Serving on the board of directors at Southwest Initiative Foundation was “a life changer” for Rob Saunders. He recently completed a 10-year term, which profoundly impacted the way he saw southwest Minnesota.
“It was an experience I will cherish the rest of my life. It showed me how anyone can have an effect on the world around them and make a difference,” Rob said. “People always seem to have a reason you can’t do something. I never heard that from SWIF. When they look at an opportunity, they look at, ‘How do we do this?’”
It’s hard to find an area of SWIF’s work without Rob’s fingerprints on it. A senior partner with Saunders Mertens Schmitz PA, Rob was a certified public accountant in Bird Island for many years. His finance background sparked a connection with SWIF in 2000 through our loan advisory committee, where he had a hand in supporting entrepreneurs throughout the region.
He was elected to our board of directors in 2007 and went on to serve on all board committees—investment, finance and audit, farmland retention, governance—in addition to holding officer positions.
“I got more out of every meeting than I gave. That’s the feeling I had when I walked out of every board meeting. It was just such an uplifting experience,” Rob said. “I always looked forward to those meetings.”
Rob was a transformational leader. He spearheaded our presidential search process in 2014. A tireless advocate for our early childhood and community foundation programs, Rob has been active at a local level through our the BOLD Early Childhood Initiative and BIO Legacy Foundation and has helped diversify the local advisory boards by recruiting young leaders. He continues to be one of the greatest champions for Grow Our Own, closing the opportunity gap for kids living in poverty in southwest Minnesota.
As Growing Home Circle donors, Rob and his wife, Renee, support all this work and more.
“Rob leaves us feeling energized and inspired Thanks to his bold leadership, he also leaves SWIF poised for a very bright future,” said Diana Anderson, president and CEO.
While looking back on many successful projects and fond memories from his service with SWIF, Rob also looks forward to a bright future for the foundation and the region it serves.
“We’ve matured as a foundation. First, we did some economic development. Then we did some early childhood. Now we’re wrapping it all together with Grow Our Own,” Rob said. “We’re trying to make life better in southwest Minnesota. We’re focusing on all these aspects. I think it’s a fantastic challenge, and I think SWIF is up for the challenge.”
Thank you to Rob and all our board members for their excellent leadership. With the start of our fiscal year July 1, Janice Nelson has been elected to a two-year term as board chair. Robert (Bob) Thurston will continue a two-year term as past chair. And we welcome newly elected board members Teresa Peterson, Upper Sioux Community, and Terry Gaalswyk, Worthington.
Have you considered serving on the board of directors for a local organization such as a hospital, school or nonprofit? Your ideas, energy and leadership add value to your community!