The importance of connecting with those outside your orbit

Chester Kurtz credits his parents and his upbringing in a hardscrabble Montana town for motivating him to give to and volunteer for nonprofit organizations.

His parents were teachers and civic leaders in the town of Forsyth, which has shrunk from about 3,000 to 1,700 residents in the generation since the nearby coal mine went bust.

Now Kurtz helps run a public accounting firm he co-founded in Boulder. He’s watched some of his clients become millionaires overnight. He has also been astonished sometimes by how little of their newfound wealth they give away. So he was not surprised to learn Boulder County residents donate to nonprofits at lower rates than the national average.

“People are just working hard and busy and haven’t thought about it or made the time for it,” he said.

The son of a kindergarten teacher and elementary school principal who was also the town mayor, Kurtz saw his Montana classmates struggle, and saw how hard his parents worked to support them and their families.

Now he’s married to a municipal court judge and former prosecutor who serves on nonprofit boards, and he serves on the board of Community Foundation Boulder County. He and his wife give generously, and his company, Kurtz Fargo LLP, has an employee-directed giving program.

Raising kids to be aware of the world while growing up in a place largely insulated from those who struggle is a challenge. He and his wife do their best to teach by example.

“There’s a lot of things we’re doing that they see,” he said.

by Chris Barge