It started with a name, a little money and some very big plans. 

The FM Area Foundation’s history goes back to 1960 when a visionary group of community-minded leaders came together to create a community trust to support charitable, educational and cultural purposes in Cass County, North Dakota, and Clay County, Minnesota. A well-known Fargo attorney, Art Cupler, led the effort to create the community trust.

The purpose of the FM Area Foundation was to be a reservoir in which citizens, whether of large or small means can make a lasting contribution for the betterment of the community in which they win their livelihood, and a facility for carrying out the wishes of the donors interested in public and private philanthropy in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area.

The original 1960 Resolution and Declaration of Trust includes three objectives: 

  1. The medium by which persons of large or small means may devote funds to the public welfare;
  2. The means for accumulating a fund, the income of which will be available for assisting charitable institutions;
  3. A means of perpetuating the act of the donor since the identity and name of the donor may be coupled with the gift and thus his/her charitable act is never forgotten.

Art and his wife, Clara, later left gifts through their wills to create the Foundation’s first scholarship fund, which today, continues to provide financial support to students in the area.

Envisioned as a vehicle for long-term philanthropy that allows residents to give back and support the needs of the community, the FM Area Foundation was originally operated through local bank trust departments. In 1986, the first full-time staff member was hired.

In 2011, the Foundation shifted from its long standing trust format to become a hybrid corporate entity. This change creates more flexibility for donors by allowing them to recommend their own fund manager.

Throughout the years, families, individuals, nonprofits and businesses have created, and contributed to, more than 400 charitable funds – many of them permanent funds – to help create the community we all want to live in. Today, the foundation has approximately $100 million in assets, has made grants totaling $54 million and manages more than 400 charitable, component funds.   

Many community foundations across the nation are stepping into new roles as they keep pace with the changing needs of local donors, nonprofits and residents. They are starting to incubate social enterprises, facilitate community dialogue and find innovative ways to address community needs. The FM Area Foundation is no exception. As a permanent foundation for Cass and Clay counties, we look forward to continuing to support community philanthropy for generations to come.

The Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation is a tremendous example of what good can be achieved when a few people combine their time, talent and courage and take a few small steps towards a great, new and unchartered journey. The FMAF is a significant contribution to making this the great community that it is.

Thomas C. Wold, Foundation Board President (1981-83)