After 17 years with steady leadership, longtime Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) President/CEO Sherry Ristau made the difficult decision to leave southwest Minnesota for the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, serving communities along the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities area of Davenport and Bettendorf (in Iowa) and Rock Island and Moline (in Illinois).
Ristau had spent her entire career in rural Minnesota. She was employed over 20 years at SWIF.
As a grants manager and assistant director in the late 1980s and early 1990s, she secured a $1 million gift from Marvin Schwan to honor his parents and create the Paul and Alma Schwan Aging Trust Endowment Fund. This was the first designated fund created by SWIF and paved the way to support our work around productive aging—including through programs like Parish Nursing and Encore Entrepreneurship, and grants like those made to Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota.
And, her impact touches all areas of SWIF’s work today. Under Ristau’s leadership, SWIF has become a trusted partner and regional leader. She led major change and growth of the organization, both internally and externally. SWIF’s total assets grew from $23 million to $79 million since Ristau took leadership in 1997.
Beyond SWIF, Ristau has also been a voice for rural philanthropy across the nation while serving on the Council on Foundations and Orton Family Foundation boards.
“Sherry is an inspiring and visionary leader who has challenged southwest Minnesota to be the best it can be,” said SWIF Board Chair Rob Saunders. “She has built a team of visionary people who will continue the great work of Southwest Initiative Foundation. We will miss her, but Sherry leaves us in very good hands.”
Ristau said it was an honor to serve the southwest Minnesota regional community.
“I have been blessed beyond belief by what Southwest Initiative Foundation has given me. I am grateful for the relationships I’ve made through Southwest Initiative Foundation. Rest assured this organization is in great hands because we’re surrounded by the best board, staff, donors, partners and friends.”
Diana Anderson was named interim president/CEO. Anderson joined SWIF as development director in 2001, leading our fundraising efforts and starting our community foundation program.
In 2007, she was promoted to chief operating officer (COO). In this newly-created position, Anderson provided leadership and oversight to internal operations and functions, including strategic planning, management team leadership and program design. In 2011, she was again promoted to vice president/COO, playing a more visible role in program development and delivery, working alongside team leads in communities across the southwest Minnesota region.
Anderson was recently elected to the Community Foundations National Standards
Board, a supporting organization of the Council on Foundations responsible for the quality, value and integrity of compliance with National Standards.