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What People Say About Us
"BSI’s Montana Nonprofit Connections Program gave Montana Shares the resources and tools to create a professional image and message, to match the high quality of work of Shares and our members."

Joy McGrath, Former Executive Director

Montana Shares
Rural Nonprofit Development Initiatives

To successfully accomplish its mission in Philanthropic Divide states like Montana, Big Sky Institute develops sustainable infrastructure organizations to help nonprofits build to scale, expand their capacities and increase their effectiveness. The lack of infrastructure organizations in Montana and surrounding states led BSI to pioneer an approach to nonprofit sector infrastructure development in these states that combines research and assessment, constituency and leadership development, seed funding, vision development, interim staffing and incubation services.

BSI's first major initiative in this arena was the highly successful development of the Montana Nonprofit Association (MNA), now independent of BSI. It has a membership of 650 nonprofits, a staff of five experienced professionals, and a robust program of professional development opportunities, public policy work, and discounted goods and services that save participating member organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Subsequent BSI projects to build nonprofit sector infrastructure in Montana also provide replicable approaches for other Divide and rural states. In addition, BSI extended and refined these projects to assist with the development of nonprofits in Montana's Indian Country.

Indian Nonprofit Alliance
BSI worked throughout 2007 and 2008 with Native American leaders from the Office of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to lay groundwork for a new statewide initiative for Indian Country. Initially created as the Montana Indian Philanthropy and Nonprofit Group, it focused on increasing philanthropy for Indian Country, and strengthening Indian-controlled nonprofits that serve both reservation-based and urban Indian communities. An organizing committee was recruited, comprised of leaders from Indian Country, the philanthropic community, the nonprofit infrastructure community and state government. A series of planning meetings occurred during this time period which resulted in the formation of the Indian Nonprofit Alliance, an Indian-controlled organization.

Enhanced Fiscal Sponsorship and Incubation Services
BSI strengthened its capacity to provide fiscal sponsorship and incubation services for new organizations created through our primary mission of infrastructure development. In response to increased Internal Revenue Service scrutiny of nonprofit practices, including the arena of fiscal sponsorship, BSI linked with the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors as the first of several steps to learn about emerging "best practices" for fiscal sponsors. In addition, BSI explored the need for more comprehensive and accessible sources for fiscal sponsorship services in Montana, as nonprofits providing these services were possibly more reticent to do so in light of this increased scrutiny, potentially leaving worthy projects in limbo.

Cooperative Development of Nonprofit Sector Infrastructure
Montana and other Philanthropic Divide states lack many nonprofit infrastructure components that are essential for a vibrant and effective nonprofit sector. BSI shared the results of our national Philanthropic Divide Nonprofit Sector Infrastructure Assessment with Montana's nonprofit community and other priority stakeholder audiences. BSI plan on working with this broad community and key partners to determine priorities for infrastructure development, and formulate an action plan to create them.

High Impact Consulting Program
BSI and others recognize that technical assistance and capacity building are best accomplished through sustained contact between the consulting service provider and the nonprofit organization. We look forward to developing a Montana High Impact Consulting Program for Capacity Building. Our goal will be to help Montana nonprofits rapidly, yet systematically, build to scale through a multi-year program of instensive consulting services. BSI will recruit a highly skilled national practitioner to work with BSI and a cadre of Montana nonprofit organizational development consultants to design and implement this program.

Nonprofit Consulting Services
BSI's staff and our network of key contractors provide strong nonprofit organizational development skills to anchor core programs and projects. As BSI expands its capacity, we will explore ways to make these skills available to Montana's nonprofits through fee-based consultant services. The Foraker Group in Alaska has been immensely successful in this arena, and serves both large and small nonprofits in the largest and most sparsely populated state of all the Divide states. BSI will investigate how Foraker's model could be either replicated or adapted for Montana.

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