Great Fish Challenge delivers $2.8M to nonprofits

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The Great Fish Award this year for the Great Fish Community Challenge went to CASA for Kids. Accepting the award is Jamie Campbell, executive director for CASA, and surrounding her are Sally Cameron Russell, Betsy Bayne, Bill Bayne, Tom McElwain and Carol McElwain. (Heidi Desch/Whitefish Pilot)

The Great Fish Community Challenge hit another high this year, raising a total of more than $2.8 million for 53 nonprofits.

Check after check was presented to nonprofit representatives Oct. 10 during the Great Fish Community Challenge Awards Celebration at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.

Nonprofits before the match raised $2.27 million, with most of the donations coming in the final two weeks of the campaign. The community foundation matches those donations for the final total, which came in at about $417,000 more than last year.

Across the board, the nonprofits in the seven-week challenge brought in more donations and had more individual donors than in the previous year’s challenge.

Foundation President Linda Engh-Grady said 80% of the nonprofits raised more than they did last year, and the average donor gave to roughly three nonprofits, proving the Great Fish makes it easy for donors to give.

“This is a big milestone,” she said. “We had a 500 donor increase and that’s what we want to see. Throughout the campaign our objective was to increase our donor base.”

The average amount raised by nonprofits was $43,000. Most of the charities raised more than $20,000, which is the maximum amount eligible to be matched, with some charities raising more than $100,000 through the campaign.

The Whitefish Community Foundation’s match was 49% on the first $20,000 raised by each nonprofit for a total of $485,000 in matching grants awarded to the nonprofits beyond what they raised during the campaign.

Linda Maetzold, board chair for the foundation, said the match is the direct result of the foundation’s Circle of Giving program.

“We could not organize the challenge without the support and growth of our Circle of Giving program,” she said. “Our Circle donors are the backbone of the match fund and they make this campaign a success.”

The Great Fish Award this year went to CASA for Kids, which provides volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children in the foster care. They serve more than 300 children each year in Flathead County.

The award includes a $7,500 grant and recognizes a nonprofit for the impact they make on the community and for their outstanding participation in all areas of the 2019 challenge. This award is selected each year by the Whitefish Community Foundation Board of Directors.

The Stumptown Ice Den earned a major community grant of an $30,000 toward the purchase an electric Zamboni.

The Abbie Shelter received the Jean Howard Memorial Award with a $5,000 grant, and the Biggest Catch award. The Russ and Mary Jane Street Community Service Award went to Whitefish Legacy Partners with a $2,500 grant and the Doris Schumm Community Spirit Award went to DREAM Adaptive Recreation with a $2,500 grant.

The Corporate Citizenship Award was given to First Interstate Bank for its support of the Great Fish. The bank directed a donation of $2,500 to the Nate Chute Foundation.

Four awards selected by the foundation’s staff for outstanding commitment to the challenge were awarded a $500 grant. The New Fish on the Block Award went to the Lighthouse Christian Home; the Best Fishing Award to Farm Hands — Nourish the Flathead; the Fish Teamwork Award went to Child Bridge and the Best Fish Form Award went to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Flathead County.

Winning awards for their booths at the Great Fish Community Challenge Color Run and Community Celebration events in September were Habitat for Humanity Flathead Valley, Stumptown Art Studio, North Valley Food Bank and Farm Hands — Nourish the Flathead.

The Poetry Slam Contest winner was the Whitefish Review earning a $1,000 grant for the most creative poem representing the true spirit of the Great Fish Community Challenge.

Whitefish Community Foundation organizes the annual campaign free of charge for participating nonprofits. The foundation, with help from its sponsors, covers the cost of the campaign to ensure all donations go to the charities.

For more information about the Whitefish Community Foundation visit

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