The Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region has announced an estate gift of more than $1 million from Joe K. Neel, Jr., a quiet philanthropist and an expert draftsman at Grand Forks Air Force Base who passed away on July 31, 2017.
The largest estate gift in the foundation’s twenty-year history will establish the Neel Family Fund, a permanent endowment that will generate support for music education for children 18 years of age and younger residing in Grand Forks County.
“The Community Foundation is honored to be the steward of Joe’s gift, which will provide tens of thousands of dollars each year to foster creativity, learning, and development in our community’s youth,” said Executive Director Becca Bahnmiller. “It is truly a gift to the entire region and will ensure Joe’s legacy lives on forever as future generations benefit from his forethought and generosity.”
Although a quiet giver throughout his lifetime, Joe supported a wide range of causes from animal advocacy and university education to the local library and park district. His ability to save and invest wisely provided six and seven figure gifts to beneficiaries in Grand Forks and beyond. In the fall of 2017, the Foundation was notified that it was the residual beneficiary of the Neel Estate; however, an estimated figure was not available to staff until early 2019 when the estate’s accounts were settled.
Grants from the Neel Family Fund will be determined by an advisory committee in partnership with Community Foundation staff.
The Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Region was established in 1998 as a nonprofit, community foundation created by and for the people of the region to encourage a spirit of philanthropy. Working in partnership with individuals, families, businesses, and trusted advisers, the Foundation manages over 100 charitable funds and provides grants to qualified nonprofit organizations and causes. With approximately $10.5 million in assets, the Foundation has granted over $6 million to date to create stronger, more vibrant communities across the region.
By Bonnie Meibers
Published by the Grand Forks Herald on Dec. 8, 2018
Prairie Business Magazine announced its annual 40 Under 40 list, recognizing the top business professionals who are less than 40 years old in the Northern Plains.
Prairie Business said it received more than 120 nominations for the list. On the list, eight are from Grand Forks.
Scott Ayash, principal research manager for the Energy and Environmental Research Center, helps manage projects and has supported research conducted for the U.S. Department of Energy, the state and private industry.
Becca Bahnmiller is the executive director of the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and the Region. Bahnmiller oversees the $10.5 million nonprofit organization.
Annie Berge, a marketing strategist for Altru, has been with the hospital for six years.
Stacey Dahl is the senior manager of external affairs and communications for Minnkota Power Cooperative. Dahl is co-leading an effort to explore a carbon capture project called "Project Tundra."
Swapnil Fegade, an engineer/project manager for Fusion Automation, is developing systems for natural gas processing and sustainable materials.
Stephanie Magenau, a controller at Construction Engineers, oversees all aspects of finance for the company.
Mike McLean is an architect/market leader for JLG Architects in Grand Forks. He has been with JLG for more than 11 years.
Brian Schumacher is the director of wealth management at the Alerus Center. He joined Alerus in 2011.
Nancy Marchell (center) successfully bids on "Bad Shaker," crafted and designed by local metalsmith and designer David Badman of Badman Designs, at Thursday's 20th anniversary of the Grand Forks Community Foundation celebration at the Alerus Center. Left of Marchell is Kristin Shea and Tom Campbell is on her right. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
By Bonnie Meibers
Published in the Grand Forks Herald on Nov. 16, 2018
Members of the Grand Forks community reflected on how far the region has come since the Flood of 1997.
The Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region Community Foundation celebrated 20 years with a dinner Thursday evening.
The dinner consisted of three courses. During each course, there was a live performance from an area music group, a reflection from a community member and then an opportunity for those attending to participate in giving with the Community Foundation.
The Grand Cities Children's Choir, Crescendo Chamber Music Ensemble and the Red River Velvetones performed throughout the night.
Mark Hall, one of the founding members of the Community Foundation, spoke about how the foundation was a thought in a few community members' heads before the flood.
"Of course when the flood came, everyone else had other things on their mind so we didn't talk about the foundation for a while," Hall said. "Everything was put on hold."
Then, when Joan Kroc—or "the Angel," as many in the community came to call the philanthropist and wife of longtime McDonald's CEO Ray Kroc—wanted to donate money to help the city of Grand Forks, she first sought to donate via a community foundation but found that Grand Forks didn't have one and donated through a different avenue.
Hall said a concern arose there wouldn't be more donations because there was no credible vehicle for them in the area.
The Community Foundation was born from that need.
