Former media executive David L. Nelson and his wife, Rita, donated an estate gift of more than $100 million to the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

The gift, among the largest in Wisconsin’s history and among the top 20 gifts nationally reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, will generate millions of dollars in grants annually to benefit causes important to the couple and their family, primarily in the Fox Cities and Green Bay areas in northeast Wisconsin.

The donation is the largest gift to the Community Foundation in its 32-year history, surpassing an estate gift of $16 million in 2004 from Donald and Violet Himebaugh of Appleton, Wis.

The couple lived in De Pere, Wis. David was born in Kaukauna, Wis., and Rita in Janesville, Wis., and both lived in Wisconsin nearly their entire lives.

He helped manage the companies that published newspapers in Appleton and Green Bay before investing in radio stations and other businesses.

She became a teacher after raising the couple’s three sons.

They were married for 73 years and died within five months of each other – Rita on Feb. 16, 2017, at age 93 and David on July 18, 2017, at age 96.

Curt Detjen, Community Foundation President and CEO,

This is the most generous gift ever for our region, and it is a game-changer.

It will be a catalyst for addressing community needs today, but also for investing in exciting opportunities for future generations.

According to Community Foundation officials, the Nelson gift established the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, a permanent, donor-advised endowment that will award grants to charitable organizations.

The Community Foundation will support an advisory committee comprised of people who know the Nelson family to award grants from the fund.


The $100 million-plus fund is expected to award $4.5 million in grants per year by 2021, based on the Foundation’s endowment formula that up to 4.5 percent of a fund’s balance be distributed as grants each year to assure the fund’s giving capacity and permanence.

This gift to the Community Foundation provides us and our area with a tremendous opportunity that we enthusiastically embrace.

We are humbled and incredibly grateful for the trust that the Nelsons have placed with us to ensure that the family’s legacy will be part of creating the exciting chapters ahead for this region.

The David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund will benefit projects that interested the couple.

Some beneficiaries will include parks, recreation and waterways; education; health care; community services and community centers; and historic preservation, including lighthouses, museums and historical societies.

Other areas of family interest may be considered, as recommended by the fund’s advisory committee.

You can read more about the life of the couple who donated the gift as well as where some of the first grants will go to in a link that local 5 has provided here