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Curt Detjen: “Community foundations are here for good”

Today kicks off Community Foundation Week, and it’s a great opportunity for us to let people in the Fox Valley know what we do. At a time of deep political divides in our nation, we want to share how community foundations serve a greater purpose in bringing people and communities together around common values that transcend politics.

When people ask, “what exactly do community foundations do,” our short answer is that we partner with donors, community leaders, businesses, and nonprofits to improve lives in the Fox Valley region.  If you notice social posts with the hashtag #CFWeek, take a moment to check those out and help us celebrate Community Foundation Week here in northeast Wisconsin.

Our president and CEO Curt Detjen shared some thoughts about the impact we can all make when we work together:

Curt Detjen (center) helps celebrate LEAVEN’s new Resource Center

Community foundations help create a brighter tomorrow

By Curt Detjen, President and CEO

We live in a special place with people who deeply care about one another and their communities. The culture of philanthropy in the Fox Valley region goes back many generations.

Walter L Rugland

That spirit of giving sparked the beginning of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region’s story in 1986. When Walter L. Rugland received the first “Community Service Award” presented by Aid Association for Lutherans (now Thrivent), he used the $5,000 prize money to pursue his dream of a “catalyst for change” working across the region.

A few visionary community leaders had a dream that the humble nonprofit Community Foundation that was established would be embraced by caring people to give back to this special place that enriched their lives.

Curt Detjen,President and CEO

That dream continues to become reality in new ways as more people, businesses and organizations establish charitable funds that provide grants to benefit favorite nonprofit organizations today and forever.

The generosity of our region is reflected in our ranking as the second largest community foundation in Wisconsin and 61st in the country.

We reflect with reverence upon our founders and donors as we celebrate a milestone year of philanthropy, with a record $28.4 million in grants distributed to 1,251 nonprofit organizations from 1,605 charitable funds and more than $133 million donated to charitable funds. The David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund, created with a breathtaking $100 million estate gift, is noteworthy even on a national level. We are most grateful for the Nelsons’ trust in the Foundation to be a good steward of their gift and capable partner to preserve their legacy.

We commit to being the trustworthy steward for the Nelsons and every donor who chooses to give to and through the Foundation to make a difference in their communities. That has been our focus, honor and privilege from the beginning and we feel it in a special way in this milestone year.

From November 12 to 18, we join the more than 795 other community foundations across the country to celebrate Community Foundation Week, when we share and reflect on the stories that have helped to strengthen our communities over the last year. Community foundations work to support the efforts that will help the places we call home continue to flourish and grow.

By serving as a knowledge resource, catalyst, partner, convener, mentor and investor, your Community Foundation helps donors, professional advisors and nonprofit organizations improve the quality of life for all, forever.

As we enter the giving season, millions of people from every background will be looking to give back to the communities that have supported them. They’ll also look to ensure their heartfelt giving — however they choose to give — will have the most impact. That’s why so many of them will choose to give to a community foundation.

A gift to your local community foundation is an investment in the future of your community. We like to say that community foundations are “here for good.” At the Community Foundation, we don’t think about the next election or business cycle, we think about the next generation and the next after that.

During Community Foundation Week, I hope you’ll join us in recognizing our collective impact and the difference we can make together.         – Curt Detjen


The Community Foundation had an incredible landmark year for giving. Check out more results from our annual Report to the Community 2018!

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