"And our conversations years ago are now worth $10.5 million," Hall said.
The Community Foundation now has over $10 million in assets and has granted nearly $5.5 million to various causes in the region.
Former Herald publisher Mike Maidenberg also was "in on the ground floor" of the foundation.
Maidenberg said he is very impressed with what the Community Foundation has accomplished in 20 years.
"The foundation brings different generations together. This is not an organization in the closet, they're out in the community getting people's creative juices going," Maidenberg said.
Blue Weber, executive director of the Downtown Development Association, spoke at the dinner about community engagement.
Weber's three steps to community engagement were to think outside the box, to have fun and to be honest with the community.
"We need to have those difficult conversations in the community, it allows for more trust," Weber said. "Creating an engaged community is the best way to attract people to a place."
Organizers of the dinner engaged with attendees during a live auction and by asking them to vote via text message on an organization to receive a $500 grant. The audience chose the Summer Performing Arts Company.
The organization, which came about as part of rebuilding the community after the flood, invited Kathy Gershman to speak about restoring the Empire Arts Center.
That renovation hit a few snags, one of which was the 1997 flood.
After finally securing funding from community members to save the theater, the flood came, ruining new electric and wiring in the building and filling the newly dug out basement.
"The floodwaters receded, and we, like many others, were left with a big, cold, muddy mess," Gershman said.
The community continued to give, even though many had personally been hit by disaster upon disaster. Every donor but one honored their pledges to save the Empire. Contractors lowered their prices, and one forgave a debt in order to get the theater renovated.
"Many projects are pulled across the finish line by persistence," Gershman said, giving advice based on her experience with the Empire for people working in nonprofits.
Executive director of the Community Foundation, Becca Bahnmiller, thanked the community for being so generous in their time and donations throughout the years.
"Imagine where we will be in the next 20 years," Bahnmiller said.
By Emily Allen
Published by the Grand Forks Herald on Sept. 5, 2018
About 750 people in the Grand Forks area were invited Wednesday night to talk about their community over dinner at the "Longest Table," so long the city had to close North Third Street to accommodate it.
Organizers set up a stretch of 90 dinner tables in downtown Grand Forks as part of the Longest Table event, a program launched two years ago in Tallahassee, Fla., where residents gather to meet their neighbors over free food.
The effort to bring the Longest Table to Grand forks began after the Gov. Doug Burgum visited Grand Forks last December, according to Becca Cruger of the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals group and Becca Bahnmiller of the Grand Forks Community Foundation.
Burgum had spent the time talking with city leaders and young adults about his Main Street Initiative to improve North Dakota cities and attract a younger, 21st century workforce.
"What was really interesting," Cruger said, "was that the people Gov. Burgum really wanted to hear from were young adults."
To get more younger residents and community members involved in efforts to strengthen the community, Cruger and Bahmiller initiated the process of bring Longest Table or a similar event to Grand Forks, eventually landing $40,000 in funding through the Knight Foundation for set-up, marketing and administrative costs.
Since the first Longest Table in 2016, Bahnmiller said the Knight Foundation has brought it to other communities the organization serves, including Dayton, Ohio, and Oak Park, Ill., some of which Grand Forks organizers have talked to for advice and planning help.
For Tallahassee's first year, Bahnmiller said organizers only counted a little over 200 people. Before the Grand Forks event, she said 632 residents had already registered to participate.
"It just really shows how people want to connect," she said.
Cruger said the event also demonstrates a desire for unity among city leaders and local organizations like Hugo's supermarkets, which donated enough food and water for 750 people. "We're seen such huge support from our city leaders, saying we want you to be involved, too," Cruger said, "which is just as unprecedented."
After Cruger and Bahnmiller secured the Knight funding, Cruger said the city agreed to provide micro grants of up to $3,000 to support any ideas to improve the community, which might arise from Longest Table discussions facilitated by table captains.
"The ideas don't just stay on the table, they get off the table," Bahmiller said.
Peyton Cole, a junior at UND and a member of the Young Professionals, was one of the table captains Wednesday night.
"We just really want to foster an open conversation for people to have," she said, mentioning a sheet of topics she had to facilitate open conversations about the community and ideas residents have for improvement.
Micro grant applications will open after the dinner at www.longesttablegf.com. Cruger said the only requirement is that ideas follow at least one of Burgum's Main Street Initiative pillars he mentioned during his visit—healthy, vibrant communities, efficient infrastructure and 21st century workforce.
