Philanthropy in the Public Sector: A Case Study of Fort Collins, Colorado

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

2019 Urban Affairs Association Annual Conference

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Fort Collins is a small city of 165,000 residents in Northern Colorado. With a strong local economy, proximity to outdoor recreation, the presence of a major university, and multiple amenities, Fort Collins has repeatedly won spots on “Best Places To (Live/Retire/Own a Home/etc.)” lists from Money magazine, Forbes, National Geographic, and Livability. As in other urban areas, income inequality is present and persistent, impacting households’ ability to experience Fort Collins as the highly livable community on which its reputation is based. Efforts to elevate the standard of living for all residents and reduce inequities between neighborhoods and segments of the population are reflected in the City of Fort Collins’ strategic plan objectives. While most funding for City programs and initiatives stems from local, state, and federal resources, major private donors do occasionally invest in special projects spearheaded by the City. Investment is often disjointed, driven by donor preferences and opportunities present at that time. The City of Fort Collins is now considering how best to utilize and leverage dollars from private donors, not only for special projects, but in a more strategic manner that can systematically advance the City’s objectives. This paper traces the development over the past two years of a novel donations and charitable funding infrastructure in the City of Fort Collins called City Give. The paper examines efforts existing nationwide to invest private funding in public projects, including endowments, corporate philanthropy, and Mayors’ funds; why these models were inadequate to accomplish the City of Fort Collins’ goals; and, what model the City of Fort Collins has developed to establish an infrastructure that allows for greater efficiency of and equity through private giving. Considerations for engaging the public in the process and advancing the public welfare of the community are discussed.


Fort collins; Novel donations; Charitable funding infrastructure; City give; Private funding


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social and Behavioral Sciences



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