How the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation Gives in the Mountain West



In today’s digital age, old-fashioned newspapers often feel like a thing of the past. But while lots of newspapers around the country are going out of business, some media companies that started in the print era of the newspaper industry are evolving with the times and even doing well enough to give back to their communities.

In 1975, Phil Swift founded what is now known as Swift Communications, a family-owned media company that focuses on resort-sector news in the Mountain States. Based in Carson City, Nevada, Swift has numerous publications in Nevada, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota, California, and even nationally. And the company’s success has also paved the way for the grantmaking endeavors of the Bessie Minor Swift Foundation.

The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation is named after Phil’s mother, who was always interested in reading, history, and music. Communities served by Swift Communications today and that work in these fields can benefit from this foundation’s local giving in significant ways.

The Swift Foundation recently announced its 2019 grant recipients, a total of $83,156 to 37 organizations. In each grant cycle, this funder focuses its attention on efforts that promote reading, writing, and literacy skills, as well as language, science, and STEM programs for youth. Furthermore, Swift maintains a regional focus that nonprofits in the Mountain States will want to learn about.

In Swift’s most recent round of giving, it awarded 18 grants in Colorado, including ones to Scott Elementary School in Greeley and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. In the company’s home state of Nevada, the foundation awarded eight grants, including ones to Sierra Nevada Journeys in Reno and Get in the Act! Arts in Action in Dayton. Two Utah organizations, Park City READS and Trailside Elementary School secured new Swift funding. In addition to the Mountain States, Swift also awarded a few grants in California and one in Wisconsin.

By far, the bulk of Swift recent grants have been going towards language programs, but the competition is tough. The foundation received over 185 applications for this year’s grant cycle and was only able to fund 37 groups. While about 59 percent of overall funding has gone to language programs since the foundation first launched, it has mentioned that STEM and interdisciplinary project support is on the rise.

This is a funder that doesn’t shy away from newly established nonprofits and sticks to programs that provide direct services. Swift Foundation grants are typically between $500 and $3,000 each, and all grants are for one-year periods. Since inception, the funded has distributed over $620,000 to make 316 awards, with grantmaking slightly increasing by the year.

The Swift Foundation is an accessible grantmaker in the region, welcoming unsolicited applications from local groups. The 2020 grant application is already available on the funder’s website for the February 15, 2020 deadline, and it will begin accepting new submissions as of January 1.