The Fond du Lac Area Foundation’s History
In 1975, a local businessman named Carl Tonjes had a vision to establish an organization that would enable individuals like himself to give back to the community.
With the support of his friend and business associate, attorney Allan Edgarton, Tonjes laid the foundation for what would become the Fond du Lac Area Foundation.
Driven by a desire to make a difference, Carl Tonjes initiated the Fond du Lac Area Foundation with a $50,000 endowment from the disbanded Children’s Home. Additional funding of $3,000 from the Children’s Home facilitated the organization’s initial setup. Tonjes and Edgarton were joined on the Board of Directors by esteemed individuals such as George Becker, C. L. Ludden, Marian Petri, Bernard Schreiner, and Ellen Humleker.
For over two decades, Carl Tonjes dedicated himself fully as a volunteer for the Fond du Lac Area Foundation.
Not only did he invest his time and energy, but he also opened his home, where he and his wife Delnia operated the Foundation until 1989. The unwavering commitment of Tonjes and his colleagues paid off, as the Foundation grew from a single fund with $50,000 in assets to eighteen funds with an impressive $1,418,022.
In 1993, the Foundation welcomed Janet Schmidt as the executive director, marking a new phase of growth.
By then, the Foundation’s assets had surpassed $3,000,000, and in 1995, Sandi Braun Roehrig took over as executive director upon Janet’s retirement. The Foundation had grown to over $3,000,000 in assets, and its influence extended through the management of 111 funds, amounting to more than eight million dollars. The Foundation also celebrated a significant milestone in 1999 when it was awarded a grant of $900,000—the largest gift ever given to the arts in the region—to support the Performing Arts Center and the Arts Center of Fond du Lac.
In 2002, the Foundation relocated to a new home and welcomed Joe Braun as Director of Communications & Accounting.
By this time, the Foundation’s assets had skyrocketed to over $11,000,000, and it managed an impressive portfolio of 160 funds. Over the years, the Foundation experienced remarkable expansion, now overseeing more than $40,000,000 in assets and managing over 340 funds. Its generosity was reflected in the distribution of over $18,000,000 in charitable grants to the Fond du Lac community.
In 2018, Sandi Roehrig transitioned to a part-time role, paving the way for Joe Braun to step into the role of Executive Director.
Accompanying him were three new staff members: Jackie Runge, Erin Mueller, and Erin Butzke. This leadership transition ensured a seamless continuation of the Foundation’s mission and its commitment to making a lasting impact on the community.
The Fond du Lac Area Foundation offers a range of fund types to donors, providing opportunities to contribute to areas close to their hearts. The Foundation collaborates closely with donors, assisting them in identifying the most effective ways to channel their philanthropy. With a minimum requirement of just $1,000, individuals can start a fund, leaving a lasting legacy for a loved one. Whether you want to give a gift, start a fund, or even volunteer with the Fond du Lac Area Foundation, your support and generosity have allowed the Foundation to not only survive for the last 42 years, but also to thrive. The Fond du Lac Area Foundation will continue to follow its mission of creating a better community by promoting philanthropy, awarding effective grants, and providing leadership on important community issues … today & forever.