The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region has received an estate gift of more than $100 million, the largest single gift in its 32-year history and among the largest ever in Wisconsin.
The gift, arranged by former media executive David L. Nelson and his wife, Rita, has established the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund, a permanent, donor-advised endowment within the Community Foundation. “It is a game-changer. It will be a catalyst for addressing community needs today, but also for investing in exciting opportunities for future generations,” said Curt Detjen, Community Foundation President and CEO.
De Pere residents for much of their 73-year marriage, David was born in Kaukauna and Rita in Janesville. He helped manage the companies that published newspapers in Appleton and Green Bay before investing in radio stations and other businesses. She became a teacher after raising the couple’s three sons. Rita died Feb. 16, 2017, at age 93 and David on July 18, 2017, at age 96.
The gift was announced at a news conference this morning at the Grignon Mansion in Kaukauna, one of the recipients of the first round of grants and a historic site David Nelson’s father, Lewis, fought to save when he was mayor of Kaukauna in the early 1940s.
The gift is large enough to have ranked among the top 20 gifts nationally reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2017.
Community Foundation Board Chair Cathie Tierney called the gift “breathtaking.” The $100 million-plus fund is expected to award $4.5 million in grants annually to benefit causes important to the couple and their family, primarily in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas in northeast Wisconsin. That’s based on the Foundation’s endowment formula that up to 4.5% of a fund’s balance be distributed as grants each year to assure the fund’s giving capacity and permanence.
The Community Foundation will support an advisory committee comprised of people who know the Nelson family to award grants from the fund. The fund will benefit the couple’s primary interests, including parks, recreation and waterways; education; health care; community services and community centers; and historic preservation, including lighthouses, museums and historical societies. Other areas of family interest may be considered, as recommended by the fund’s advisory committee.
The first grants, totaling $3.5 million, have been awarded from the fund and were approved by the advisory committee and the Community Foundation.