Community Foundation sees record grant-making in its 30th year

APPLETON, Wis. – In its 30th anniversary year, the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region awarded a record $19 million in grants to more than 1,000 charitable organizations, taking the total grants awarded in its history to $240 million.

The fiscal year 2015-16 grant total includes scholarship awards that topped the $1 million mark for the first time in its history.

“The Community Foundation’s growth in giving is a measure of the ongoing generosity of this community,” Curt S. Detjen, president and CEO, said. “The old-fashioned value of wanting to leave a place better than you found it is every bit as alive in our region now as it was 30 years ago.”

The Community Foundation was created in 1986 with $5,000 Walter L. Rugland received as part of the first Community Service Award given by Aid Association for Lutherans (now Thrivent Financial), where he had been president, CEO and chairman.

Individuals, families, businesses and organizations have established 1,430 charitable funds with the Community Foundation. The money is prudently invested to generate grants that support their favorite causes today, while maintaining a balance to provide for future needs. The Community Foundation helps match donors with nonprofits working on the causes they care about most, during and even after their lifetimes, as well as managing programs that address community needs by awarding grants based on applications submitted by nonprofits.

The Foundation reported for its fiscal year that ended June 30, 2016:

  • $19 million in grants, up 18%, awarded to 1,032 nonprofits, including a record $1.1 million in scholarships awarded to 298 students from 58 high schools.
  • $297 million in assets, up 1% from the previous fiscal year.
  • $29 million in contributions received, up 7.4%.

“The Community Foundation is well positioned to be a leader in strengthening our community for the next 30 years,” 2015-16 Board Chair Al Zierler said.

Philanthropy through the Community Foundation is in a steep climb. The $19 million in grants for the year is more than the total awarded in the Foundation’s first 14 years. The projects supported cover the full range of charitable interests in the community. Here are examples of the results.

Included among $5.5 million in grants for Human Services projects:

  • Homeless or near-homeless people were employed cleaning up the streets and plazas of downtown Appleton through Downtown CARE, a partnership of the City of Appleton, Appleton Downtown Inc. and the ServiceWorks job training program of Riverview Gardens.
  • 442 Fox Cities middle and high school students were connected with mental health services after screening identified signs of concern.
  • Up to 70 people per month will be fed community meals by a partnership of eight Clintonville churches.

Included among $4.2 million in grants for Community Improvement projects:

  • The Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity’s Rock the Block neighborhood revitalization program did repairs to 65 homes in Appleton and Neenah, and then moved on to Menasha.
  • Plans advanced for a recreation trail that will Loop the Lake in Neenah and Menasha.
  • The Fox Cities LIFE Study ( identified poverty, youth health, youth safety and student performance as key community issues, while providing analytical data on a wide range of quality of life concerns.

Included among $4 million in grants for Education projects:

  • Scholarships helped 298 students from 58 high schools go on to post-secondary schools.
  • Seymour High School students all have use of tablet computers to improve their learning experience.
  • 410 people attended “micro-operas” on diversity awareness. For more than one-fourth of them, it was their first time attending a performance at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Included among $2.2 million in Health Care grants:

    • Catalpa Health was able to add 18 therapists over two years, helped by $201,000 in grants from 14 charitable funds with the Community Foundation.
    • Children on the autism spectrum received therapy involving work with horses at BEAMING’s first autism camp.
  • Downtown customers in Appleton, Neenah and Menasha can shop confident that automated external defibrillators are standing by if they or loved ones need them.

Included among $1.8 million in Environmental grants:

  • At-risk students learned sustainable construction skills in building an amphitheater at Waupaca’s Eco Park through the CAP Services Fresh Start program.
  • Gardeners were able to “check out” vegetable and flower seeds from the Appleton Seed Library, inside the actual Appleton Public Library, and return seeds they harvested in fall.
  • 58 students from grades 3-8 learned how to sample water, study flow and plant native species at the UW-Oshkosh STEM Outreach Center’s “Spring Safari on the Fox River.”

Included among $1.4 million in Arts & Culture:

  • Homeless people shared a look at their lives through the History Museum at the Castle’s photo exhibit “(In)visible: Homelessness in Appleton.”
  • Visitors enjoyed 14 museums that received support for preserving history, displaying art and educating children.
  • The 2016 Martin Luther King Day celebration enabled 1,200 people to hear civil rights activist Angela Davis speak about race relations.

More details on the financial performance, as well as lists of grant recipients, charitable funds and investment performance are available at

The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region is the second-largest certified community foundation in Wisconsin and among the largest 10 percent of more than 700 nationally. Geographic families of funds serve the Brillion, Chilton, Clintonville, Shawano and Waupaca areas.

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