s event, as the community’s total giving neared One Valley’s goal of $3 million and the end of the day on that Friday afternoon approached, I sat with some longtime colleagues at GVLT. We were energized and in the brain trust, puzzling our way through an exciting and particularly challenging future trail connection. As we sat cross-legged on the floor over a large, printed map, beer in hand, the tone was hopeful. We had wind in our sails. The shackles of scarcity were off for the time being, and we were imagining what could be. Buoyed by the donors who contributed to GVLT and our many nonprofit partners that day, we were given permission to dream big. We could have never known 10 years ago how much we would need this day of giving, gratitude, abundance, and renewed hope for the future. Please join me in thanking the One Valley Community Foundation, everyone who donated, and the Gallatin Valley nonprofit community for all that you do!

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