Skip to main content

5 Years of Changemaking

The Ripple Effect

In our inaugural impact report, we share the power of what’s possible when you connect passionate people with the resources they need to drive change.

Who We Are

Our mission is to work side-by-side with Western Montanans to improve the health of our communities.

We believe that when Montana’s children, families and Native American communities are strong and their voices are heard, we can create a Western Montana where all people are healthy and thriving.

Learn about our journey…

Headwaters Foundation works to improve the health of Western Montanans by…

Our Journey

Starting from the beginning…


Headwaters Foundation forms as a steward of publicly-owned funds that were transitioned into an endowment after the sale of Community Medical Center. Board of Directors assembles and hires staff, who hit the road to hear from Montanans.



Community input guides funding priorities and first grants are made to support Montana kids and families through the Zero to Five Initiative and GO! Grants.



Community conversation informs launch of Native American Health and Wellbeing grantmaking; community advisory board forms. Headwaters becomes a founding member of the Trust Based Philanthropy Project which seeks to democratize grantmaking.



$775k in emergency grants are distributed to support Western Montanans during the pandemic.



Headwaters team deepens commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by starting internal learning journey, and increases funding to policy and advocacy efforts and nonprofit capacity building.



Headwaters opens Confluence Center: A Home for Nonprofit Events in downtown Missoula and receives $14 million contribution from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to redistribute in service to its mission.

By the Numbers

From 2017 to 2022, Headwaters Foundation…






partners in the state

distributed over


in only 5 years

Montana counties supported by grant funding

Headwaters Foundation serves the Flathead Nation and Montana’s 15 westernmost counties. Find more about where funds have been distributed below.

Programs supported by grant funding

Headwaters Foundation is committed to financial and programmatic transparency. Find more about our finances, investments and policies below.

Programs, Partnerships and Impact

Investing in Early Childhood

Headwaters Foundation seed-funded the Zero to Five Initiative in 2018. It is now a robust network of organizations working to solve some of the toughest challenges for Montana families and help kids get a strong start in life.

Zero to Five Montana’s ‘Have a Heart for Kids’ event is an example of how they have worked to build bipartisan support for early childhood.

By the Numbers:

  • 49 grants awarded
  • 23 organizations supported
  • $9,630,000 in total funding

Grantee Spotlight: Zero to Five Montana

Zero to Five Montana is a statewide early childhood advocacy organization focused on increasing access to early care and education, supporting and strengthening families, uplifting voices, and empowering small businesses and communities.

“I first encountered Headwaters when Zero to Five was just a vision, and what resonated with me was that it was clearly rooted in community.”

– Caitlin Jensen, Zero to Five Montana

Grantee Snapshots:

Early Childhood Coalition of Beaverhead County created an indoor play space and parent education center to give families a place to connect and learn in their rural community, year-round.

Zero to Five Missoula started a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment to ensure that families have what they need for kids to arrive at school ready to learn.

Zero to Five Butte-Silver Bow responded to high foster care rates in their county by developing support programs for foster kids and parents.

Funding Rural Nonprofits Serving Kids and Familes

Headwaters Foundation launched GO! Grants in 2018 to make funding accessible to nonprofits serving kids and families outside of Montana’s cities. The flexibility of this funding means grants can be deployed by nonprofits in unique ways to improve health in rural communities.

We enlisted MAPS students to tell the stories of GO! Grantees and share their perspectives on this unique grant program.

By the Numbers:

  • 398 grants awarded
  • 200 organizations supported
  • $2,333,827 in total funding

Grantee Spotlight: MAPS Media Institute

MAPS Media Institute empowers, inspires and prepares Montana’s next generation for future success through media arts instruction, community service and mentoring. This life-changing Ravalli County program has empowered rural graduates to become filmmakers and media professionals.

“For a small organization that is growing and working with new communities, the flexibility of GO! Grants is deeply appreciated.”

