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Community Impact: West Texas Rural Philanthropy Days


Philanthropy is active in the Permian Basin. With the recent growth of the economies in Midland and Odessa, some new foundations have been created while others have expanded their reach.

For some local foundations, their service area isn't relegated simply to the Permian Basin but is more expansive throughout West Texas. Non-profit organizations in the Big Bend, for example, routinely receive grant funding from the Permian Basin Area Foundation and the Abell Hanger Foundation.
One way that the Permian Basin is seeking to connect with Big Bend foundations is through a three-day conference called the West Texas Rural Philanthropy Days. It's being held on the campus of Sul Ross State University in Alpine on July 31st through August 2nd. There are 40 Texas counties in its service area.

Laurie Johnson of the Nonprofit Management Center in Midland will be a participant in the conference. She sees a divide in the state - between our region and the more populous, urban areas of Texas.

"Those of us out here West of 1-35 face challenges and may not have some representation that we really should have because our non-profits are critical to providing our quality of life that we so much enjoy in the West Texas area," said Laurie Johnson.
She described how non-profits in rural West Texas struggle to get the word out about their organizations. But non-profits - and the foundations that support them - need to look at the big picture.

"What are we doing to move the needle for the entire community. Not just how many people you had in your program this year or how many people were given food this year but what is it doing to change your community as a whole. And so, we're seeing people who are looking at these big issues--poverty. And what are all the non-profits in the community doing to move the needle to help relieve poverty in that community. Or literacy. Or at-risk families. And that's really what we're seeing to push. We're seeing the funders say we want you to serve people but what is it doing to make a difference for the entire community and how are you collaborating with other people, other non-profits, and profits in your community to make that difference," said Johnson.

Mark Palmer, who works for the  Abell Hangar Foundation, is the former Executive Director of Nonprofit Management Center in Midland. He said West Texas Philanthropy Days is chance for non-profit organizations to meet with funders they wouldn't normally meet.

 "All the attendees are going to have the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with these funders. And make an appeal to find out are we a match for the kind of funding area focus that you have--does our mission match your priorities. So we think that's quite a unique opportunity," said Palmer.

West Texas Rural Philanthropy Days begins Wednesday in Alpine. More than a dozen foundations will participate.