The Rochester Area Foundation (RAF) was the vision of Mr. Harry Harwick, a longtime chief administrator at Mayo Clinic. He and his contemporaries established RAF in 1944 to make a positive impact in the Rochester area and assist those in need. The original funds of the Foundation were derived from a grant of $53,500 (over $725,000 in today's money) from Mayo Clinic. 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 Harry J. Harwick 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 - A committee of the Rochester Community Chest, the precursor to the United Way of Olmsted County, recommended to its president and board of directors that a community foundation be formed as quickly as possible.

November 29, 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.

1958 - The Foundation helps found Industrial Opportunities Inc. (IOI) which was the predecessor to RAEDI.

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 grant outside of Rochester, $1,000 to the Chatfield Brass.



1964 - Robert A. Bezoier is named Chairman of the Board of Trustees.  This marks a milestone in the 33 years of Bezoier's service to the Foundation, earning him the nickname "Mr. Foundation."





           Robert A. Bezoier

November 29, 1969 - RAF Celebrates 25 years serving the community.

1975 - Lora Hoffman Anderson, a niece of August W. Kutzky, donated her entire estate to the Foundation.  The gift at the time was $185,673, the largest in the Foundation's history at the time.

1977 - Rochester Mayor Alex Smetka declared the first week in December as "Rochester Area Foundation Week"

1978 - RAF founder and Mayo Clinic legend Harry Harwick passes away.  The doors of the Plummer Building are closed to honor his accomplishments for Mayo Clinic and the community.  That same year, Isabel Huizenga is named the Chair of the Board of Trustess, the first woman to hold the position.

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.


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.  RAF 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 (renamed Impact Finance in 2014) is established as a Comunity Development Financial Institution (CDFI).  It is created to work in coordination with RAF and First Homes in order to spur social investment via low interest loans to homebuyers and nonprofits

2010 - CROPS is created to put to use land aquired through the First Homes program that was undeveloped.  Five community gardens were built with the help of a Vista Volunteer intern and the City of Rochester.  The gardens allowed for local neighborhoods to grow their own organic vegetables.  The program closed in 2014. 

2013 - weGive365 is created as a way to engage everyone in the community in philanthropy.  For only $1 a day, members have their dollars pooled together with like-minded individuals.  Those members vote yearly on which nonprofits receive grants, and half of the money donated is awarded in grants.  The other half is reinvested back into the fund and grown for years and years to come.

2014 - RAF celebrates it's 70th anniversary by awarding through its donors and endowment over $2.29 million in grants to 265 nonprofit organizations.  This marked one of the largest grant distributions in the Foundation's history and was a testament to the stewardship maintained over seven decades.