When Denver created its first fund dedicated to affordable housing, a coalition of nonprofits shared in the triumph. The City Council’s decision in 2016 to create the $150 million fund followed years of strategic efforts by many groups working together.
The climactic 9-to-4 vote came after candlelight vigils and emotional hearings that the nonprofits packed with supporters, including residents hit by the city’s high rents.
If federal Washington’s stew of partisanship and paralysis makes you worry about the country’s future, look instead to this American city, where nonprofits and foundations are acting as problem solvers in ways that go far beyond their traditional roles.
This fall, nonprofits showed their influence once again, helping to push through a package of reduced bus and light-rail fees for low-income riders.
These policy victories are just the latest evidence of an unusual collaborative spirit that’s giving the city’s nonprofits strength and clout. They have a track record of working together, often sacrificing individual strategies to achieve a greater common goal.
Necessity was the catalyst for some of this collaborative culture. During the recession and in the years afterward, as real-estate prices in Denver surged, nonprofits struggled. Rather than scratch and fight each other for every available dollar, some found another survival tactic: pulling together.
To make sure they could cover their costs, organizations began to open offices in shared spaces. More than 60 international development groups found a home in the Posner Center in northeast Denver, a 19th-century trolley-horse barn rehabbed as an office hub. Tenants say the arrangement breaks down their isolation and leads to natural collaborations.