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80+ Years of Inspiring Generosity, advocating for equity and investing in community-led solutions

The Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation, the state’s largest community foundation, has a rich history of serving the East Metro and communities across the state. Our foundation grew out of the combined efforts of two community foundations — The Saint Paul Foundation and the Minnesota Community Foundation — that over time aligned and merged into one.

Continuing the aspiration begun by our founding community members in 1940, we envision an equitable, just and vibrant Minnesota where all communities and people thrive. Today we steward $1.8 billion in charitable assets for community good. Here’s a look back at a few milestones from the past 80+ years.

Our Beginnings

1940 - In the aftermath of the Great Depression, a group of concerned community members created The Saint Paul Foundation to prevent future hardship and suffering. These visionary leaders recognized an opportunity to bring people together to support the long-term vitality of the region. Since then, the Foundation has been instrumental in the transformation of the community.

1949 - Established in 1949 by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, the Minnesota Foundation (known as the Minnesota Community Foundation until 2002) was created to meet growing demand for new and flexible ways of charitable giving. It helped individuals across the state support their favorite causes and communities.

1 20 Buddy Harris Annie and Joe Paper 1942

Our First Donor

1944 - Annie Paper left $5,000 to the Foundation and became our first donor. Born in 1868 to Jewish-Lithuanian parents, Annie Shapira immigrated to Saint Paul as a young child, later married the successful steel distributor Lewis Paper in 1890, and raised six children.

At her death, Annie bequeathed $5,000 — a gift of faith in the future. Today, the Annie F. Paper Fund continues to provide grants in support of children’s rights and immigrant assistance, interests that were close to Annie’s heart.


1952 - The Saint Paul Foundation’s first grant went to the International Institute of Minnesota to buy materials to teach English to prospective citizens.

1972 - F. R. Bigelow Foundation became a client of Minnesota Community Foundation, followed a year later by Mardag Foundation. As partner foundations, their grant programs are administered by Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation staff.


We launched two initiatives that remain part of our grantmaking strategy today: the Community Sharing Fund and the Management Improvement Fund. Marking 40 years in 2020, the Community Sharing Fund's life-changing emergency grant program has made more than 40,000 grants to help East Metro residents facing financial setbacks. The Management Improvement Fund (MIF) provides grants for small to midsize nonprofit organizations to improve organizational capacity and management capabilities.

1982 - We made our first program related loan, to make the innovative District Energy heating system possible.

1984 - The Saint Paul Foundation accepted a request from the Wilder Foundation to fulfill the staffing needs of the Minnesota Community Foundation.


The Saint Paul Foundation assumed ever greater civic leadership roles in the 1990s, including leading a community-wide celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the naming of Saint Paul and mobilizing community action around riverfront redevelopment.

1991 - The Foundation launched its Diversity Endowment Program – establishing four charitable funds to be directed by communities of color.

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2007 - The Facing Race Awards were established to celebrate and honor individuals working to eliminate racism and its effects throughout the state of Minnesota. As part of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation’s ongoing commitment to racial equity, the Awards recognize community members who are courageously transforming our region and state and inspire discussion and action around the critical issues of race and racism.

2008 - The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation became aligned under a single board and CEO.

2009 - Minnesota Community Foundation took charitable giving online with GiveMN, a first-of-its-kind website that created a simple way for individuals to give to their favorite causes and organizations. GiveMN later branched off as its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The Foundation still supports GiveMN’s annual Give to the Max Day.

The Present Day

2018 - As Minnesota’s largest community foundation, the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation and our donors reached a major milestone: more than $1 billion given to communities across Minnesota since the Foundations' inception.

2020 - The Saint Paul Foundation and Minnesota Community Foundation legally merged to become the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation on January 1, 2020.

2020 - The Foundation responded to urgent community needs in response to the pandemic and civil unrest through initiatives such as the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund and Frontline Families Fund.

2023- The East Metro Main Street Economic Revitalization Program raised and distributed over $9 million in grants to more than 40 Saint Paul businesses and organizations in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

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