Community Heart & Soul

Overview of the Program

Montana Community Foundation and Montana State University Extension are piloting Community Heart & Soul to help rural communities across the state build community and take action on what matters most to them.

Community Heart & Soul is a resident-driven process that engages the entire population of a town to identify what they love most about their community, what future they want for it, and how to achieve it. This program has been developed and implemented in over a hundred communities across the country.

Benefits of Community Heart & Soul:

  • Pride and confidence grow in the community
  • Volunteerism increases and new leaders emerge
  • Residents feel more connected to one another
  • Investment in economic and community development projects
  • Local governments better understand what matters to residents
  • Community endowment funds grow

Learn more here.

Would your community like to participate in the "Getting Started" series? If so, fill out the interest form by April 19.

How It Works

3-6 communities will be selected for "Getting Started," a series of exploratory conversations and activities to determine if Community Heart & Soul is the right approach and if your town is ready. After completing the "Getting Started" series, 1-3 communities will be selected for the entire Community Heart & Soul process which will occur over a two-year period. Learn more via the recorded April 2, 2024 information session.

This will include:

  • Community Support: Montana Community Heart & Soul Coaches will support communities throughout the entire process. Coaches will provide capacity-building training and facilitation for program coordinators and resident-led teams who steer the process.
  • Community Grants: Communities will receive a $2,500 grant for a community-based exploratory coordinator to organize "Getting Started" activities and a $500 grant for Getting Started expenses. Then, selected communities will receive a $20,000 grant to implement the entire Community Heart & Soul process; funds will support a community-based project coordinator and activities during the two-year period.
  • Community Match: Communities selected to participate in "Getting Started" will be required to provide a $500 match. Then, communities selected to launch the entire Community Heart & Soul process will be required to provide a $10,00 match over the two-year period.


  • April 19: Deadline to submit an Interest Form for "Getting Started" series
  • Early May: 3-6 communities selected for "Getting Started" series
  • May-October: Communities complete "Getting Started" series with guidance from their Montana coach
  • October 15: Deadline to submit an application to complete the entire Community Heart & Soul process
  • Early November: 1-3 communities selected for the entire Community Heart & Soul process
  • After November: Selected communities launch Community Heart & Soul

About the Model

Community Heart & Soul is a resident-driven planning process for communities under 30,000 residents. It is a four-phase, step-by-step process that is guided by three principles.

Three Principles:

  • Involve everyone
  • Focus on what matters most
  • Play the long game

Four Phases:

  • Imagine: Heart & Soul teams are formed to build awareness, interest, and commitment in all segments of the community.
  • Connect: Stories are gathered from residents, leading to the development of Heart & Soul Statements that identify what matters most and reflect what they love about their towns.
  • Plan: Residents develop action plans to guide future town planning based on the Heart & Soul Statements.
  • Act: Heart & Soul Statements are adopted, incorporated into plans, and put into action.

FAQs, Montana Coaches, and Information Session

Who can initiate the Community Heart & Soul process?

  • A number of people! The process can be initiated by residents, community-based organizations, or local governments. The official applicant must be a nonprofit or unit of local government, or there must be a fiscal sponsor that meets these qualifications.

What is the eligible population range for Community Heart & Soul communities?

  • Community Heart & Soul is designed for rural communities with populations under 30,000.

Are other "communities" besides cities and towns eligible for the program?

  • Multi-town, regional, or county efforts may be eligible if the total population does not exceed 30,000.

How does Community Heart & Soul interact with other community development and planning efforts?

  • Community Heart & Soul does not replace other community development and planning processes. However, it complements other community initiatives to increase community engagement and support for community-led programs and activities.

Can a community focus on a predetermined theme during the Community Heart & Soul process?

  • Community Heart & Soul is a bottom-up, resident-driven process that should not driven by any predetermined theme. The strength of the model lies in the design: there is no agenda being promoted, other than a genuine desire to improve community relationships and collaborative decision-making.

Carrie Coan (West Yellowstone Foundation)

  • Carrie Coan is the forward-thinking Executive Director of the West Yellowstone Foundation, dedicated to enriching the community through diverse programs. Leading with a strong commitment to growth, she enhances the lives of residents and visitors alike. In her role, Carrie oversees a wide array of impactful initiatives that touch every aspect of community life, from Public Transportation to Postsecondary Education Scholarships, Community Grants, Fiscal Sponsorships, Endowments, Housing Coalition Facilitation, High School Career Fairs, and Fundraising. Carrie’s leadership extends beyond her role, actively engaging in community activities, advisory boards, and collaborations. Originally from Minnesota, she now resides in West Yellowstone where she enjoys exploring the outdoors through hiking, canoeing, camping, biking, and skiing

Taylor Crowl (Montana Community Foundation)

  • Taylor joined the Montana Community Foundation in August 2022 as the Program Officer for Local Community Foundations. In this role, she helps local community foundations build their endowments, conduct strategic grantmaking, and address their community’s needs now and in the future. Taylor has a Bachelor of Arts in Geography from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. She previously worked as a Program Specialist – Community Development for the Montana Department of Commerce, where she helped small towns across the state navigate their revitalization through the Montana Main Street, Montana Historic Preservation Grant, and Community Development Block Grant Programs. Although she grew up on the South Side of Chicago, she moved to Montana to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA and ever since then has been hooked on “The Last Best Place."

Elisa Fiaschetti (Montana Community Foundation)

  • Elisa joined the Montana Community Foundation in June 2021 as the Program Director. In her role, Elisa is responsible for implementing, assessing, and improving MFC's Impact Programs. Prior to joining MCF, Elisa was the rural Community Development Manager for the Montana Governor’s Office of Economic Development where she developed and managed the Main Street Montana Rural Partners Initiative. Elisa has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sociology from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, and a master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School. Additionally, she is an American grant Writers Association Certified Grant Writer.

Mandie Reed (Montana State University Extension)

  • Mandie is the Montanan State University Extension Agent serving in Wheatland County, Montana, a position she has held since 2004. She delivers programs to meet the needs of the people in Wheatland County in four program areas: 4-H and Youth Development, Family and Consumer Science, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Community Development. Mandie has also served on the statewide planning committee for Reimagining Rural and Big Sky, Big Leadership. She has offered the BSBL program in Wheatland County for 4 years. What Mandie loves most about her job is the opportunity to work with creative peers and to serve her community.

Taylor Crowl's headshot'

We're Here to Help

For additional help, questions or comments, contact Taylor Crowl, Program Officer, Local Community Foundations.