The Chinook Fund was founded in 1987 during the Ronald Reagan era, when a group of young, progressive philanthropists came together with a timely idea.
Inspired by the recent founding of the Funding Exchange in New York, they wanted to give birth to a foundation which would support small, grassroots organizations working for peace, human rights and economic justice. They also wanted the foundation to be held accountable to the communities it served, and to provide a way to hold activist organizations accountable to those communities as well, and so they launched our community – led grantmaking committee which makes all funding decisions for Chinook.
The founders decided to name the organization the Chinook Fund. In Colorado, a “chinook” is a warm, dry wind that blows powerfully down from the eastern slope of the Rockies, bringing a refreshing spring thaw to icy winter weather. And that was the vision for the new Chinook: supporting and growing grassroots democracy in Colorado, thawing a climate of fear, bigotry and violence.
Throughout the 1990’s Chinook Fund took a chance on providing seed money to many critical movements and organizations. When it was controversial to fund LGBTQ organizations after Amendment 2 was passed, Chinook led the way in providing grants to those organizing in response. When it was considered risky to fund groups organizing undocumented immigrants, Chinook was the first to lend its support. Chinook provided the first start-up grant, technical assistance, and consistent funding during the early years of many leading social change organizations in the state, including Colorado Progressive Coalition, 9 to 5 Colorado, Padres Unidos, Land Rights Council, Compañeros, Centro Humanitario and many more.
While Chinook Fund had long recognized racism as one of the most dangerous and pervasive barriers to social justice in our society, in 2002 the organization embarked on an intentional journey to look inward and examine the impacts of racism on every aspect of the organization and Chinook’s work. Though Chinook started with race, the community quickly realized that they could not understand oppression without also talking about sexism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, etc. This process was transformational for the organization and brought a diverse group of leaders at every level.
In this new millennium, Chinook Fund plays a critical role in supporting Colorado’s progressive movement and funding emerging issues. We continue to discover new groups who are working on a local level on the tough issues of our time. We invite you to join Chinook Fund by making a donation, volunteering or applying for a grant.