Piton Foundation




Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2015):

Revenue: $7,432,985
Expenses: $3,394,326
Assets: $203,127,855

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The Piton Foundation, part of Gary Community Investments, is a grantmaking organization which contributes to left-of-center organizations with a focus on Colorado, in addition to other projects.

Piton Foundation’s work in recent years, has become increasingly focused on policy research and advocacy. The organization’s CEO is former Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston (D-Denver). 1


In 1967, with the success of their oil business, Sam and Nancy Gary decided to begin venturing into philanthropy founding Eight South 54 East. This organization was an early predecessor to Piton Foundation and is now defunct.

In 1976, Sam and Nancy Gary, with funds from their employee-sponsored philanthropy fund, founded the Piton Foundation and began awarding grants the following years. In the first few years, Piton’s grant-making focused on education, health, children, and youth and families. Some of these early recipients included United Way, Colorado Children’s Hospital, Hope Communities, a low-income housing community; Brothers Redevelopment, a nonprofit committed to building and maintaining low-income housing; Warren Village, a nonprofit that provides housing and skills training to low income single mothers; Colorado Children’s Hospital.

In the early 1990’s, Piton Foundation took a different bend from grantmaking and starting incubating numerous organizations under the Piton Foundation umbrella. These include Tax Help Colorado, Urban Land Conservancy, Denver Preschool Program, and the left-of-center Colorado Children’s Campaign. 2


Shift Research Lab

A project of the Piton Foundation, the Shift Research Lab provides policy research on areas of interest to the Piton Foundation and its donors, including housing, economic sel-sufficiency, social determinants of health, democratizing data, early childhood development, neighborhood change, and youth and education. Shift Research Lab has partnered with numerous organizations to provide research including the left-wing Housing Colorado, University of Colorado at Denver, and Denver Public Schools. 3

Tax Help Colorado

A project of the Piton Foundation, Tax Help Colorado connects low-income people with free tax preparation services. The services are provided by high school and college volunteers who have taken a course on tax preparation. Tax Help Colorado is offered at different sites across the state including high schools and community colleges. 4

Get Ahead Colorado

A project of the Piton Foundation, Get Ahead Colorado works to promote knowledge of the Earned Income Tax credit using traditional marketing tactics and partnerships with community organizations and employer outreach. 5

Denver Preschool Program

In 2004, Sam Gary and then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) spearheaded the initiative to establish a universal pre-school program in Denver. Piton Foundation provided funding to staff the Mayor’s Early Childhood Commission Team which crafted the program and led its implementation.

Gary-Williams Company, whose employee-sponsored philanthropy fund provided revenue for the Piton Foundation, financially supported polling, a public television campaign, and research on funding sources and policy solutions to the gap. The solution that was later advocated by the foundation and local politicians was the approval of a tax increase to fund the project. 6

School Choice Support

In 1991, Piton Foundation launched Citizens for Quality Schools to support the foundation’s goals of “decentralizing decision making and authority within [Denver Public Schools] schools and promoting school choice as healthy competition” Piton claimed that they focused on three strategies: creating charter schools, grassroots and  district-level support of creating new schools, and pushing state policy that supports school reform. 7

Piton Foundation has granted over $200,000 to Teach for America, an organization involved in school reform efforts. 8


Piton Foundation has granted over $200,000 to left-of center organizations focused on Colorado politics such as the Colorado Fiscal Institute and Colorado Forum Fund. The foundation has also given grants of up to $150,000 to the following advocacy groups: Center for Health Progress, Council for a Strong America, Feminist Majority Foundation, Bell Policy Center, Aspen Institute, Stapleton Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities, Urban Land Institute, Savory Institute Organization, Third Way Foundation, Denver CASA, Alliance for Choice in Education, and Urban Land Conservancy. The Piton Foundation has also issued grants to High Country News and Chalkbeat, both of which cover early childhood education issues. 9


Former Colorado state senator Mike Johnston (D-Denver) was hired as CEO of the Piton Foundation on November 22, 2019. Johnston previously was a candidate for the U.S. Senate challenging U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) before withdrawing in September 2019. In 2018, Johnston ran for Governor of Colorado but lost the Democratic primary to former U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-CO). He served in the Colorado State Senate taking the seat of Colorado Senate President Peter Groff (D), after Groff left the state to work in the Obama administration. He won re-election and served for the full time allotted by Colorado law. 10 11 12 13

In the legislature, Johnston championed of the ASSET bill which allowed illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at Colorado universities. Johnston supported numerous other education initiatives ranging from a bill that would have required additional testing for students to measure teacher success, establishing an early literacy program, and expanding full-day kindergarten and summer school. 1415


  1. Schmike, Anne. “Former state senator known for school reform efforts will head Gary Community Investments”. Chalkbeat. November 22, 2019. Accessed November 25, 2019.
  2. Piton Foundation. “Our History”. Accessed November 16, 2019.
  3. ”About”. Shift Research Lab. Accessed November 25, 2019.
  4. “Tax Help Colorado”. Gary Community Investments. Accessed November 25, 2019.
  5. ”Get Ahead Colorado”. Gary Community Investments. Accessed November 25, 2019.
  6. ”Our History”. Gary Community Investments. Accessed November 22, 2019.
  7. ”Our History”. Gary Community Investments. Accessed November 26, 2019
  8. Data compiled by subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the IRS. Queries conducted December 9, 2019.
  9. Data compiled by subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the IRS. Queries conducted December 9, 2019.
  10. Williams, David. ”Obama education advisor Johnston joins race for Groff’s Senate seat.” The Colorado Independent. April 22, 2009. Accessed November 27, 2019.
  11. Associated Press. ”2 new Colorado state senators take oath of office”. Denver Post.  May 29, 2009.
  12. Wingerter, Justin. “Mike Johnston ends his U.S. Senate campaign against Cory Gardner”. Denver Post. September, 3, 2019. Accessed November 27, 2019.
  13. Frank, John. ”Jared Polis wins Democratic primary for Colorado governor”. Denver Post.  June 26, 2018. Accessed November 26, 2019.
  14. Cotton, Anthony. ”Colorado governor signs bill for illegal immigrants’ in-state tuition”. Denver Post. April 29, 2013. Accessed November 26, 2019.
  15. Meltzer, Erica. ”Colorado literacy bill mandating more teacher training advances.” Chalkbeat. April 11, 2019. Accessed November 26, 2019
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 2003

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2015 Nov Form PF $7,432,985 $3,394,326 $203,127,855 $5,218,778 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Nov Form PF $16,133,927 $15,143,419 $211,844,557 $4,606,095 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Nov Form PF $2,767,583 $11,999,180 $212,022,830 $1 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Nov Form PF $122,724,388 $12,002,959 $194,762,597 $714,818 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Nov Form PF $-1,808,803 $1,584,124 $73,398,340 $278,866 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Piton Foundation

    1705 17TH STREET
    DENVER, CO 80202-1224