President & CEO, Southwest Initiative Foundation
As Southwest Initiative Foundation President and CEO, Diana Anderson considers it an honor to be part of the incredible network of people working daily to keep southwest Minnesota strong and vibrant. Originally from western South Dakota, her rural roots run deep, and she champions the spirit of innovation and collaboration that defines small towns across the Upper Midwest.
Since joining Southwest Initiative Foundation in 2001, Diana has brought her expertise to every aspect of the foundation’s work. From fundraising and programming, to operations and human relations, Diana has built relationships, strategy and infrastructure that make the foundation a trusted partner and regional leader. Her skill for making connections and an iterative learning approach has elevated the foundation’s unique position, bringing together its work in economic development, social growth and philanthropy for an even greater impact.
Diana’s vision launched a new movement in 2016 called Grow Our Own, an effort to ensure all southwest Minnesota youth can find success. Her philosophy has been shaped by raising her family in multiple rural communities, Southwest Initiative Foundation’s work, and her previous work in healthcare administration and communications. She sees supporting our next generation as a long-term economic development strategy and simply the right thing to do.
Diana received her B.A. degree from Augustana University in Sioux Falls and continued her education at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She lends her education, strategic thinking and advocacy through volunteer leadership on the Community Foundation National Standards Board, Southwest Minnesota Workforce Development Board, Lakeview Ranch Memory Care Center, and Aveyron Homes, Inc.
While the rural population in the United States comprises 19 percent of the total population, the level of giving focused on rural communities has been less than 7 percent of all grantmaking from foundations, according to Foundation Center. The current political moment has underscored the alienation felt by many in rural communities, as well as the tendency of “coastal elites” to under-appreciate the distinct challenges rural communities face. This session will explore how to define, scope, and address the unique challenges and opportunities in serving rural communities.