Great River Bend announces new CEO

After conducting a nationwide search, the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend (CFGRB) Board of Directors has selected Sherry Ristau as their new President & Chief Executive Officer.

Sherry Ristau
Sherry Ristau

“We welcome Sherry to CFGRB and the Quad Cities,” said Deann Thoms, Chair of the Board. “She brings the knowledge and experience we were looking for as we begin the next 50 years of philanthropy in the communities we serve.”

The Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, manages 950 distinct charitable funds, totaling almost $120 million in assets, and serves 17 counties in two states.   CFGRB has distributed more than $40 million in grants to charitable causes locally, and nationwide, that reflect the individual passions of their more than 10,000 generous donors over the past 50 years.

“The Foundation is in good hands,” said Susan Skora, current CFGRB President & CEO who is retiring after 10 years at the helm. “Sherry is the right person, at the right time to lead the Community Foundation into our next 50 years.”

Sherry Ristau most recently was the long-time Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) President/CEO. The Southwest Initiative Foundation is a rural regional community foundation. She provided the needed leadership to an innovative community foundation that has invested more than $64 million thru grant and loan programs to grow and promote rural businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profits, communities and important regional assets.

Ristau was employed for more than 20 years at SWIF, including the last 17 as President/CEO. SWIF’s net assets grew from $23 million to $66 million which includes over $34 million in their unrestricted endowment since Ristau took leadership in 1997. Ristau has also been a voice for rural philanthropy across the nation while serving on the Council on Foundations and Orton Family Foundation boards.

“I am really excited to meet key business and community leaders in the Quad City Area and learn more about the region and explore how the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend can continue to grow as a strong solid organization, leader and partner serving donors and the community.”

She is already impressed with the committed volunteer Board of Directors and professional staff and volunteers of CFGRB. “I am truly looking forward to working with the Board and staff and learning about all the assets of the Quad City Area and how to become part of an exciting future for the region. People are the greatest asset of any region or community and I can’t wait to get started to build many new relationships.”

Sherry holds a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership, a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Gerontology and a second bachelor’s degree in Family Life and Child Development. A native of Blue Earth, Minnesota, Ristau will begin her leadership duties at the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend in early September.

For more information about the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, go to