Myra Foundation awards record funding to nonprofit organizations in Grand Forks County

Seventy-one organizations to benefit from nearly $725,000 in annual funding.

The Myra Foundation is awarding the highest amount ever in charity support -- nearly $725,000 -- to 71 Grand Forks County nonprofit organizations before the end of the calendar year, said John Botsford, president and trustee of the 79-year-old foundation.

A total of $724,846.60 is being distributed to organizations including schools, rural development groups, health care and social assistance organizations and arts groups, according to Botsford, noting that the number of organizations that receive funding this year is also higher than the average, 55, for the past few years.

A common thread weaving through nearly all of this year’s applications was the extreme challenge the pandemic has posed to these nonprofits and the communities they serve, he said.

“As a board, we are very grateful to report a record granting season,” Botsford said. "What better timing than in 2020, when so many local charities and organizations are experiencing such an unprecedented struggle due to cancellation of projects and events?”

A list of the award recipients is available on the foundation’s website, .


The Myra farms were sold about a year ago and the Foundation converted to investable assets, Botsford said.

“Needless to say, we had a very positive first year under the new format," he said.

In recent years, the Foundation faced “an insurmountable hurdle,” he said, because, under federal law, it must distribute 5% of land values annually -- a figure that “outpaced what we were able to generate in rent.”

The land is appraised every five years and that’s the figure on which the 5% amount is based, according to Botsford, who said the appraisal the Foundation board received about three years ago “was the one that really trapped us. Every five years it was getting bumped up and bumped up, and it just got to the point -- and there was only so much we could do with the rent and generating income -- so that we got boxed in, basically.”

For about two years, the Foundation sought some legislative relief from North Dakota’s congressional delegation, but that effort and attempts to find other options were unsuccessful, he said.

“We had to find a sustainable alternative to preserve the Foundation in perpetuity," he said.

All except 100 acres of the land was sold, with the last of the sales finalized in December 2019, according to Botsford, pointing out those 100 acres cover a large gravel deposit.

“We entered into a royalty agreement with Strata Corporation to operate that on a long-term lease,” he said.


After studying foundation models for investment, the Foundation offered 14 proposals to investment managers -- “we stayed local as much as we could,” Botsford said -- and eventually selected four investment managers, operating under the Foundation’s parameters representing conservative, or low-risk, traditional foundation investment models.

Earnings from the investments have allowed for the 5% distribution of funds to nonprofit organizations, as required by law, and “grew the Foundation by a similar figure, 5%,” he said.

The Foundation also converted to an online application process, and increased exposure via social media has probably made more nonprofit organizations aware of the funding opportunity, he said.

“It’s been a complete metamorphosis,” he said. “So far, so good, and we feel better positioned for the long-term future.”

In other changes this year, Donna Gillig, concluded her 20-plus-year term as a trustee of the foundation.

Gillig’s involvement with the Myra Foundation “will be appreciated by her successors for many years to come,” Botsford said. “We thank her for her dedicated, selfless service. The Myra Foundation is stronger today because of her contributions.”

Gillig’s position will be filled by Emily Montgomery, a fifth-generation family farmer in rural Grand Forks, who brings more than a decade of nonprofit administration experience to the board, he said.

“I have long admired the Myra Foundation and its incredible impact on our community,” Montgomery said in a news release. “I am honored to be involved with a foundation that has its roots in agriculture, and I look forward to serving my community in this new role.”


The third trustee position is held by Kent Cronquist, of Gilby, N.D.

The Myra Foundation was created from the estate of John E. Myra in 1941 to award grants within Grand Forks County. To date, more than $10.6 million in grants have been awarded for charitable, character building and educational purposes.

In 1941, the Myra Foundation became the first private charitable foundation in North Dakota, Botsford said.

For more information, visit .

Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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