Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque celebrates 20 years

by Beth Triplett

For the past two decades, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque has served as a vehicle to improve the lives of people in the region through philanthropy, managing invested funds, strengthening nonprofits, and serving as a convener to address systemic needs. As the Foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary this month, we reflect on the role it plays in the community and recognize that undoubtedly, the region would be a different place without its work. Throughout the years, the Foundation has contributed to Dubuque’s current vibrancy and transformation, as well as created endowments and support infrastructure that will continue its legacy far into the future.

But it wasn’t always this way. In the early 2000s, Dubuque was the last of the big seven cities in Iowa without a community foundation, and a group of community leaders set out to change that. The Foundation opened its doors on February 3, 2003, with President and CEO Nancy Van Milligen as its only staff member and a small office in the Roshek Building. Twenty years later, Van Milligen still serves in that role and the Foundation is housed in the same building, but the seed that was planted in 2003 has grown to have a lasting impact on the region. The Foundation now manages assets of approximately $150 million, has granted more than $65 million to nonprofits, has eight affiliate foundations serving seven counties in Eastern Iowa, and coordinates multiple initiatives that bring partners together to address regional challenges.

“When we started the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, it was a simple idea. People didn’t have a vehicle for leaving money to the community when they died,” said founding board member John O’Connor, a Dubuque-based attorney and the first board president. “They lived in this community, they wanted to take care of this community, but they didn’t have the means to establish their own foundation. The community foundation concept created a mechanism for them to use, but it has expanded greatly from that little idea to something much bigger, and really, much better.”

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