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