New SKC Foundation director a nonprofit leader

by Whitney England
Daily Inter Lake | July 30, 2020 8:55 AM

The Salish Kootenai College Foundation faces an important transition as the executive director for the last eight years, Karen Delaney, announced her retirement last month.

Delaney explained over her time with the organization she’s gained tremendous respect for the college and community it serves. Out of all the causes she was able to serve, she values relationships the most. Delaney enjoyed serving the local community and had numerous unforgettable experiences as director.

“In my positions at the SKC Foundation… the thing I am most proud of is improving community awareness of Salish Kootenai College, the faculty, the staff and the amazing students,” Delaney said. “(SKC) is dedicated to empowerIng students to improve their lives, families and communities through research, leadership, service and the perpetuation of Indigenous cultures.”

As she made her resignation public, she also introduced Nick Roberts as the new director and spoke fondly of his experience in nonprofit management. Roberts, who was most recently the executive director at the Families First Learning Lab in Missoula, has been in his new role for a month now.

Through his previous role, Roberts had an opportunity to further get to know the Mission Valley when Families First and CSKT developed a partnership to promote family education classes.

“It was a deeper introduction for me into the community here…” Roberts said. “And I’m really thrilled to have moved in more permanently.”

When the executive director position at SKC Foundation became available, Roberts applied with the desire to get back into foundation work. He explained over the years he’s seen foundations work from many aspects, from being a grant writer to administrative and then executive roles within foundations. He believes wholeheartedly in the type of work that foundations do and the unique aspect they bring to the community.

“You get the challenge of helping identify needs while developing strategies and resources to meet those needs,” he said. “Then you get to celebrate the impact together.”

Roberts believes that foundations hold a special role in a community as they are an extension of a greater interest and a special gathering place of sorts. At SKC he’s looking forward to literally working right alongside the people he is trying to serve every day.

“I think I’ve been wanting to get back into a leadership role in a foundation environment and to do so in such a special local community and one that in the last few years I’ve gotten a deeper understanding of has been a real gift. It was the right opening at the right time,” he expressed.

Roberts originally came from Tennessee when he moved to Missoula 15 years ago. At the time he thought it would be a brief two-year stop, but he ended up making it permanent after falling in love with the area.

In his career he has held a range of positions with different organizations, and according to Delaney was hired for his vast experience in nonprofit management and extensive fundraising capabilities.

“I’ve been a non profit professional my entire career,” Roberts said. “I’ve been privileged to have served for organizations that focused on food security, higher education, population health, and youth and family development.”

As fundraising is one of his specialties, he has spent a lot of time trying to demystify what it really means.

He believes in various types of philanthropy, which he refers to as a very participatory process where gifts of all types, whether it be hard dollars, resources given by businesses, people giving their time or even donating within their wills. Roberts recognizes all of these as ways of fundraising.

“Everything about fundraising and philanthropic leadership is really relationship development, it’s taking the time to understand what someone’s affinity for your work is and getting to know their connectivity to your mission.”

Roberts will continue to live in Missoula and be back and forth, both working on campus and remotely. He has two young kids and enjoys going to their sporting events. They spend many weekends on water, whether it be rivers or lakes, enjoying all the recreation the area has to offer.

He originally was drawn to the Flathead for recreation, and it is one factor that has kept him in the area long term.

“I had an immediate visceral connection with this place and have been coming to the (Flathead Lake) for a million reasons over the last 15 years,” Roberts said. “And now to have it anchored by and magnified by professional focus has been really powerful for me.”

Roberts expressed he is grateful for the warm welcome the SKC Foundation has given him and hopes to make an immediate impact in an organization already making strides in the community.

Reporter Whitney England may be reached at wengland@dailyinterlake.com