"I can't wait to see what happens in 2019 because of this," Cruger said.
By Sam Easter
Published by the Grand Forks Herald on Jun 5, 2018
Grand Forks’ Community Foundation has been building a better city, dollar by dollar, for two decades now.
Formed after the devastation of the 1997 flood, its assets have since grown to more than $11 million, with about $5.6 million dollars disbursed to date. It has scores of separate funds, tied to the community in myriad ways — from the local curling club to public arts and more.
“I think we’re in a really good spot in terms of assets,” said Becca Bahnmiller, the group’s executive director. “I think that puts us in a really good place moving forward.”
Bahnmiller joined the organization in October, succeeding Sheila Bruhn as the group’s top staffer, who had led the foundation on an interim basis for for much of the year. A UND alumna and a former employee of the Empire Arts Center, Bahnmiller has also worked in donations and fundraising for New York City’s New School and for a special education group based in the Twin Cities. Her hiring, which comes after nearly a decade of leadership from former director Kristi Mishler, marked a new era for the city’s biggest philanthropic group.
Bahnmiller pointed out that the foundation has agreed to administer arts funding on behalf of the city and is a sponsor for the “Main Street Grand Forks Challenge” — which matches students with funding to work on community projects. She praised the work being done by the foundation’s Women’s Fund, which has about $700,000 in assets guided by an all-woman advisory board.
This summer, it’s launching “Gears of Gratitude,” a project that places decorated bikes throughout the community, all sponsored, culminating in a wide-ranging public art project that places them in the community this summer. The project is capped with an event at the end of the year, and the entire enterprise is tied to the Community Foundation’s 20 years in the community.
The foundation was launched in the aftermath of the 1997 flood as community leaders sought to boost a community ravaged by the Red River. Pat Berger, who was an early member of its board of directors, was present for its inaugural meeting in November of that year. According to foundation documents, the group received its nonprofit status in January 1998, when it formally organized its leadership and bylaws.
“Those first couple of years were, ‘Are we going to be able to keep this organization afloat, afford an office etc?’ Some very basic needs,” said Berger, the president and CEO of Grand Forks’ United Way. She added that, as the foundation was forming, leaders had to explain its mission. “In my case, I remember answering a lot of questions from people saying ‘Isn’t that what United Way does?’ Berger’s response would focus on the United Way’s interest in immediate needs and poverty. The foundation, in contrast, was built for a broader mission.
Compared to its size today, that mission started small. The foundation hired staff beginning in 1999, and an anonymous donor pushed its total assets past $1 million for the first time in 2000. The following year, it had 15 funds, including endowments for the Humane Society, the local symphony orchestra and more. In 2002, it distributed just shy of $90,000. Last year, it gave away about $660,000, according to foundation documents.
“What we use out of our fund is interest … made available for partner agencies and ourselves to bring in or go to conferences (or) trainings,” Berger said, like sending a staffer to a summit on addressing community poverty. “We recognize that those dollars are the first to go when you cut budgets.”
Derrick Johnson is vice president of the foundation’s board of directors. He said the foundation faces challenges familiar to any other group in its role. As board leadership comes and goes, often they need to strike a careful balance scouting donors and disbursing funding — but he’s happy with where the foundation is today.
“Things are going very well,” he said. “The key thing is that we have granted millions of dollars back into the community for a whole variety of different organizations.”
#GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in all 50 states and in countries around the world. Millions of people have come together to support and champion the causes they believe in and the communities in which they live.
We have two days for getting deals – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On #GivingTuesday, we have a day for giving back. Together, people are creating a new ritual for our annual calendar. #GivingTuesday is the opening day of the giving season: a reminder of the “reason for the season.”
This year, #GivingTuesday falls on November 28.
Every act of generosity counts, and each means even more when we give together. #GivingTuesday includes people of all ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds. Together, millions of people demonstrate our common capacity to give.
#GivingTuesday is a celebration of America’s greatest traditions: generosity, entrepreneurialism, community. Everyone has something to give. You can give time or expertise, monetary donations large or small, simple acts of kindness, food or clothing.
Join the #GivingTuesday movement on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 with a gift of support to the Community Foundation.
As we age, we think about the many plans we need to put in place, but one we often overlook is our plan for giving. You have a passion for helping, caring for our community and want to keep that going now and after you are gone. One of the best ways to set up a long term strategic giving plan is with the help of a community foundation. A community foundation allows you to set up your own charitable fund, giving as much as you want, to whom you want, for as long as you want.
