Impacting Communities: New name; same goal

By Colin Anderson | Article Provided by Coeur d’Alene Living Local

One of the main reasons so many longtime residents of the Inland Northwest rave about their community is the generosity of their neighbors. People hold the door open for the next person and smile and say “hello” when walking down the street. We shovel our neighbors’ driveways and sidewalks come winter and support hundreds of nonprofits that help the most vulnerable in our communities.

Across the region, thousands of people are employed by, volunteer or donate to organizations that not only combat abuse, homelessness and hunger but encourage exploration of the arts, outdoors and continued education. With such a vast amount of worthy places to give your time and money, it can be challenging narrowing down the list. Thankfully, there is an organization that for decades has been expanding this network and helping donors reach the people and causes most true to their heart.

According to CEO Shelly O’Quinn, Inland Northwest Community Foundation was established in 1974 when the Junior League, a women’s leadership group, gave $3,000 to create the region’s first community foundation so that people who cared about the Inland Northwest could collectively fund charitable projects important to the region. Since that initial investment, the foundation has awarded more than $70 million across 20 counties across Eastern Washington, North Idaho and beyond.

Recently, Inland Northwest Community Foundation changed its name to Innovia Foundation. The new name translates to “innovative way.”

“Not only does the new name subtly hearken back to the region (‘Inno’ is a shortened version of ‘Inland Northwest’), but it speaks to the innovation the foundation brings to community transformation. ‘Via’ means ‘way,’ speaking to forging new paths and driving change,” explained O’Quinn.

Innovia Foundation connects donor generosity to the region’s most pressing causes and collaborates with community partners to drive transformation across Eastern Washington and North Idaho. The foundation starts with donor’s charitable intent and helps to make it more impactful by being a resource to those who want to make the world better.

“We help donors and businesses focus their philanthropy for maximum impact by learning what issues and opportunities ignite their passion,” O’Quinn said.

The foundation typically works with businesses and donors who know what they want to support but don’t know how.

“Because we work with so many nonprofit partners, we know the organizations that are providing services to address specific needs and greatest opportunities in our communities,” she said.

The impact of Innovia Foundation across North Idaho is vast, with a variety of organizations throughout Boundary and Bonner County recently receiving grants in the amount of $255,020 through a partnership with The Equinox Foundation. This family foundation was founded on the values of wisdom, integrity and environmental stewardship. Innovia Foundation also recently partnered with the Boundary County Economic Development Council for a community presentation and conversation in Bonners Ferry to help better understand regional issues and opportunities for impact.

One example of Innovia Foundation’s community priority work is a partnership dedicated to increasing the number of third-grade students reading at grade-level proficiency in the Coeur d’Alene School District. The K-3 literacy priority resulted from CDA 2030, a formal community visioning process that enlisted the voices of thousands of residents to identify the key issues that contribute to a vibrant future. Innovia Foundation helped fund the CDA 2030 Vision and Implementation Plan. Recognizing that the issue of failing literacy cannot adequately be addressed by awarding small grants to single nonprofits through traditional grant programs, the foundation forged a collaborative effort—called Opening Books, Opening Doors—that coordinates efforts of multiple funders, community leaders and community-based organizations working toward common goals and outcome measures. Innovia Foundation and its funding partners awarded a $600,000 grant to University of Idaho, working in partnership with the Coeur d’Alene School District and nonprofit partners to strategically address literacy strategies including kindergarten readiness, out-of-school learning and teacher development.

Not only does Innovia Foundation serve as an important resource for donors who want to leave a lasting impact in their communities, but the foundation is a major catalyst for transformation in the region. Innovia Foundation collaborates with partners and communities to create sustainable change, focusing on education and youth development, health and wellbeing, quality of life, arts and culture, and economic opportunity.

For O’Quinn, the board members and dozens of volunteers, matching donors with the causes they want to impact the most is something that never gets old. “We have a powerful opportunity to partner and utilize resources from our generous donors to drive community transformation. I am honored to carry out our donors’ legacies and fulfill the trust they have placed in us,” she said.

Innovia Foundation is always looking for compassionate people, whether it be volunteers, donors or community members participating in discussions or sharing an area of impact that might be currently underserved. You can find out more at and keep up to date by signing up for their eNewsletter.