Milestones for the Winona Community Foundation Community Grant Program

In 2021, the Winona Community Foundation celebrates two major milestones for their competitive Community Grant Program. But before we share those milestones, let’s turn back to 1988, when the program began.


The Community Grant Program was started in 1988, one year after the Winona Community Foundation was created, in large part because of direct gift from C Paul and Irene G Venables Foundation. The Foundation awarded two grants totaling $965, one to Winona ORC and one to Winona Civic Music.  It was a small yet mighty start for the competitive grant program that has become an essential program for local nonprofits. From 1988 to 2004, the available funds for the Community Grant Program grew steadily.


In 2004, the staff at the Winona Community Foundation held its first annual Celebrity Night fundraiser to support the Community Grant Program. This boosted the community grant program from $35,000 in 2004 to $76,406 in 2005. Celebrity Night supported the community program for six years before the event dissolved.

After the recession in 2008, the Foundation’s future was unsteady, so the Board reduced the amount distributed by the Community Grant Program to ensure the future of the Foundation. In 2012, a generous and unexpected gift left in a will by Beverly Larson helped bolster the community grant program again, starting in 2013.

In 2017, the Board of Directors made the bold decision to give a percentage of board designated funds back out through the Community Grant program. This decision tripled the amount available for community grants from $27,903 in 2017 to $80,000 in 2018.

During the past decade, the Foundation has seen growth through its charitable funds and investments. This, along with the history shared above, has led to two milestones for the Community Grant program. The first is reaching over $100,000 in total dollars available to grant for 2021. The second is cumulative giving from the competitive community program reaching $1 million since its inception.


Even in the excitement of being able to grant over $100,000 through the Community Grant Program, the available funds far outweigh the grant requests the Foundation receives each year. For example, in 2020, there were 36 eligible applications submitted requesting $300,000. The WCF grant committee supported 16 of the 36 nonprofits with $95,000 available to grant.

The increase in need is real as more nonprofits emerge to support critical work in the community and they continue to overcome the repercussions of a global pandemic. The Board sees this need as well and has committed to starting a charity golf fundraiser to support the program, much like the Celebrity Night event did years ago. The 1st annual Winona Community Foundation Charity Golf Outing will be held on Friday, June 25, 2021 and proceeds will be used to directly support the Community Grant program.

But this is only one way to support the Community Grant Program. The Foundation needs donors to invest in the Foundation to make a larger and more sustainable impact. If you have an interest in getting involved or learning how you can support this program, please contact Nancy Brown, President/CEO.

Nancy M. Brown, President/CEO
Phone: 507-454-6511

The Winona Community Foundation has deep roots in the community and a promising future to enhance the quality of life in the Winona area. Among the various funds and programs at the Foundation, the Community Grant Program works to help local charities make a difference in the Winona area.