Rural Philanthropic Leader You Should Know:
Headwaters Foundation

headwaters chip

We feature some of the leading rural funders—both big and small—that work with communities over long timeframes and with highly respectful and engaged strategies. Our January 2020 feature is the Headwaters Foundation from western Montana—a leader in the Trust-Based philanthropy movement ( and a highly innovative funder that knows that small intentional grants can help support and energize rural community action.

Headwaters Foundation: Putting power in the hands of community

Headwaters Foundation believes that the people living and working in our communities have the answers to the deepest issues facing Western Montana’s children and families. So every day, we work side-by-side with communities to guide the region’s resources to improve the well-being of all Montanans, especially those who have not had the chance to be heard. Because by discovering solutions together, we can build a healthy and thriving Western Montana.

Democratizing philanthropy one relationship at a time

We start with community because we believe the answers to our regions’ biggest problems lie in the hands of those living and working to solve them. We believe communities are best positioned to create positive, upstream change that will improve the lives of Western Montanans.

We know that many people living in Western Montana have been left out of decision-making conversations that deeply affect their lives. We believe it’s time to change these conversations, change the system and change the power dynamic between funder and grantee.

That’s why we practice a new kind of philanthropy.

The kind of philanthropy that builds relationship on trust, that offers multi-year investments when possible, that streamlines processes and allows us to be a true partner.

With community at our core and trust as our default, we’ll put this new kind of philanthropy to work by investing more than $4 million in 2020 into community-driven solutions that reduce the social and economic barriers to health and wellbeing across four grantmaking programs: Strategic Initiatives, Policy and Influence, GO! Grants and Sponsorships.