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When you think about your local economy and the businesses and organizations that make it special, you likely think about agriculture, manufacturing and small business. But you should also think about nonprofit organizations, public-private partnerships, foundations and philanthropic initiatives that make incredible contributions to your community’s attractiveness and quality of life.

A big impact for the state

In Iowa, an estimated 30,000 nonprofit organizations are helping individuals, businesses and governments provide vital services to enrich their communities and serve their residents. Collectively, these organizations are responsible for approximately 9% of Iowa’s jobs and more than 8% of state wages.

Their contributions go much further, as these institutions also purchase an enormous amount of goods and services. They provide meaningful opportunities for volunteerism and often attract resources, grants and contributions from well beyond the communities they serve. The reputation of nonprofit organizations plays a vital role in attracting and retaining families, retirees and workers.

Co-ops help nonprofits flourish

Iowa rural electric cooperatives know the importance of these organizations, whether directed at arts and culture, health and human services, education, recreation or other important public services. Your local cooperative’s staff volunteer, contribute financially and assist in garnering grants that benefit nonprofits and the co-op members they serve.

Through the support of the Iowa Area Development Group (IADG), your cooperative has played a pivotal role in establishing Iowa’s now flourishing network of community foundations. In advocating for legislation that fosters community foundation formation, training and endowment building, your co-op is helping sustain and strengthen the services and the support of Iowa’s nonprofit organizations.

Working together for the greater good

In 2003, IADG formed the IADG Community Foundation (IADG CF), the first community foundation with a statewide focus. IADG CF then formed a meaningful partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines to serve county-wide community foundations across the state. In all, 38 counties participate in the Iowa Community Affiliate Network (Iowa C.A.N.) for foundation building education, training, networking and support.

Together, these rural-focused community foundations in Iowa C.A.N. make an incredible impact. At year-end 2021, their collective assets for endowment and grantmaking climbed to $75 million. The contributions and gifts received for the year surpassed $33 million. Most importantly, these community foundations have awarded their local communities and nonprofits with nearly $10 million in leveraged grants. In response to COVID-19, the Aug. 2020 derecho and other disasters, these organizations raised more than $1 million for nonprofit community response.

Community foundations play an essential role in convening crucial community conversations, supporting planning efforts, conducting feasibility studies and spearheading project fundraising. The accomplishments and contributions of Iowa’s community foundations can be seen in everything from bike trails, childcare facilities, education programs, food pantries, health care initiatives, parks, recreation and safety investments. Projects are determined locally and by the voluntary support of caring and committed citizens.

Expanding reach and capabilities

When IADG CF is not busy helping others develop and grow their foundations, attention is focused on expanding the reach and capabilities of its own charitable mission. IADG CF remains uniquely committed to a philanthropic mission focused on economic development, community betterment, civic leadership, entrepreneurship and philanthropy.

Since its inception in 2003, IADG CF has awarded 248 grants totaling $639,976. In 2021, the IADG CF authorized 15 grants totaling $68,350. These awards included funding for an Iowa dairy industry economic impact study, scholarship for the Iowa poultry industry, revolving loan fund training workshops, economic development conferences and entrepreneurship program support. 

IADG CF also supported the following projects:

  • The Okoboji Entrepreneurial Institute. A week-long program where 32 college students participate in an advanced study of entrepreneurship. The experience includes seminars with successful entrepreneurs, and business and community leaders, a simulation, and networking and mentoring to enhance their understanding of entrepreneurship opportunities in Iowa.
  • The 2021 Iowa Rural Summit and Rural Hero Awards. Nearly 250 rural leaders from every corner of the state attended the fifth-annual summit to discuss challenges and opportunities for rural communities. The Rural Hero awards recognized 14 individuals for their contributions to their community and Iowa.
  • The “Heart and Soul” Program in Postville. A local effort to develop a comprehensive and inclusive plan to lay the foundation for continued success and growth.

Establishing or continuing several dental practices that serve communities in rural Iowa.   

IADG CF operates with the leadership and support of a volunteer board of directors. The generosity of many people and organizations allows the IADG CF to grow its commitment to philanthropy and be a “Partner in Progress” for Iowa’s rural communities. On behalf of its utility sponsors, IADG CF is committed to helping Iowa community foundations flourish and grow.

Learn more about community philanthropy by visiting

Kay Snyder is the director of marketing and communications for the Iowa Area Development Group.

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