Philanthropy in Wyoming: Who's Giving and for What?

photo: Dean Fikar/shuttersock

photo: Dean Fikar/shuttersock

Wyoming is the least populated state in the nation, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about in terms of charitable giving. As with many places in the Northwest, grantmaking has been on the rise, here. According to Philanthropy Northwest data, giving in Wyoming rose 30 percent over a recent two-year period.

The biggest priority for Wyoming funders lately is the environment and animals, which is something we rarely see in other states. But Wyoming is legendary for its natural beauty, boasting no less than seven national parks as well as an array of historic sites and private preserves.

Grant dollars, though, also flow to more familiar areas; education and health are major priorities for funders, too.  

Something that may surprise you, though, is that arts and culture grantmaking in Wyoming has been particularly strong, lately. Approximately 11 percent of overall grants in the state funded arts and culture, compared to just 4 percent overall in the Northwest. Funders are backing philanthropy and nonprofit management lately, which is good news for local groups in need of a capacity building boost.

An important Wyoming grantmaker is the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, which has a competitive grant program, a micro-grant program, and a youth philanthropy program for high school students. Topics of interest are arts, civic involvement, education, environment, health and human services, and recreation. As we noted in our profile of this foundation, Teton County groups have an excellent chance to receive funding. In a recent cycle, it received 38 applications and funded 30.

The McMurry Foundation is also a big grantmaker, here, prioritizing education, religion, arts and humanities, children, economic development, health, and human services. Meanwhile, the LOR Foundation supports rural communities in Wyoming, as well as ones in Colorado, Idaho, Montana and New Mexico. Some family funders that provide Wyoming support are the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, the Joe & Arlene Watt Foundation, and the Robert S. & Grayce B. Kerr Foundation.

The Wyoming Nonprofit Network is a good resource for current funding opportunities, and this group published a report last year that highlights the scope of statewide organizations and the sector’s economic impact. According to report data, there are 2,952 public charities, 301 private foundations, and 1,339 other nonprofit organizations in Wyoming. The greatest number of public charities (451) are in Laramie County, with human services as the biggest cause supported overall.

In addition to the other funder’s listed above, top grantmakers known for giving steadily to Wyoming charities are the Wyoming Community Foundation, George B. Storer Foundation, and the Homer A. and Mildred S. Scott Foundation. It's also worth mentioning that some five billionaires claim Wyoming as their home state, including two Walton heirs—which explains why some grants from the Walton Family Foundation have recently found their way to Wyoming. Many other very wealthy people have second homes here, especially in Jackson Hole, and local nonprofits should keep a close eye on these potential major donors. 

Keep up with related funding news by following Philanthropy Northwest’s Wyoming section and our Northwest coverage here at IP.