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What People Say About Us
"BSI’s Montana Nonprofit Connections Program is one of the most extraordinary examples of capacity building in the country, and serves as a national rural model for collaborative grantmaking."

Janine Lee, Co-Founder Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

President & CEO, Southeastern Council of Foundations
About Us!

A Brief History of BSI.

Beginning in 1999, a group of seasoned professionals drawn from the nonprofit world, including academia, government, foundations, nonprofit management and organizational development met for two years to plan the development of an organization unique in Montana. They were concerned about how Montana’s nonprofit organizations struggled to accomplish their missions in the face of challenges that were significantly different from their urban counterparts and often required specialized approaches to address. Like in many very rural states, Montana’s communities are distant from one another, with low population densities, and challenged local economies. Additionally, ten years ago, institutional philanthropy was much more modest in scale, nonprofit management training opportunities were scare, and the infrastructure to support and advocate for the nonprofit sector was minimal.

The founders of the Big Sky Institute for the Advancement of Nonprofits (BSI) envisioned that the organization would develop sustainable structures and resources to assist Montana nonprofits in building their own capacities to effectively carry out mission and deliver programs and services. To accomplish this, BSI would carry out research, dissemination, education, leadership development and special projects of significant promise. Recognizing the need for new funding to support nonprofit sector growth and development, BSI’s mission was subsequently broadened to include a goal of expanding philanthropy.

BSI filed its Articles of Incorporation as a nonprofit organization with the State of Montana in 1999, and BSI received its advance ruling from the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization in 2000.

Following its two-year planning and development phase, BSI formally opened its office in January of 2001, with founder Mike Schechtman serving as BSI's Executive Director. 2011 was BSI's Tenth Anniversary, and BSI celebrated a decade of ground-breaking work.

We are also excited that BSI is well on its way to implementing a new generation of program strategies. These will enable us to strengthen nonprofits and expand philanthropy both within targeted rural communities, as well as within networks of nonprofit organizations, which address similar issues, for example, early childhood development. BSI is particularly enthused about those projects that will enable us to combine our community-based and networked-focused approaches.

BSI’s Major Accomplishments. 

  • Development of Montana Nonprofit Association (2001 – 2004)  BSI incubated and staffed the development of the highly successful Montana Nonprofit Association from its very inception. [read more ]
  • Local Community Foundation Development  <>  Lewis & Clark County Community Foundation (2001 – 2009)  BSI provided incubation and consulting services to the Lewis and Clark County Community Foundation as part of a multi-year plan to increase the organization's capacities and self-reliance. [read more]
  • Local Community Foundation Development  <>  Park County Community Foundation (2004 – 2007)  BSI incubated and staffed the development of the Park County Community Foundation and served as its fiscal sponsor. [read more]
  • Local Community Foundation Development  <>  Bozeman Area Community Foundation (2007 – 2008)  BSI conducted training with the Board of Directors of the Bozeman Area Community Foundation and conducted a comprehensive organizational assessment, which led to the development of a one-year plan to guide future growth. [read more]
  • Guide to Local and County Community Foundations (2007 – 2008)  BSI created this unique Guide, which encourages Montana’s financial advisors to urge their clients to consider leaving a philanthropic legacy for their local communities through planned gifts and bequests to local community foundations. [read more]
  • Philanthropic Divide Initiative (2001 – 2010)  BSI coined the term “Philanthropic Divide,” and created an Initiative to increase grantmaking from regional and national foundations to nonprofits in the 10 states with the least amount of in-state foundation assets. [read more]
  • Assistance to Other Philanthropic Divide States (2002 – 2010)  BSI's Philanthropic Divide Initiative led to collaborations and cooperative efforts to assist colleague organizations in all of the Divide states. [read more]
  • Montana Nonprofit Connections Program (2006 – 2010)  The BSI – led, and collaboratively funded, MNC Program provided support and resources to help 18 nonprofits in Montana strengthen and expand their organizational capacities.  [read more]
  • Indian Nonprofit Alliance (2006 – 2010)  BSI incubated and staffed the early development stages of the Indian Nonprofit Alliance, which will help increase philanthropic support and nonprofit development for American Indian-controlled nonprofits in Montana and Wyoming. [read more]
  • Montana Early Care Initiative (2009 – 2010)  BSI created an initiative to help expand the availability and improve the affordability of child care opportunities across the state, and increase resources needed to provide training and technical assistance to child care providers in order to improve the quality of services provided to infants, toddlers, young children and their families. [read more]

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