The same tenets that gave the South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF) a strong start 30 years ago are alive and well today, say family members of the late Governor George S. Mickelson, the man who founded the state’s largest philanthropic community foundation.
“George wanted to create an organization that had a big impact across the state forever,” says his wife, Linda Mickelson Graham. “Thirty years later, the foundation still fosters growth and prosperity through generosity. He would be so proud. Our family looks forward to even more good in the future.”
The Mickelson family has continued to partner with SDCF, says Mark Mickelson, the son of George and Linda. The family operates a charitable fund through the Community Foundation and several members have served on the board, including both Linda and Mark. George and Linda’s daughter Amy also serves on SDCF’s Fairy Godmother’s Fund. “It’s really wonderful to have our family continue to be involved in the work of South Dakota Community Foundation,” Linda said. “It has an impact on the lives of so many people in our state and the benefits are enormous.”
Linda said serving on the grantmaking committee was a privilege. “Requests come from so many places,” she said. “It might be a small town seeking help with a new fire station or an agency needing funding for a special project.”
Mark added that one of the hallmarks of SDCF is that it is a statewide effort. “Here in South Dakota, we don’t really have communities large enough to do this on their own,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important that it’s statewide. It’s a high-quality organization.”
SDCF started off strong, with great board leaders, a strong staff and flexible programming, he added. All of those aspects still exist today. “They have really good, dedicated board members who are in it for the right reasons,” he said. “The Community Foundation is very flexible and can meet the intent of any donor’s philanthropic wish.”
Mark said it’s exciting for his family to watch SDCF live out the legacy that George began 30 years ago. “When people are looking for how to do a community foundation the right way, they look at the South Dakota Community Foundation,” he said. “It makes me proud that we’re setting the standard for how to do things.”
Linda added it has been an honor to carry on the work George started.