Ted Stephens IIIWeek 28

Tom Sannes

Ted Stephens IIIWeek 28
Tom Sannes

Tom Sannes says that when he served on the South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF) board of directors, he received much more than he was able to give.

“Going to meetings was like a two-day seminar for me on leadership,” he recalls. “I learned so much. It was a great experience.”

Sannes, who served on the board for nine years beginning in the early 2000s, was the chair of SDCF’s resource development committee. An attorney in Webster, South Dakota, Sannes became connected with the Community Foundation after learning more about SDCF’s Community Savings Accounts (CSAs). “After I heard the presentation, I said, ‘That’s a no brainer, that makes sense,’” he says.

Webster established a CSA with the Community Foundation and Sannes served as president of the Day County Community Foundation before he was tapped to serve on the SCDF board. Being selected for the board was humbling, Sannes says. “It’s a prestigious board. I was young. I said, ‘You must have me confused with somebody important.’ Every individual board member that I served with, I learned something from.”

It has been exciting to witness the growth of SDCF over the past decade in particular. “When I was on the board, we had a $27 million endowment,” he says. “Then I remember being at a retreat and we hit $100 million and it was a big deal. By the time I left, it had well surpassed that.”

SDCF recently celebrated hitting $300 million in assets, a mark that does not surprise Sannes. “They have had rapid growth, but they have stayed very grounded,” he says.

The board is meticulous and thoughtful about its investments and management of funds, he adds. “The debates we had as a board… it just shows the mindset. When people are investing, they have to trust that their intentions will be carried out and this organization has shown the ability to carry out that trust.”

As an attorney, Sannes helps guide and assist clients in accomplishing their charitable objectives and says SDCF is a reputable tool for generosity. “It’s a very humble organization,” he says. “There’s a way of telling your story and making it all about yourself, but when the Community Foundation is in the press, it is only to encourage people to give—and lift other organizations up. They’re not out there tooting their own horn. They are quietly growing philanthropy in the state.”

Sannes says his confidence in SDCF remains in the high-quality staff members and board. “They are willing to share and work together,” he says.

I wouldn’t change anything about it. If they continue with their core mission, working with donors who want to give to good works, it’s going to continue to be successful for the next 30 years and beyond.
— Tom Sannes