What does planned giving through a community foundation do for you?
Community foundations have the resources and expertise to help guide your through the entire process of starting your charitable giving strategy and make it easy with three simple steps.
Step One: Determine the assets you wish to use to start your fund. Examples include cash, publicly traded or closely held securities, real estate or personal property, or life insurance policies. These assets can be given at any time… now, ongoing, or through your will.
Giving to your fund through any of these assets accomplishes two important tax objectives: a charitable income tax deduction in the year of the gift and the reduction of the gross estate for future estate planning purposes. In addition, donors eliminate capital gains taxes for gifts of appreciated property. Establishing a fund allows you to give more to what you love and less to taxes and fees.
Step Two: Choose a name for your fund. Many choose to name their fund after themselves or their families for example “The Johnson Family Fund.” It is a great way to continue your family legacy and encourage a life of philanthropy for generations. You can also choose to name your fund for a specific passion or area of interest you care deeply about or even remain anonymous.
Step Three: Choose what you would like to support and for what length of time. You decide what charities, organizations or specific areas of interests you are most passionate about and want to support for lifetimes to come. Do you love the arts, have a passion for helping children, value education and leadership, whatever pulls at your heart, we can help you fund that entity or interest area.
These three basic steps are the building blocks for creating a fund to begin your long term strategic giving plan. There are a variety of types of funds, avenues of giving, ways to grow your assets, and tax breaks and incentives that can be taken advantage of as you set up your fund. To get more personalized information and dive deeper into a strategic giving plan that is specifically designed for you, contact your regional community foundation to set up an appointment.
The Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks, and Region and can be reached at 701-746-0668 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grand Forks’ Community Foundation has a new executive director, hiring former Grand Forks School Board member Becca Bahnmiller to replace previous chief Kristi Mishler.
Bahnmiller is director of operations for Indigo Education, a Twin Cities-area special education nonprofit serving charter schools, and concluded her agreement to join the foundation last week. Her hiring closes a search process that reviewed more than two dozen applicants.
Bahnmiller joked that her first challenge is how to pack up and move. She hesitates to share fundraising goals now, she said, before further discussion with the foundation’s board, but said she’ll soon be getting to know donors, community leaders and the inner workings of the foundation while pressing ahead with ongoing fundraising.
“I have a lot of friends in the community, so I’ve been getting in touch with people, and I’m just really excited,” she said. "I’m excited to not just be an outsider looking in anymore, but being a part of the vibrancy that Grand Forks is creating."
Bahnmiller may be better known in Grand Forks as Becca Grandstrand, the name she had while on the School Board from 2010 to 2015, when she was married to former City Council member Tyrone Grandstrand.
Bahnmiller holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in educational leadership from UND, the latter of which she received in 2011. She’s worked as a development and communications coordinator at the Empire Arts Center, with donations and fundraising at the New School in New York City and in her current role at Indigo Education.
“She’s got a real enthusiasm for the community of Grand Forks, (which) was really one of the things that drew us to her,” said Derrick Johnson, vice president of the foundation's board of directors. “She has lived here, gone to school here, and was involved really in the community during college and then after college.”
Kristi Mishler, the foundation’s previous executive director, announced her resignation in December, citing long-standing plans to leave as her daughter graduated high school in the spring to build a private consulting business. Sheila Bruhn, a former senior staffer for the foundation, was named “transition director” in February.
Bahnmiller’s first day on the job will be Oct. 9.
Dear Community Foundation Donors, Fund Holders and Community Partners,
On behalf of the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region, I am pleased to announce Becca Bahnmiller has accepted the position of Executive Director. Becca begins her new role on Monday, October 9th. Becca is very familiar with the Grand Forks region and brings a wealth of fundraising experience and energy to the position. Welcome Becca!
We are delighted Becca is joining the Foundation as we enter a new decade of serving you and our region. We were pleased with the thorough process and impressed with the strong pool of candidates offering the highest caliber of experience and skill sets.
As we head into the last few months of 2017, we are excited for you to meet Becca and learn how the Community Foundation can assist you with your giving goals. Please do not hesitate to contact her and introduce yourself.
Thank you all for your continued support. We know you join us in welcoming Becca to the Community Foundation.
Together, we are making a difference!
John D. Marchell, Board President
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