Community Foundation Chief Leaves Transformed Organization
For the past seven years, Sherry Ristau has focused on transforming the Quad Cities Community Foundation. And now that she's left her job as President and CEO, the 60-year-old will focus on transforming herself.
Randy Moore, foundation board chair, will take over as interim president and CEO and work very closely with vice presidents and staff until a successor has been named.
Before moving to the Q-C, Ristau led the Southwest Initiative Foundation in rural Minnesota for 17 years, serving an 18-county area with about half the population of the Quad Cities area. There, Ristau oversaw over $70 million in assets, with grants and loans exceeding $5 million per year.
Since she’s been at the Quad-Cities Community Foundation, its total assets grew from $112 million to over $182 million, but for her, it's not about the money, and it’s not about her alone, but her team and the community at large.
“The money is great. Don't get me wrong. The money is great, and it is certainly a sign of success, but the greatest success is about the people. Relationships and people are what drive me and give me energy. First and foremost is the team and the culture here at the Community Foundation. To me, that is one of my greatest assets. The team here is outstanding.”
Through gifts and funds established at the Community Foundation by donors, the 57-year-old nonprofit awards grants and scholarships to people and organizations primarily in Rock Island County and Scott County. In addition to raising awareness of the foundation and strengthening the brand (in part by changing its name from the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend), one of Ristau’s main accomplishments was to start annual Transformation Grants, which are grants of $100,000 or more to make a major investment in an effort that helps transform our region.
Over $1 million has been granted to date to efforts expanding equitable economic development, laying groundwork for broadband internet access for students, re-imagining of mental health and family service systems, and more.
“With $100,000, what can we invest in, that will move the needle on something really important to our regional community?”
While Ristau is proud of the impact of the Quad Cities Disaster Recovery Fund, she says most people don't realize that the fund was set up a few years before 2019 in partnership with other foundations, to be prepared for when disaster hits – like the 2019 spring flood and 2020 pandemic.
“Then the flood hit and we were ready. What I'm most proud of isn't just having the funds. It’s really about the responsiveness of the community, and giving to the fund. And then, of course after the flood, we had activated it again for the pandemic. And once again, and in an even bigger way, the community responded and gave, and it was incredible. It was so humbling to be a part of that, and to see what people did, to see our community come together.”
Now that she's left the Foundation, it has a new three-year strategic plan in place that's been approved by the board and it continues to have a devotion to boosting diversity, equity and inclusion.
In a bitterly divided nation, she noted the Quad Cities seems more united than the United States overall.
“We are absolutely more united and together. I believe, however, we are part of a greater country and we're two states. We need to care about each other, and I believe that in the Quad-Cities, we do care about each other.”
Ristau says that there are things she accomplished here and in Minnesota that she’ll want to continue in a new company she’s launching in the Q-C, called Amethyst Bold -- a relationship-based leadership company that helps leaders be bold and audacious.
“I am a Christian. I'm a woman of faith and Amethyst is my birthstone and it's purple. And purple biblically represents royalty. And then in Biblical times, that would have been leadership.”
"I really believe as leaders – not just today, but the past, the present and the future, we need to be bold.”
“For me as a leader and for how long I've been blessed, so many years both in Minnesota and now the Quad-Cities, with really incredible leadership opportunities. And to really be a successful leader, I've needed to be confident and courageous. And I've needed connections.”
For more information on the foundation, visit