Friday, December 01, 2023

ImagineIF Foundation invited back to Great Fish Challenge

Daily Inter Lake | August 1, 2023 12:00 AM

The ImagineIF Foundation is once again participating in the Great Fish Challenge a year after the nonprofit behind the fundraising drive dropped the organization, citing decisions made by the county library system’s governing board.

All proceeds the ImagineIF Foundation receives from the drive will go toward the Bigfork Library Project. The campaign to transform the former Bethany Lutheran Church Ark Building into a new home for the Bigfork branch of ImagineIF Libraries has raised $1.3 million of its $3.2 million goal.

The Great Fish Community Challenge is a six-week fundraising campaign that elicits community-wide giving for Flathead Valley nonprofits. For the campaign, the Whitefish Community Foundation provides a percentage match on the first $20,000 raised by each participating nonprofit.

The Whitefish Community Foundation did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

“They have been super gracious to us as an organization and are 100% behind Bigfork getting a new library. I think that’s really valuable,” said Sara Busse, president of the foundation’s board. “People have been looking at this as a Whitefish-centric fundraiser and it’s not anymore. They’ve done such a wonderful job at making it a Flathead Valley and community driven fundraiser.”

As one of a few nonprofits focusing on funding a specific project in this year’s drive, Busse said she is eagerly anticipating the moment when supporters in the community see their efforts come to fruition with the start of construction on the new branch in Bigfork.

At last week’s ImagineIF Board of Trustees meeting, Busse said the ImagineIF Foundation is in the process of signing a general contractor agreement with Martel Construction and will begin renovations when the campaign hits $2 million raised.

Busse announced the hiring of a capital campaign director for the Bigfork project, Kevin Wallace of Campaign Counsel. Wallace is working in an advisory role with the foundation and spoke at the July 27 meeting about his experiences raising funds for new libraries in Billings and Polson. He said they are hoping to get to $2 to $2.5 million raised in the next six months.

Busse also told trustees the nonprofit recently gave $43,000 to ImagineIF Libraries for programs for children and adults. It’s an increase from last year’s donation of $35,000, which the foundation gives annually to underwrite library programs.

Busse told the Daily Inter Lake that “the best part of our work as the foundation” is being able to see the programs provided to patrons. Annual programs funded by the ImagineIF Foundation include the library’s summer experience and early literacy programming, among many others.

Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or by emailing

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