The Ames Fund:
A Lasting Legacy in Northfield
When a landmark Northfield company was sold in 2015, it marked the end of an era. The business had flourished for decades, drawing on the strengths of the rural college town, employing generations of its residents, and carving out a unique place in its history. Yet even as one chapter ended, another began: With proceeds from the sale, one of the families that owned the company made a remarkable gift to benefit the community that had given them so much.
The family, which wishes to remain anonymous, started the Ames Fund of the Minneapolis Foundation. Named after the first mill in Northfield, the Ames Fund was a Donor Advised Fund established to invest in the health, well-being, and vibrancy of Northfield.
Over the next six years, the Minneapolis Foundation advised the family on its charitable giving through the Ames Fund. Philanthropic Advisor Bill Sternberg worked with them to create a mission statement and focus for the Fund, and then identified and structured grant recommendations that would meet the charitable needs of the community.
“These donors wanted to get resources into the community quickly—and yet they also wanted to ensure that their grantmaking would benefit Northfield for as long as possible,” Bill said. “With those goals in mind, we worked together to create a plan that would strengthen not just a few organizations, but the whole nonprofit community in Northfield.”
To do that, the Ames Fund partnered with Northfield Shares, the local community foundation, to distribute grants. The partnership not only helped to increase Northfield Shares’ community impact by making more dollars available for grants to local organizations, but also helped it grow as an organization and better position itself to serve the community long-term.
The Ames Fund focused on these issues:
- Community Engagement and Sustainability
- Arts and Culture
- Economic Opportunity for All
- Nonprofit Community Capital Investments
In all, the Ames Fund supported nine organizations:
- Northfield Shares
- The Community Action Center
- Slow Money MN – Grow a Farmer Fund
- The Northfield Public Library
- The Northfield Arts Guild
- The Northfield Historical Society
- Main Street Project
- YMCA of Northfield
- Minnesota Afterschool Advance
The Ames Fund completed its grantmaking in 2021, leaving a legacy that will nourish the community far into the future.
“The Ames Fund gave us the ability to really dream big about who should we become and who do we need to be for the long term.” — Scott Wopata, Community Action Center.