Giving City – The Art of Charity – May/Jun 19

Writer: Kelsey Batschelet
Photographer: Duane Tinkey

The newest mural to hit the street art scene will be much more than just an Instagram backdrop. It will be a celebration of community, charity and the work of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. 

To mark its 50th anniversary, the foundation is doing what it does best—giving back. It’s commissioning a mural that depicts the best of what Des Moines has to offer on a wall of the recently renovated Renaissance Des Moines Savery Hotel. 

The artist, who will paint the mural from mid-May to mid-June, will be announced at the foundation’s annual Celebration Luncheon on May 16 at the Community Choice Convention Center Ballroom (see details, page 164). 

The gift expresses the Community Foundation’s spirit for bringing vibrancy to Greater Des MoInes through charitable giving. First envisioned by the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce in 1969, the foundation was established to enhance the local quality of life, cultural scene, education and workforce. But the organization didn’t find its foothold until 1992, when it broke away from the chamber and hired its first staff person and president, Monroe Colston. (Colston died in 2011.)

Since then, prominent leaders such as Johnny Danos and Barry Griswell have helped expand and invest in its mission. In 2018, the foundation granted $38 million to just under 2,000 charities, supporting everything from Des Moines Public Schools to Freedom for Youth.  

“Every day we wake up thinking about how to help people give back and invest in our communities,” says Kristi Knous, the foundation’s president. 

As a voice for its donors, the foundation starts conversations on what’s important to the community and acts as a leader in bringing donations and projects together. It had a hand in facilitating and developing Bravo Greater Des Moines, which supports the arts, as well as Capital Crossroads, which invests in Central Iowa development initiatives. 

Foundation donors range from large organizations to young families and individuals. Its seed fund model helps new donors start a fund with just $1,000 and a commitment to build it over time. 

“Charitable giving is for everyone,” Knous says. “The foundation is about people coming together in a partnership, and our birthday mural [will] reflect that.”

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