The Rochester Area Foundation (RAF) was the vision of Mr. Harry Harwick, a longtime Chief Administrative Officer of the Mayo Foundation. He and his contemporaries forged this vehicle in 1944 to receive funds and make a positive impact, assisting those in need. The original funds of the Foundation were derived from a grant of $3,500, later augmented by a grant of $50,000, both from Mayo Properties Association. From the beginning RAF has been helping people make a difference in the quality of life in the greater Rochester area and beyond.
As a community foundation RAF has three roles. It is a vehicle for building philanthropy in the community working with donors and connecting them to the causes where they can make a difference. RAF is a grantmaker, working with nonprofit organizations helping them to build their capacity to make a difference. RAF is a community leader – a convener, a catalyst bringing people together in partnership to impact our community.
Every funding decision made at the Rochester Area Foundation benefits from the collective wisdom of people and organizations wanting to help the greater Rochester Area. At RAF, we keep our heads and our hearts on the pulse of the community—applying solid analytics to philanthropic passion to help to the Greater Rochester Area in meaningful and measurable ways.
October 23, 1942 - A special committee of the Rochester Community Chest was appointed to investigate the feasibility of a community foundation in the city of Rochester.
May 11, 1944 - the committee of the community chest recommended to its president and board of directors that a community foundation be formed as quickly as possible.
December 1944 - the Rochester Community Foundation was born. On Dec. 5 of that year, the Mayo Properties Association, now the Mayo Foundation, transferred an unconditional gift of $3,500 to the newly formed Foundation.
January 1945 - the Rochester Community Foundation filed incorporation papers with the state of Minnesota. Harry Harwick was elected as the first chairman.
1948 - the Foundation made its first grant for $5,000 to assist with the development of a Girl Scout camp.
1949 - the Foundation received its first major bequest from Jennie E. Mo of Byron. The Jennie Mo trust of $59,410 was dedicated to assisting blind persons and later was expanded to include organizations aiding persons with eye ailments and otherwise handicapped persons. With careful investment through the years, that fund has paid out several times the original investment in total grants to benefit our community.
1961 - the Foundation changed its name to the Rochester Foundation. The name changed again in 1978 to the Rochester Area Foundation, to reflect a wider area that the foundation was serving. In the same year the Foundation gave its first area grant, $1,000 to the Chatfield Brass.
1983 - the Foundation's assets reached $1 million. The board of trustees decided that the increased level of requests and correspondence required the services of a part-time paid employee. At that time, a half-time executive director was hired.
1985 - The Foundation celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1985. During its first 40 years, assets grew to $1.3 million with more than $1 million awarded in grants. A half-time administrative assistant was added to assist with growing tasks.
1988 - the endowment rose to $2 million.
1989 - Alan and Sharon Tuntland established the first donor-advised fund with the Rochester Area Foundation and made the largest gift ever received by the organization.
1993 - Foundation trustees decided to pursue a challenge grant to help attract new gifts. The process of applying to the Bush Foundation for a challenge grant transformed the Rochester Area Foundation. In October of that year, the Bush Foundation awarded the Foundation's first ever endowment challenge grant, increasing it's assets to $10.5 million by 1997.
2000 - First Homes is created in collaboration with the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce in an effort to alleviate a severe shortage of affordable housing. The Foundation and Mayo Clinic were the primary supporters toward this program.
2005 - First Steps is created to focus on development into early childhood care and education.
2007 - Community Ventures is established to provide venture philanthropy support to the nonprofit world. This fund allows donors to pool large assets together in an effort to address key issues in the Rochester area that local, state and federal resources are unable to.
2011 - Rochester Community Finance
2010 - CROPS
2013 - weGive365
From 2000 to 2010, the community investment totaled $36 million. There have been over 2,000 grants to non-profit organizations equaling $16.5 million, 970 homes created for working families equalling $17 million and an investment of $2.5 million in preparing children for kindergarten success.