Icicle Fund is a gift that keeps on giving to North Central Washington
The Icicle Fund has quietly made a profound impact on conservation, the arts and cultural and natural history of North Central Washington over the last two decades by investing more than $45 million to support more than 100 nonprofits.
I spoke with Icicle Fund Executive Director Christine Morgan recently to learn more about her background, the guiding philosophy of the Icicle Fund and some examples of how the foundation is contributing to our region. The podcast version of my interview with Morgan can be found at artofcommunity.com.
The Icicle Fund was established by philanthropist Harriet Bullitt as a way to make a lasting impact on our region. She identified six organizations whose work she wanted to support — Icicle Creek Center for the Arts, Wenatchee River Institute, Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Methow Arts Alliance, The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy.
Bullitt wanted these organizations to collaborate rather than compete so she used the parable of the long spoons as a guide to setting up the organization. With long spoons, you cannot feed yourself so you feed others and they feed you.
Icicle Fund also makes grants to outside organizations. It was just announced that it is making $2 million in contributions this year.
Morgan, who has been executive director for five years, exemplifies the mindset and approach of the organization. She grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Denmark and was indoctrinated early in the beauty and wonder of the natural world and the value of hard work.
She came to the United States to study natural resource management and communication, gaining a PhD from the University of Idaho.
The program had students from all over the world and learning about their world views taught Morgan valuable lessons about viewing issues from multiple perspectives. A friend from Honduras counseled her that none of us can ever fully understand what it’s like to be from a different culture, which taught Morgan the importance of deep listening and keeping an open mind.
“Sometimes we just have to let somebody else tell us how they experience a situation even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense from our worldview,” Morgan told me.
She brought that mindset to her work in higher education at Wenatchee Valley College and then into the nonprofit world by getting involved with the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition before signing on with the Icicle Fund.
We talked about the Youth Arts Initiative, developed three years ago, that has opened up significant opportunities for arts access in the K-12 system. It’s addressing a huge gap in access in our region.
Arts programs are important for emotional well-being and also support the academic journey of students, as well.
Another transformational project supported by the Icicle Fund was the Wenatchee Foothills campaign that preserved for public access lands to the west of Wenatchee. The foothills are now “part of Wenatchee’s identity,” Morgan pointed out. The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust was the lead organization and The Trust for Public Land was also a key player. How fortunate we are that these trails have been open and available during the pandemic when social distancing has been critical for saving lives.
Morgan acknowledged that all of the work is done by local nonprofits and educational institutions. The Icicle Fund is merely the catalyst for those organizations to dream bigger and make a more significant impact.
The Icicle Fund is one of those rare organizations that provides operating support for organizations rather than just funds projects. They collaborate with the Community Foundation of North Central Washington to fund the Nonprofit Practices Institute, a top-notch annual series of training events for nonprofit executives and board members.
How fortunate we are that the Icicle Fund is quietly helping us help ourselves. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Harriet Bullitt for this gift that keeps on giving. For more information, check out iciclefund.org.