Helping People Help People Since 1975
The Foundation was started in 1975 by a local businessman who had a dream to create an organization for others much like himself who wanted to give back to the community. With the help of his friend and business associate, attorney Allan Edgarton, Carl Tonjes started the Fond du Lac Area Foundation as a tribute to the caring nature of this area’s citizens.
It began with a $50,000 endowment from the disbanded Children’s Home formerly located on the corner of Follett and Macy Streets and an additional $3,000 gift from the Children’s Home for organizational costs. Joining Tonjes and Edgarton on the Board of Directors was George Becker, C. L. Ludden, Marian Petri, Bernard Schreiner, and Ellen Humleker.
For more than twenty years, Carl Tonjes worked full time as a volunteer for the Fond du Lac Area Foundation, devoting not only his energy and time, but his home; as he and his wife Delnia operated the Foundation there until 1989. At that time, the Foundation had grown from one fund with assets of $50,000 to 18 funds with assets of $1,418,022.
In 1993, the Foundation had grown to just over $3,000,000 in assets. In 1999, the Fond du Lac Area Foundation announced the largest gift ever to be made to the arts: a grant award of $900,000 to support the Performing Arts Center at the new high school and the Arts Center of Fond du Lac. At that point, the Foundation had expanded to 111 funds with assets totaling more than eight million dollars. More importantly, the Foundation had been able to award more than $1,000,000 of charitable grants to the Fond du Lac community.
In 2002, the Foundation moved to a new home on Main Street. By this time, the Foundation had more than $11,000,000 in assets and 160 funds. In 2021, the Foundation purchased the building at 1020 S. Main Street and relocated to a new office. At that time, the pool of assets hit a remarkable $73.5 million and the Family of Funds grew to nearly 500.
Today, the Foundation continues its commitment to Fond du Lac County and beyond with the belief that together we can make a difference.