– Clare Ann Harff, MAPS Media Institute

Grantee Snapshots:

A VOICE sustained a photography program at Two Eagle River School in Lake County that serves Indigenous students from the Flathead Nation.

Helping Hooves provided scholarships to low-income families in Beaverhead County to help kids overcome behavioral health challenges through equine therapy.

Cultivating Connections bridged the gap between youth and elders in Ravalli County by engaging high school students to grow and prepare food for senior citizens in need.

Supporting Native American Health and Wellbeing

Headwaters Foundation invests in thriving Native American communities. Guided by those served, grants have supported projects with unique impacts in the focus areas of mental health, family resiliency, sovereignty, and culture and identity.

Staff and students share their experiences of building a Native plant garden at Ronan High School.

By the Numbers:

  • 26 grants awarded
  • 20 organizations supported
  • $3,050,000 in total funding

Grantee Spotlight: Journey to Wellness

Journey to Wellness began at an event called ‘Voices & Visions’ where leaders converged to identify solutions to their community’s most pressing health challenges. The result was a project focused on improving mental health crisis intervention and prevention.

“It’s hard to build relationships and be accepted in Indian Country, but Headwaters put trust in us and has built trust with our community.”

– Ashlynn Marasco, Journey to Wellness

Grantee Snapshots:

Ronan School District implemented a project to preserve, perpetuate and enhance learning about the language, culture, and lifeways of Indigenous peoples.

Montana Consortium of Urban Indian Health aligned and supported five urban Indian health clinics to increase healthcare access to Native Americans living in Montana’s cities.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) launched a Food Sovereignty Program aimed at putting the ownership of local food systems back into the hands of Native people.

Powering Policy Engagement for Improved Health

Headwaters Foundation partners with organizations that uplift the voices of Montanans who face barriers to health and are too often left out of policy decisions. Funding has helped build coalitions, develop leaders and engage community members.

MFBN elevated conversations about the importance of partnerships between food banks and local producers to get fresh, local produce to Montanans in need.

By the Numbers:

  • 39 grants awarded
  • 22 organizations supported
  • $4,972,158 in total funding

Grantee Spotlight: Montana Food Bank Network (MFBN)

Montana Food Bank Network works to end hunger through food distribution, education and advocacy. They train and empower leaders who have experienced food insecurity to share their stories with lawmakers to improve access to public benefits.

“It can be hard to find funders that want to support policy work… finding funders who are willing to support that big picture change, and to be flexible, is critical.”

-Lorianne Burhop, Montana Food Bank Network

Grantee Snapshots:

Montana Budget and Policy Center & Montana Women Vote collaborated to strengthen the engagement of low-income women and families on policies important to them.

Western Native Voice expanded their civic engagement program for Native youth to empower and equip them to be a voice for themselves, their families and their communities.

Helena Area Habitat for Humanity called attention to the housing crisis in their local newspaper. Soon after, the Governor announced a Housing Task Force and appointed their Executive Director to join.

Strengthening Nonprofits

Headwaters has helped our community through resource connection and capacity building. Because of consistent conversations and trust, our organization could move forward with confidence and innovation.

— Grantee Partner

Headwaters Foundation goes beyond grantmaking by providing technical assistance, training and other nonmonetary support to partners directly as well as through partnerships with UM Center for Children, Families and Workforce Development and Montana Nonprofit Association.

Democratizing Philanthropy

Headwaters has emerged as a leader in the trust-based philanthropy movement. We often reference their work as an example for other foundations seeking to embrace trust-based values.

— Shaady Salehi, Trust-Based Philanthropy Project

A founding member of the Trust-Based Philanthropy Project, Headwaters Foundation has worked to move the needle (in Montana and beyond) toward more equitable philanthropic practices.

Thank you, Western Montanans for your trust in Headwaters Foundation to steward community-owned funds.

Thank you to all of our incredible nonprofit partners! Find more grantee spotlights on our blog.

Thank you also to our hardworking Staff and Board of Directors, past and present.