Executive Director Melinda Haun to retire at the end of August

By Blythe Wachter, Free-lance Writer

More than a decade ago, the Chippewa Valley Business Report named Melinda Haun as a “mover and shaker” of the Chippewa Valley.
Haun still claims that title, but not for long.
After serving in local chief executive roles for more than 23 years, Haun plans to retire. She announced she will step down as executive director of the Community Foundation of Chippewa County, Inc., her position since 2011, before year’s end. “The decision to retire was incredibly difficult. However, I will be turning 60 this year and would like more flexibility to travel and spend time with family, who live in various parts of the country,” she said.

Haun’s achievements are recognized by those who have worked with her through the Foundation.

“Melinda’s passionate enthusiasm for helping people realize their philanthropic goals has been a significant factor in the CFCC’s success and the positive impact it is having in the community,” said Cheryl Kern-Simirekno of rural Stanley, who established the James and Margaret Kern Memorial Endowment Fund in honor of her parents.

Agreed Megan MacLaughlin-Barck, 2017-18 chair of the CFCC board of directors, “Ms. Haun’s impeccable service and dedicated leadership have allowed the Foundation to exceed all strategic growth and development goals, giving our donors the highest level of service imaginable, ensuring that the Foundation is the perpetual pillar of philanthropy for our community.”

Haun has spent much of her life working to improve the lives of others. Through the Foundation, she helps individuals, businesses and nonprofits create and manage permanently endowed funds to benefit Chippewa County communities.

She was an ex-officio member of the board of directors from 2001 to 2008, when the Foundation was in its infancy and she served as president and chief professional officer of the United Way of Chippewa County. Previously she served as vice president and president of the United Way of Cass-Clay in Fargo in her home state of North Dakota.

Being involved with the Foundation in the early years provided a history and a perspective that has helped her in her position, she said. “It gave me a true appreciation for the visionary thinking, careful planning and the commitment of community-minded leaders who realized the benefits of planning for tomorrow now and how that would enhance our unique quality of life now and for future generations.”

During her tenure with the Foundation, assets under management have grown from $5.4 million to more than $19 million.

A turning point, she said, was when Chippewa Falls native Joseph W. Joas, who worked for Chippewa County as a land agent and Forests and Parks director, passed away in 2011 and left a bequest in excess of $2 million to the Foundation.

“The assets Mr. Joas entrusted to the Foundation to establish two endowment funds was a tremendous, overwhelming gift to the community,” former Board Chair, Bob Hogseth, said.

Another key has been the Foundation’s focus on objectives that would drive growth and deepen its presence and relevance in the county, she said. “Planning for growth also involved thinking about what it would take to ensure the long-term sustainability of our organization.

“In 2014 and 2015, the Foundation further clarified its strategic direction for continued growth, impact and community leadership throughout Chippewa County. Through that process, the board (along with other community leaders) revisited its business and operating model and how we would continue to build our capacity to meet the demands of our organization and changing environment.”

Current board chair Dean White noted Haun oversaw the Foundation through a start-up period and as it evolved into a successful organization with assets that “only could have been imagined” when it was formed. “Our success is phenomenal, and a lot of that success is attributable to Melinda,” White said, adding the CFCC compares itself through benchmarking to other community foundations.

“She connects with the donors very well, and she communicates with them in a way that is important to them,” he said. She also works well with a volunteer board of directors, recognizing the strengths of individuals and channeling their actions toward those strengths, he said.

“I think what motivates her is philanthropy is just in her DNA. Her passion for it aligns so perfectly with the mission of the Community Foundation. That’s what’s made her be such an excellent executive director for us,” White said.

Along with local leadership, Haun has served in various capacities at the national level. She was a member of the National Professional Council with United Way Worldwide; a member of the United Way Worldwide Brand Integration Team; a chair of the National Advisory Council for the Points of Light Foundation; and one of 25 United Way chief professional officers selected nationwide to participate in the Annie E. Casey Foundation CEO Learning Circle.

She was a guest of President and Mrs. George H.W. Bush at a White House luncheon honoring recipients of the President’s Volunteer Action Awards in 1990. The following year she attended a dinner aboard the aircraft carrier USS Peleliu that honored comedian Bob Hope and his wife, Dolores, for their years of volunteerism.

While serving on the United Way National Professional Council, she met with U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) and Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina) regarding the “Calling for 2-1-1 Act” to provide funding for a system to connect individuals with information and referral specialists. At the time, her husband was deployed in Iraq, and the senators offered their thanks for his service.

In recognition of professional excellence and leadership, she received the Senn Award through the United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley in 2015. She also is a past recipient of the Fargo-Moorhead Area YWCA Professional Woman of the Year award. A past Rotarian club president, she represented the organization at an international convention in Japan. She serves on the Chippewa Falls Rotary Foundation board.

Haun received her undergraduate degree from Moorhead State University in Minnesota and attended the MBA program at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.

Her husband, Jim, is a landscape architect and recently retired lieutenant colonel with the Army Reserves. They now live with their dogs, Hunter and Addie, in Lafayette, but their future plans include living in Florida.

Haun said she is working closely with the board of directors to ensure a seamless transition in the Foundation’s professional leadership.

“The exceptional generosity of this community and the visionary thinking and strong commitment of its leaders has made working for the Foundation a great honor and privilege. I have been very fortunate to have been able to spend the final phase of my career in an environment that has been as professionally challenging and personally gratifying as the Foundation has been,” she said.

Contact the foundation

operating in compliance with the national standards for U.S. Community Foundations

Community Foundation of Chippewa County
404 ½ N Bridge Street | PO Box 153
Chippewa Falls, WI 54729



Jill Herriges | Executive Director

Christine Dusick | Fund Accounting Manager

Jill Herriges | Executive Director

Christine Dusick |  Fund Accounting Manager

operating in compliance with the national standards for U.S. Community Foundations