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Opinion: A Colorado foundation gives it all away — now — to battle the climate crisis

The tipping point is here. It’s time to go big. We invite other foundations to do the same

I am proud to call Colorado home. Our headwaters spring from the peaks of the Rockies, starting as snow and melting into creeks that, from the top of our Continental Divide, ultimately feed the Colorado River flowing west to California, and the Rio Grande flowing east to the Gulf of Mexico. Our waters provide drinking water for more than 40 million people, support a $1.4 trillion economy and irrigate 5 million acres of farm and ranch land.

Jordana Barrack

These rivers, this land, these communities feed our nation, and beyond. We are a hub of innovation, science, business, and thriving lives. Yet, at this point, all Coloradoans have been touched by the impacts of wildfire, climate change, and drought.

We are at a tipping point. What happens here, in Colorado, will write the story of the West and our nation.  

As wildfires put communities at risk, as our spectacular and fragile web of life threatens to unravel, as our nation’s core democratic values are under attack, now is the time for family foundations such as  ours, and all philanthropic institutions, to ask how we can have the greatest impact. This moment calls for compassion, courage, and action on a grand scale.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

That is why our Colorado-based Mighty Arrow Family Foundation recently made the decision to donate the entirety of our fund and sunset our foundation by 2040. Our founder, Kim Jordan, spent her career exploring business as a force for good with New Belgium Brewing, which she co-founded. The success of New Belgium opened doors to an abundance of opportunity, and that same entrepreneurial spirit has guided the Foundation’s work today. 

As Kim says, “great wealth comes with great responsibility.” According to a report from the United Philanthropy Forum, for every $1,000 of inherited wealth, the inheritor gives $0.76 to charity. Kim, her family and our team recognize that this inherited and intergenerational transfer of wealth does not address the immediate challenges facing our world. Our big, complex problems demand that we all step up and go big in our own ways. For those with means, that means giving big. And that’s what we’re prepared to do. 

The innovators, nonprofits and advocates we support need capital for transformational solutions now — whether that’s clean-energy solutions, or voting-rights advocacy, or new approaches to ensure clean water and healthy, sustainable food.

While 2040 is the horizon for our sunset, we’ve developed a financial strategy that commits the bulk of our giving in these next 5 years. This allows us to answer the call of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report to direct more capital to climate solutions during this critical time period.

We’ve also been able to develop a rolling budget projection to commit to our partners for several more years. Ninety-three percent of Mighty Arrow’s grant portfolio is in 3-year commitments, which is a tactic that empowers us to deepen our relationships with the organizations we support, and to give them the financial confidence to strengthen organizational capacity. 

Colorado is home to many frontline organizations working to heal our social and ecological wounds and address the climate crisis. I see wellsprings of healing and bold solutions that can inspire and inform others around the West and the nation.

Consider GRID Alternatives Colorado, which installs rooftop, community, and multifamily solar electric systems for income-qualified households and affordable-housing providers throughout the state. They provide families with needed savings and also train Colorado workers for jobs in the growing solar industry — fighting climate change and building a clean energy future.

I’m inspired by the Colorado Forest Collaborative Network, within Colorado State University’s Center for Collaborative Conservation. Many of our local watershed coalitions are born out of fire and floods. Initial funding to stand up these organizations comes from federal emergency funds, which is time-limited and based on specific recovery projects. It is critical for us to keep these organizations resilient, continually working on our regional forests, and ready to act when the next disaster strikes. The Colorado Forest Collaborative Network is working to do just that.  

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

And I’m grateful for people like Beatriz Soto, the Director of Protégete, a program within Conservation Colorado. In a recent conversation with Beatriz, she said she “wanted every Latino in Colorado to be an environmentalist.” And rightfully so: Many Colorado Latino communities are in closer proximity to areas with poor air quality and higher environmental burdens. Protégete is working to engage individuals in underrepresented communities and develop local leaders. A strong democracy and public participation is key to not merely surviving— but thriving — in an era of climate change. 

To be in a crisis means we’re running out of time. Incremental steps are no longer sufficient. I call on fellow philanthropists to give more generously and more frequently. I call on our elected leaders to pursue just, equitable solutions that benefit people and nature.

It is time for those of us with power and privilege to go all in for positive, transformational change.  

Join us.


Jordana Barrack, of Fort Collins, is executive director of Mighty Arrow Family Foundation.


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