News and analysis
February 06, 2012

No. 44 (tied): Paul R. and Donna (Muffy) S. Christen

Amount donated in 2011: $30-million

Biggest beneficiary: South Dakota Community Foundation

Donors’ background: Mr. Christen is chairman of the Christen Group, a real-estate investment company in Huron, S.D. He is the former chief executive officer of First Western Bancorp, in Huron.

The Christens, both 82, pledged $25-million to the South Dakota Community Foundation. Most of the pledge, $12.5-million, will match gifts to other nonprofit organizations that start endowments at the foundation. An additional $5-million will match gifts to the foundation’s unrestricted fund so it can expand the number of grants it makes to local causes.

The rest will permanently endow the foundation’s Community Savings Account program, which matches money raised by smaller local community funds. Ms. Christen has been a foundation board member since 2006. Mr. Christen was its board chairman for 10 years.

The Christens also gave $5-million to Dakota Wesleyan University for a new building for its College of Healthcare, Fitness, and Sciences.

In a written statement to The Chronicle, the Christens said their giving is guided by three goals: “We believe we were put on this world to leave it a little bit better; Real philanthropy is to make a difference for people you have never met and will never know. The key is making a difference for future generations; if you take care of the community, the community will take care of you.”

—Caroline Bermudez

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2011